Marko: Perez a very good driver, but he's no Verstappen

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Helmut Marko values Sergio Perez's contribution to Red Bull's success, but when it comes to extracting the most and even more from a car's potential, the Mexican is no Max Verstappen.

Red Bull enjoyed a record -breaking year in 2022, with the Milton Keynes-based outfit winning 17 of Formula 1's 22 rounds this season.

And yet after the third round in Melbourne, where Verstappen had suffered his second DNF in three races, the Dutchman was reeling, practically convinced that the title fight with Ferrari's Charles Leclerc was already over.

But 15 races latter in Japan, helped by the Scuderia's series of costly own goals, Verstappen savoured his second consecutive world crown, later concluding in Abu Dhabi Red Bull's outstanding 2022 campaign with 15 individual wins, the most of any driver in a single season.

In the Constructors' standings, Red Bull outscored Ferrari by a massive 146 points.

In hindsight, Marko accepts that Red Bull's task was facilitated by Ferrari's blunders and a measure of bad luck.

"We certainly benefited from Ferrari's strategic mistakes, from bad luck on their side, from the engine damage," Marko said.

"Over the course of the season they developed the car in such a way that it used more and more of its tyres.

"That's what made us so confident in race trim. I think that being 46 points down after the third race gave us a 'now or never' feeling".

But having started its season with an overweight car, Red Bull also worked tirelessly to slim down its RB18 as the year unfolded, a transformation that allowed Verstappen to come into his own, contrary to Perez who struggled over the summer with his mount.

"In addition, our car was 20 kilograms overweight at the beginning," added Marko.

"That was a margin that brought reliable time savings on the race track as soon as we were able to reduce the weight.

"In the wind tunnel you gain so and so many points of downforce, but that's just theory at first. On the other hand, every kilogram less is in practice a certain gain in time.

"And as a result, the driving behavior also changed in such a way that a Verstappen could make optimal use of it. And when Max can push the limit and has the confidence, it's different than when anyone else pushes the limit.

"Our car is where Perez is. And Perez is a very good Formula 1 driver, but he's not a Verstappen."

Marko justified Red Bull's relative under-performance in Brazil, where Verstappen and Perez clocked in P6 and P7 respectively, by the race weekend's format and circumstances.

"In addition to Brazil, there was another race where we were totally wrong in the first set-up due to the simulator," Marko recounted. "But we were able to correct that.

"In Brazil, the sprint format and the rain got in the way. With a normal schedule with three free practice sessions, we would have managed to win again."

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