Red Bull boss Helmut Marko has taken an unexpected shot at Daniel Ricciardo while explaining his team’s decision to replace Alex Albon with Sergio Perez for 2021.
Marko was discussing the struggles Albon had this year, both with handling the car and the pressure of competing with teammate Max Verstappen when he also clipped the Aussie.
“All the reports and the unsatisfactory results unsettled him,” Marko said of Albon, in an interview with motorsport-total.com.
“His deficit on Verstappen widened over the course of the season, not decreased. Admittedly (it was) marginal, but it got bigger.
“But if you have a teammate who drives at the absolute top level, no matter what the car is, that plays a subordinate role.
“If you look at it that way, no one except Ricciardo has existed on the same level as Max. And the longer the combination Ricciardo and Max was, the clearer Max was able to set himself apart.”
Verstappen replaced Daniil Kyvat as Ricciardo’s teammate early in the 2016 season. The Australian won the qualifying battle with his new partner 11-6 that year and also outscored Verstappen 220 points to 191.
The Dutch youngster started showing his pace in 2017 by outqualifying Ricciardo 13-7 but the more experienced man was still better on Sunday, claiming 200 points to Verstappen’s 168.
It wasn’t until 2018 – Ricciardo’s last season at Red Bull before moving to Renault that the tables turned.
Ricciardo slipped to sixth in the championship, 79 points behind Verstappen, despite winning two of the first six races of the season.
After Ricciardo’s victory at Monaco, Verstappen outqualified him 11 times in a row to win that battle 15-3 with an average qualifying advantage of 0.131 seconds.
But the Aussie defended his record after the season, citing reliability problems and other issues he wouldn’t go into as contributing factors to the underwhelming results.
“I am happy with how I’ve been this year and I certainly feel that the points and the qualifying tally don’t show the true picture,” he said at the time.
“I don’t want to take the credit away from Max because he is getting better every year and he’s a top-level driver. There is no doubt that he is extremely fast and he’s not easy to beat on any day.”
“But even on those days where he has outqualified me, I’ve still been comfortable with that and most of the time I’ve understood why.
“Sometimes I’ve taken my hat off and said that it was just a bloody good lap, but there have been other times, where there have been some issues and I’ve had some little things which haven’t quite gone my way …
“I’m happier than what the statistics show, let’s say that.”
Verstappen has five wins and 20 podiums in his two years at Red Bull since Ricciardo left. It’s perhaps not a true measure of his ability because of the advantage Mercedes has enjoyed with its car in recent seasons, but a driver touted as a future king of the sport still hasn’t really done anything Ricciardo didn’t do in his breakout season in 2014.
As for Albon, Marko said the 24-year-old had enough talent but lacked consistency and “lost a disproportionate amount of time” when weather conditions turned on the wind-sensitive Red Bull car or when his tires had worn off.