Exclusive Q&A - Red Bulls Helmut Marko 11 Apr 2011
Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko is in many ways the driving force of the team. As a former F1 driver he appreciates the unpredictability of competition and knows you can never stop pushing, regardless of how strong your form. But two races into the season, having seen his world champion win them both, even a man as hard headed as Marko cant help but smile
Q: Helmut, two starts and two wins - will it go on like this for the rest of the season?
Helmut Marko: I am afraid not. But as long as we are dominating and can transform this domination into results and points, we will stick to it.
Q: There have been some irritations with KERS, but from what we saw on Sunday it obviously was not a major issue?
HM: Thats not entirely true. It was a problem on Marks (Webber's) car and thats why he did very poorly at the start, so for safety reasons we did not run it for part of the race on Sebastians (Vettel's) car.
Q: So you had KERS on Sebastians car but did not use it all the time?
HM: Yes, thats correct. But that was rather late into the race that we didnt use it any more.
Q: Sebastian seems to be racing in a league of his own at the moment
HM: I think he doesnt make any mistakes and from his immediate challengers Lewis Hamilton had ruined his tyres and Fernando Alonso had that collision, so as long as they eliminate each other he is on the upside and winning.
Q: All weekend long it appeared to be much closer with the McLarens, but in the race it rarely looked like they would really be able to challenge Sebastian
HM: Well, first of all at the start Nick Heidfeld outperformed Lewis for second place, so probably their plan to take the lead into the first corner vanished. On top of that we knew that Hamilton had used one extra set of option tyres already in qualifying. He had one set less than Sebastian - he only had one set of prime and we had two, so the advantage was on our side.
Q: So would you say that for now Red Bull are far ahead in the pecking order?
HM: Not far ahead. Ahead, yes, but not far. And should our opponents make a lucky move things might look pretty different pretty fast.
Q: Then McLaren in second, but who in third - Renault?
HM: If you take the pure speed and performance of the car then yes, I would say that Renault is the third power - and then Ferrari.
Q: Next weekend is the Chinese Grand Prix, so theres hardly time for an upgrade
HM: Wrong, we will introduce an upgrade. What, I cannot say, but one thing is clear - at these lofty heights of competition standing still is deadly and means a step back in Formula One.
Q: What exactly happened to Marks race? From his onboard camera you got the impression that he almost stopped on the grid
HM: There were two reasons: the KERS software bid farewell at the start and he had wheelspin. And when you head into the first corner with KERS your braking point is different, so it took a while for the crew to adapt to that fact so he lost two more places. But after that he was on a good strategy and was able to follow that strategy perfectly. In certain phases of the race he was doing one fastest lap after another.
Q: The results of the two 2011 races again lead to the question of whether there is a number-one driver in the team?
HM: Both drivers are absolutely equal. I just remember last year: Vettel was leading the first race and then dropped back to P4 due to a minor issue on the car. In the second race he was leading, unrivalled, only to find that a bolt broke on his suspension and he retired. So technical fortune can be pretty cruel and overall I would say that Sebastians misfortune at the start of the 2010 was bigger than Marks at the two first races this year - but that will even out in the course of a long season.
Q: The Chinese Grand Prix is a race that Sebastian likes - it was there that Toro Rosso scored their first points and a year later he won the race for Red Bull, so he must head to Shanghai in confident mood
HM: Yes, if you could eliminate his 2010 race! We dont want 2010 to happen again. But fact is you have to condition yourself from race to race and I am sure that with the two wins as a tailwind he will go to China in high spirits.
Q: At what point in the season, or at which races do you think Red Bull will lose their current advantage?
HM: That for sure will be Monaco, a slow city circuit, and then Turkey, a full-blown high-speed track. The fascinating thing is that the balance of power is versatile at every racetrack we go to.
Q: Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz no doubt watched Sundays race. How is it for him to hear the Austrian national anthem for the team over and over again?
HM: That makes him - and all of us - very proud!
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