Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner, Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing and Red Bull Racing Team Consultant Dr Helmut Marko talks in the garage during practice

Formula 1 News: Marko expects Verstappen to win at Suzuka

Dr. Helmut Marko has put Red Bull rivals on notice for the upcoming Japanese Grand Prix that he expects Max Verstappen to win again, barring any unforeseen problems

(GMM) Carlos Sainz Jr. won the Australian GP, but the jury is out as to whether Ferrari can now mount a sustained attack on Red Bull’s dominance.

The Spaniard admits his red car “worked really well” in Melbourne, but he admits that a clear gap to Red Bull persists.

“It’s going to be tough to keep it up there in every track until we bring an upgrade to close that gap that we saw in Bahrain and Jeddah,” he said.

Indeed, many experts think Red Bull’s struggles in Melbourne – on top of Max Verstappen’s first technical DNF for two years – may be isolated to the Albert Park layout.

“We looked at Max’s tires after qualifying and they looked pretty damaged,” revealed McLaren team boss Andrea Stella.

Although Verstappen was out of the race early, Red Bull’s top F1 advisor Dr Helmut Marko thinks Sergio Perez’s pace in the sister car demonstrates that the team got something fundamentally wrong in Melbourne.

“At some points we were two seconds slower than the leaders,” he told Servus TV. “The tire pressure may have been too high or the wrong settings may have been selected. After all, Checo is not two seconds slower than the others.”

However, team boss Christian Horner thinks Perez’s car was damaged in a duel with Fernando Alonso. But even the Mexican driver admits the inherent pace was somehow lacking.

“We had problems from the start and saw that Ferrari and McLaren were better,” said Perez. “But there is very unique asphalt here and we didn’t manage to find the best grip throughout the weekend.”

He said Verstappen “for sure” what have struggled to beat Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz if he hadn’t suffered the brake failure and fire.

Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing talks with Oracle Red Bull Racing Team Consultant Dr Helmut Marko in the Paddock prior to practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Circuit on March 22, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Marko, though, isn’t worried.

“It’s nothing special,” said the 80-year-old, “and I expect Max to dominate again in Japan. We did this for all the people who find it boring when Red Bull wins,” Marko joked.

“Last year at Suzuka, Max was much faster than the competition, and we’re going to have some updates there as well. But the first thing Max said to me when he got out of the car today was that he could have followed Carlos very easily without those problems.

“There is no panic from us,” Marko insisted. “At least we got rid of the endless questions about whether we can win everything this season. No more perfect statistics!

“But as long as we win the title, I personally don’t attach much importance to anything else.”

Even Ferrari’s Fred Vasseur admits Melbourne is not proof that the Maranello based team really has caught up with Red Bull.

When asked if Sainz still would have won without Verstappen’s DNF, he answered: “I don’t have a crystal ball. We were in pretty good shape.

“I don’t know if Max’s first lap was representative either, so let’s just enjoy what we’ve achieved now. There will be more fights with Max.”

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