Red Bull chief picks out crucial advantage Lewis Hamilton has over Max Verstappen
F1: Can Lewis Hamilton do it again?
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Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko has declared that Lewis Hamilton’s unrivalled ability to perform at the very highest level on a consistent basis sets him apart from Max Verstappen, who is widely expected to mount a serious challenge to the Mercedes star’s dominance this season. Hamilton drew first blood at last month’s Bahrain Grand Prix, but his Dutch rival was quicker throughout free practice, qualifying, and much of the race despite the result.
Red Bull have been ahead of Mercedes in terms of outright performance since pre-season testing but it was Hamilton’s individual performance that settled proceedings at this year’s curtain-raiser.
The Stevenage-born driver kept Verstappen at arm’s length during the closing stages of the race despite struggling with considerably worn tyres and an inferior car.
The Red Bull man did manage to squeeze ahead with only a few laps to go but was ordered to give the position back after leaving the track in order to take the lead.
Verstappen will be hoping to go one better at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola later this month and kickstart his championship bid at the second time of asking.
Marko, who has been heavily involved in the Red Bull setup since 2005, has claimed that the pair are essentially as good as one another.
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He admitted that Hamilton’s knack of achieving race wins on an almost weekly basis could be the deciding factor at present, but suggested that Verstappen will learn from his rival over the course of his career to aid his own development.
“The race [in Bahrain] clearly showed that the two are in a class of their own,” Marko told Formel1.de.
“The thing that Hamilton has over Max is his incredible consistency. I don’t know how many races he has, how many wins.
“[But] they are more or less on a par with each other. Max will also be able to draw on a wealth of experience like Hamilton’s at some point.
“You could see how he [Hamilton] did a great job tactically, how he made line changes and so on. It was a very difficult race for Max.”
Verstappen revealed in February that he was taking a considered approach to the new F1 season, refusing to get caught up in the hype surrounding his title chances and stressing that he is fully focused on letting his performances tell their own story.
“We don’t know yet, to be honest,” Verstappen told reporters when quizzed on Red Bull’s ambitions for the year ahead.
“I am always very realistic and it makes no sense to talk about stuff now. We have to go to Bahrain and look at it there, and at the first race, and see if we succeeded or not.
“We know where we want to be and where we want to get to and that’s what we now need to try and realise. I just don’t want to hype things up.
“I want to stay low key and focus on our job. We should do the talking on the track, not next to the track. That’s what I prefer.”
It remains to be seen whether Red Bull can maintain their performance advantage over Mercedes between now and the end of the season.
The Silver Arrows will be hoping to secure another Grand Prix victory at Imola on April 18, with F1 chiefs deciding to return to the iconic circuit this year after it was used to fill last season’s heavily disrupted calendar.
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