Red Bull motorsports consultant Dr Helmut Marko was typically forthright when asked for his views on Max Verstappen’s performance in the Chinese Grand Prix.
Verstappen had made an impressive start to the race, leaping up two places to third into the first corner. The Red Bull pit wall immediately urged him not to get greedy and simply consolidate the position.
Unfortunately that was advice lost on the 20-year-old later in the race when he found himself challenging Lewis Hamilton.
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The Red Bull and Mercedes briefly touched, and Verstappen ended up running off the track. When he rejoined, it was behind his team mate Daniel Ricciardo – who went on to win the race.
Verstappen tried to make up lost ground but made an ill-advised lunge on Sebastian Vettel at the hairpin, which resulted in both cars spinning.
Although he quickly got back underway, Verstappen was handed a ten-second penalty for causing a collision and ended up classified in fifth place, back behind Hamilton.
Marko was distinctly unimpressed by the incident.
“Max overdid it by trying to overtake Vettel,” Marko told Movistar. “There was a victory for him on the table, but he gave it away. But still it was a very good drive from both our drivers.
“Yes, it was a mistake from him. He apologised. That can happen in racing,” he added. “He is 19 or 20, he’s bloody young, and it can happen.”
Verstappen and Vettel talked about the incident after the end of the race, with the four-time champion giving the younger driver some pertinent advice.
“That his time will come,” Marko revealed. “[That] he just shouldn’t overdo it. He knows what he lost.”
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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner agreed that it looked like Verstappen had made a major error in today’s race.
“It looks like a mistake,” he said. “He’s got penalised for it. He’s young, he’s aggressive. That’s what makes him exciting to watch. He’s paid the price today.
“The first part of the race was going very well for him,” Horner continued. “Unfortunately he lost time on the outside of Lewis, dropped behind Daniel, and then, when attempting a pass on Sebastian, he made contact resulting in a 10 second penalty which he has apologised for.
“He still managed to bring the car home in fifth,” he pointed out. “It is a result I am sure he will be frustrated with, but performance today bodes well for the coming season.”
Overall Horner was preferring to focus on the positives of today’s race for the team.
“First time we’ve won here since 2010,” he pointed out. And for Ricciardo, it’s the first time he’s even been on the podium in Shanghai.
“After the bad luck he’s had after the last couple of races, it’s great to see him on the podium winning this Grand Prix!”
Horner added that Ricciardo’s victory had the culmination of an all-round effort by the Red Bull team.
“Amazing. A fantastic team effort today,” he told Sky Sports F1. “Hats off to the guys in the garage. They’ve done two double pit stops as well, and nailed the strategy. And Daniel’s executed the perfect race.
“Any win begins with all of the guys and girls back at the factory and the dedication and hard work there, and that allows us to enjoy moments like this.”
The key moment was when the Red Bull pit wall responded immediately to a safety car being scrambled for debris on the track.
“It was a late call, it was a last minute call,” he said of the decision to bring both cars in at the same time. “Got them both turned around.”
“The second double stop was clinically executed, and [the pit crew] did an unbelievable job.”
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