Red Bull ’not half a second behind’ in 2022
"We used hard tyres while Mercedes used tyres two levels softer than us"
Dr Helmut Marko has hit back at early analyses suggesting Ferrari and Mercedes may already be leaving Red Bull behind in 2022.
A reporter for the Austrian newspaper Osterreich claims that, based on the Barcelona test, Red Bull appears to be half a second behind the top cars.
"We’re not half a second behind," Marko insists.
"We used hard tyres while Mercedes used tyres two levels softer than us. But I’m looking forward to the next test," he said ahead of the final pre-season outing in Bahrain before the season opener on the same Sakhir circuit.
When asked for his first impression of the all-new 2022 cars, Marko answered: "They are heavy but extremely fast.
"It’s also exciting to see how differently the new regulations were interpreted. Mercedes for example has a completely different concept than us."
The 78-year-old also said Red Bull is keeping plenty of performance up its sleeve.
"Absolutely. We’re still a long way from the weight limit and we have new parts as well," Marko revealed.
He told Auto Motor und Sport that, with Max Verstappen’s first title now in the bag, the 24-year-old Dutchman "won’t feel the pressure" to win again in 2022.
"Max told me that from the very first lap in Barcelona he felt comfortable behind the wheel," said Marko. "Of course, we still have to solve some problems with a completely new machine.
"But we did not use soft tyres or low fuel at all and we can see that the car is capable of much more."
As for Verstappen himself, he admits that the off-season controversy about the 2021 Abu Dhabi finale, investigation and Michael Masi’s ousting "possibly" takes some shine off his title.
"But I don’t care," he insists. "The losing team will always try to take the shine off it a bit.
"But on the winning side it still feels good, I can assure you."
Verstappen agrees with Marko that he is no longer "desperate" for a championship, and reports that he did not speak or even message Lewis Hamilton over the winter.
"No, there was no reason to," he said. "And that’s fine."
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, meanwhile, says not only that he refused to try to contact axed race director Masi after Abu Dhabi, but that he doesn’t want to hear from the Australian "ever again".