Red Bull Racing adviser Helmut Marko says Max Verstappen’s title defense will be made more difficult by Formula 1’s new car design, which is less suited to his driving style.
The Dutchman took his first world championship last year at the controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after taking part in one of the most sensational matches the sport has produced in its 70-year history alongside the rival. Lewis Hamilton.
Mercedes is out of pace this season, with Red Bull and Ferrari the only teams capable of challenging race victories at a raw pace as things stand.
The current world champion has withdrawn from two of the three preliminary races of the campaign, but is likely to lose a minimum of 36 points in the process. This means that he is currently a low sixth place in the standings, five places and 46 points behind the early front runner Charles Leclerc.
While Red Bull’s new RB18 car performs at the same pace as Ferrari’s F1-75, its poor durability has proven the difference so far, with Leclerc winning the races in Bahrain and Australia and finishing second in Bahrain. Verstappen stopped in the final stages of both of these grand prix from second place with unrelated mechanical failures.
Verstappen was able to finish the only second race so far in this campaign, the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix in Jeddah, and took the victory after coming to the top in a tactical battle for the lead with Leclerc. But Marko says that F1’s revolutionary return to ground effect car design, which creates a much higher percentage of their downforce under the car’s floor and has caused each team to completely redesign their machinery for this season, has compromised Verstappen.
‘[Team-mate Sergio] “Perez is much closer to Max than it was in 2021,” Marko told F1-Insider. ‘The simplest explanation for this is that the new cars with less downforce fit some drivers better and others less. Perez is very pleased with the setup of the car.
‘Max finds it harder. He has not found the right balance yet and therefore does not have the full confidence of the car. His aggressive driving style is not entirely related to the new cars. ‘
Despite the gap between his driver and Leclerc, Marko believes Verstappen can still win the championship if he is patient and if Red Bull is able to improve the reliability of their RB18.
“His youthful age is predestined to impatience,” Marko added. ‘I told him we still have 20 races left, with over 500 points up for grabs with sprints and fastest laps. Nothing is lost.
“Ferrari, however, is a very reliable car that is fast in all conditions and apparently always drives in the right tire window from the start. It’s harder with our car. We need much longer to do this. We have to work on that ‘.
The fourth round of the 2022 F1 season takes place this weekend at the Imola track in Italy.
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