Red Bull advisor, Helmut Marko, has taken another hit at Sir Lewis Hamilton, claiming that Lando Norris is currently the only driver capable of competing with Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc.
Norris took McLaren’s first podium of the season at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, capitalising on a crucial error by Leclerc late in the race. It was a huge win for the Woking-based team after a disastrous start in Bahrain.
In Italy, he earned his sixth podium of his Formula One career, as Verstappen and Perez led Red Bull to their first one-two finish in over five years.
It’s evident that, like Hamilton and teammate George Russell in Bahrain and Australia, the 22-year-old will have to seize opportunities that come his way if he wants to build on his current success.
Dr. Marko, who has been in charge of Red Bull’s driver programme for a long time, has a good eye for talent, and he sees enough of it in Norris.
“The only talented driver I still see in this league is Lando Norris, but he doesn’t have the best machinery at the moment,” he said.
The remarks follow a challenging weekend for seven-time champion Hamilton in Imola, where he finished 13th after qualifying 14th and spent most of the day staring at the back of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly.
The Brackley side’s poor performance is due to changes in the technical restrictions, but 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg believes Russell has “a part to play” in the scoreless conclusion, given that Russell finished fourth.
Marko couldn’t help but make a joke about Red Bull’s primary rival from last year, saying that the 37-year-old “should have stopped” following his heartbreaking late loss to Verstappen.
Former Formula 1 driver John Watson said the taunts were par for the course, but warned Milton Keynes that it did not reflect well on them.
“To use a cricket analogy, they’re sledging him,” he said.
“All they’re doing is just adding more discomfort to Mercedes and primarily Lewis. It’s part of the game.”
“It doesn’t need to be maybe as blatant, because sometimes it reflects worse on you than it does on the person that you’re doing it to, so it’s a balance of what you say.”
Johnny Herbert was more critical of the statements, calling them a “cheap shot” by the Austrian.
“[It is] typical Helmut Marko and Red Bull, to be honest,” he added.
“After everything that happened last year – what a battle there was between Max and Lewis, and of course Red Bull and Mercedes.
“It went down to the wire, the race at the end of the year was completely and utterly wrong, but the man who dominated that last part of the year was Lewis Hamilton.”
Mercedes is hoping to introduce an upgrade that will reduce the affects of “porpoising,” with trackside engineer Andrew Shovlin revealing that the W13’s plethora of difficulties will have to be addressed “in phases” rather than in “one major moment.”