Dr. Helmut Marko, head of the driver development program at Red Bull and advisor to the Red Bull teams, has always been famously outspoken. He never holds back, and always makes himself known. This time, he’s back with another prediction that might raise some eyebrows.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez finished in 5th and 7th respectively, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc topping the charts. Between them were George Russell, Lewis Hamilton, and Carlos Sainz, in order. Despite first appearances, Red Bull’s long-run pace was impressive, and faster than the Ferraris, with Verstappen being the fastest man on the medium tire runs.
Talking to Motorsport, Helmut Marko elaborated on Red Bull’s Friday.
“Our long run is very encouraging. We only lose on a lap in sector 2, there are not two corners where we lose that, you can sort that out. But in the long runs, both cars were good on medium and hard in terms of wear.”
This, of course, echoed Max Verstappen’s previous thoughts on his day, where he also thought the long runs looked good and believed that they only have to work on their one-lap pace, to start at the front. This will certainly be important as the vast majority of the last victories in Spain have come from pole position.
Ferrari and Mercedes finally brought out their first major upgrades of the season this weekend. Ferrari bought a floor body and new rear wing, while Mercedes upgrade the front wing, floor body & edge, and the rear corner. This mostly eliminated Mercedes’ porpoising woes.
Surprisingly, Mercedes were the fastest on the straights. This is quite the impressive turn-around from the rest of the season, where the car went bouncing up and down the straights. Mercedes were left unable to run low-floor setups due to the porpoising. Now they seem to have fixed it.
Despite that, few will predict them to leapfrog Red Bull and Ferrari just from this weekend’s upgrades, but they seemed to have pace, and Toto Wolff thinks that the ‘actual’ gap to the top time is only a few tenths.
But, Dr. Helmut is one of those few that do think Mercedes will be able to surpass at least Ferrari this weekend.
Red Bull will certainly be keen to finally get ahead of the Ferraris on the championship table, but in all fairness, they might already have been ahead if not for reliability issues. The upgrades at the front of the grid will make for a very interesting rest of the weekend.