Exclusive Q&A with Red Bulls Helmut Marko 08 Jun 2012
For serial winners like Red Bull Racing, the 2012 season has been rather frustrating so far. But after Mark Webbers Monaco victory, Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko is convinced the future looks bright again. With the front-running teams now on top of their tyre issues, Marko believes the days of surprise winners are over and expects a more familiar pecking order to emerge from this weekend onwards
Q: Helmut, what is the state of affairs at Red Bull Racing?
Helmut Marko: This year has been developing significantly different than 2011. You will find us in the first two rows on the grid on Saturday afternoon. I would say that the two free practice sessions went pretty well. We definitely improved in the areas where weve shown weaknesses in the last couple of weeks, and should the conditions stay dry on Saturday afternoon and on Sunday in the race we should show good performance.
Q: What about the floor - the illegal verdict on the holes? What does that mean performance-wise?
HM: They [the holes] hadnt been planned for use this weekend, so for here its no issue. Probably they could have mattered in the future development, but right now the possible advantage derived from them is marginal - and it is positive that we know where we stand, as there is a clear ruling and we take note of that.
Q: Does the no-holes ruling mean that you now have to modify your next development steps?
HM: No, as it is a marginal issue - a storm in a tea cup that was hyped to a hurricane! (laughs)
Q: How do you see the season developing?
HM: I believe that Monaco already has shown a more realistic picture of the pecking order in the paddock and if you take todays two sessions there is a clear indication that surprise winners are very likely a thing of the past.
Q: What do you make of the fact that weve had six races and six different winners?
HM: That due to the new tyres the reaction time of the teams to cope with them differed significantly - and that the characteristics of the cars supported that. There is a fine line to optimize the tyres and some teams have understood that fine line better than others. But I would say that right now there is a much broader understanding, so we see the strong teams making it to the front again.
Q: Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz said in Barcelona that he is no fan of a tyre lottery. Is that a game you are reluctant to play?
HM: That was Barcelona - light years from now. Meanwhile we understand the game and lets wait for the next two races. Then we will be able to say if like the game.
Q: At the moment it seems everybody can win. So why is it so difficult to win effectively?
HM: At the first couple of races, if you were able to get the tyres to temperature it didnt matter what car you were in - tyres temperature meant everything, the car nothing. That is now a thing of the past, as all teams do understand the tyres now and that means that we go back to the usual balance of power.
Q: Ferrari did not look strong over the winter and their start into the season was difficult. So how is Fernando Alonso leading the drivers standings?
HM: Alonso squeezed the optimum out of his situation - especially in the chaotic conditions in Malaysia. He scored points at every race - thats the secret. I you cannot win, get the maximum points result possible. And my guess is that this is more the merit of Alonso than Ferrari.
Q: Does that mean that the driver matters more again in a time of no superior cars?
HM: In times of stable regulations the cars become more and more alike - and when that happens the driver becomes key again to make the difference.
Q: What has to happen for Red Bull to win both titles again - and which one would you favour?
HM: Of course the goal is to defend both titles - and I think we are on a good route to do so. We lead in the constructors championship and we are only three points short of Alonso with both drivers. The key is to bag points at every race - and finish the race as far in front as possible.
Q: Does that mean your strategy has changed? Last year it was winning or nothing - now it seems uphill all the way
HM: If you see that you dont win then get to see the chequered flag. Look at Lewis Hamilton: his best result has been some third places, but he is close to the top in the standings and still a candidate for the championship.
Q: Who is your favourite for the title then?
HM: It is Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and our two guys. But I would assume that only after the summer break will it become clear who is hot and who is not from these five guys. My prediction is that we will see two or three drivers fighting for the title - and that we will see a close call, as we did in 2010, with the championship decided in the very last race. This is fantastic for the fans - and means heart-stopping moments for us! (laughs)
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