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Helmut Marko Q&A: Red Bull forced Hamilton’s Malaysia engine failure

04 Oct 2016

Red Bull didn’t take control of Sunday’s race in Sepang until lap 40 when the engine in the back of Lewis Hamilton’s race-leading Mercedes unceremoniously went bang. But as Red Bull’s motorsport advisor Helmut Marko explains in this exclusive interview, the Austrian team didn’t luck into victory – they were worthy winners…

Q: Helmut, the first win for Red Bull Racing since the Spanish Grand Prix in May – and the first one-two victory in a long time. How does it feel?

Helmut Marko: Liberating! Yes, we knew that we would be strong here – but then you always have to take into account what Mercedes are doing – and then see where you end up. And [on Sunday] we clearly had the upper hand!

Q: Lewis Hamilton’s engine failure played to your advantage…

HM: …my guess is that we very likely forced him into that engine failure! We permanently put pressure on him, challenging his lead, as he knew he had to create a gap – and to go permanently full throttle was probably not the best thing for his engine. But even without him retiring we had some things up our sleeves – I will not say what – just that with both cars on different strategies we would have challenged him anyway towards the end of the race.

Q: Speaking of strategy, how much did that play a role?

HM: It played a big part of our success, as the tyre degradation was immense. Max was very fast, but also hard on the tyres so he had more than the anticipated degradation – and that played a bit to his disadvantage.

Q: Max came very close to Daniel and everybody expected that he would challenge his team mate for the victory. Did you have to slow him down and tell him to stay where he was?

HM: We just told him: ‘If you continue with this speed your front tyres will give up in the next couple of laps and your sure P2 will be gone - and you will probably end up empty handed’.

Q: And he followed the pit wall instructions?

HM: In the end he knew about his tyre situation himself. Because he felt of course that he was losing grip with every lap. So there was not an issue for him keeping position.

Q: The race two weeks ago in Singapore was viewed by you as your best shot at a race win. It did not happen there – but in Malaysia – a rather engine driven track. Why is that?

HM: To be honest it took quite a while to understand that we could challenge Mercedes here. In the beginning of the weekend we were very sceptical – but then qualifying showed that we were not so far off to Mercedes – and clearly ahead of Ferrari. That was a good feeling going into the race.

Q: What was more surprising: that you stayed close in touch with Mercedes or that you were able to control Ferrari?

HM: Both.

Q: What does this one-two mean for Red Bull’s development? Is this a first indication of what you will be capable of in 2017?

HM: It means nothing more and nothing less than that we did the best job [in Malaysia]. And that we will go our way! Yes it is a strong motivation boost – but that’s it. We have to continue to work hard – because that is the only way to win.

Q: There are five races left. Is Malaysia an indication that P2 in the constructors’ championship is a sure thing?

HM: We don’t fall for that illusion. There will be races ahead that do not suit us that much, so we are careful in any crystal ball reading. Of course when we feel that we can win we will aggressively move forward. But we are not the kind of people to go into maths now. We want to win P2 fair and square on the track!

Q: Some years ago the Austrian national anthem was a hit melody at the podium – but then it went away – are you back now?

HM: We are back – and a win is always contagious, so we will come back for more this season.