Dr. Helmut Marko has over the years carved himself out an unofficial and indispensable niche in the Red Bull family. As a long standing friend of the late Dietrich Mateschitz, his original offer to ‘help out’ with developing young drivers when the Australian billionaire decided to buy Formula One teams has over the years evolved into so much more.
Of course around a third of the drivers who have participated in this F1 season have come through the junior categories under Marko’s watchful and at times authoritarian eye. However over the years Helmut has become the Red Bull ‘pit bull’ sent out to say the unpalatable or to fight the corner of the two teams and their drivers when the rest of the world is against them.
Marko says Perez RB drive conditional
Since the summer break, Dr. Marko has waxed lyrical on a number of topics but his ‘favourite’ subject at present appears to be that of Sergio Perez.
The 80 year old Red Bull consultant arrived in Zandvoort as Kleine Zeitung published an article quoting him stating of Perez, “nothing is 100% certain” in F1 and that “performance-related situations” always need to be discussed.
On Friday Dr. Marko informed Sky Germany that whilst Red Bull wish to retain Checo for 2024 the criteria means, “he needs to perform for that”.
The implication was clear; despite having some form of a contract for 2024, Sergio’s position is not secure for next year and this message was again reenforced following Perez poor qualifying and the multiple mistakes he made during the race.
Wolff speechless at Checo qualifying
The Mexican driver’s problems began during qualifying and the headline numbers which had him 1.3 seconds slower than team mate Max Verstappen were not the worst news for Checo.
Verstappen was in a league of his own on Saturday finishing almost half a second ahead of Norris who claimed second on the grid for the Grand Prix.
Yet the woeful performance from Sergio Perez in qualifying even drew sympathetic comments from Toto Wolff.
“Checo is not an idiot. We have seen it always, he is a multiple Grand Prix winner. I cannot comprehend it.
“We’ve seen that Max has this ability to create a car for himself which is very tricky to control but fast if you can, and it makes those gaps like the 1.3 seconds. I haven’t heard any explanation of course but yes, odd,” added the Mercedes boss.
Red Bull mantra is flawed
The Red Bull mantra which has developed this year is that Perez is doing ‘ok’ and no one else who would drive the RB19 alongside Max would be able to compete with the world champion driver.
However, this just doesn’t stack up when Sergio is just seventh quickest in Zandvoort and a shocking 3/4 second slower than Lando Norris and with a host of other drivers between him and his team mate.
Then came the race and whilst Sergio showed initiative by refusing the Red Bull call to stay out when the rains came, this decision to fit intermediate tyres by the Mexican was as good as his day got.
As the rains came down for a second time, Perez even on intermediate tyres failed to stop his car at the end of the start/finish straight, hitting the barriers and damaging the rear of his car.
Sergio throws away 2nd place
Checo lost his second place to Alonso and then opted to pit at the end of the lap for the extreme wet tyres. Entering the pits he hit the wall and then failed to slow his car to the pit lane speed limit, something which resulted in a 5 second penalty from the stewards costing him and Red Bull a podium finish.
The team made repairs throughout the extended Red Flag break late in the race which included both front and rear wings together with the suspension at the back of the car.
Simply put, without the Red Flag, in all probability Sergio Perez would have failed to finish the race ending yet another in a long line of disappointing F1 weekends for him this season.
Dr. Helmut Marko was not backward in coming forward at the end of the race claiming Perez was doubly “lucky” given the damage to his car was substantial.
Marko: Perez doubly “lucky”
“He was still lucky with the pit-stop because he crashed quite hard when entering the pit lane,” the Austrian told Viaplay.
“On top of that, there was another penalty because he was late with the brakes. He was still lucky. Without the red flag [later in the race] he would not have reached the finish line,” added the Austrian.
The polemic that Perez is not safe at Red Bull has been running for some time and the sacking of Nyck de Vries who was replaced by former Red Bull Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo should have been a wake up call for Checo.
Of course Sergio can breathe a sigh of relief given Ricciardo’s misfortune in the Netherlands as he broke his hand and will miss at least the next race in Monza.
Perez is skating on thin ice
Yet Helmut Marko’s persistent attacks on Sergio Perez do represent a shift in emphasis. This is not just Helmut Marko being Helmut Marko – the outspoken maverick who Red Bull cannot tame. yet whether this shift means Red Bull are sending Sergio and the world a string message that he is in the last chance saloon, only Christian Horner and the most senior people in Milton Keynes will know.
Remember it was Marko who started the rumour mill that Nyck de Vries was on the way out with his “yellow card” comments about the young dutchman’s driving performances after he had completed just six Grand Prix as a rookie.
And look how that turned out.
Christian Horner came into the weekend of the Dutch GP pointing to Sergio’s improved form as he’d claimed two podium finishes in the races before the summer break.
But now Checo’s record most recently includes a shocking qualifying session and a podium thrown away together, two crashes with the belief from his bosses that he was “lucky” to finish the race in Zandvoort at all.
Drivers jockey for position before the heavens open ☔️😵
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 27, 2023