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Red Bull's controversial Motorsport Director, Helmut Marko, in reality an advisor to Dietrich Mateschitz, has spoken out on a number of issues including Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and himself.
In an interview with the Red Bulletin, Marko, a former F1 and Sportscar driver, is first asked about claims that he is cool and aloof. "You'll never make it in Formula One if you are only addicted to beauty," he replies, setting the tone.
Asked about his relationship with Vettel, with whom he has worked for more than ten years, he says: "First and foremost, we have a business partnership at a very clear, open and honest level. If he has problems, he comes directly to me - and vice versa if I have concerns. This works in a very professional manner. And, of course, you get a lot closer personally, no question.
"It is characteristically Sebastian to hold 'Vettel the race driver' up to the public," he continues, "and he wants to keep his personal life private. Quite rightly so, too. But it also has to do with the fact that he is so incredibly focused on his job, so he needs the rest and the time off. He has to withdraw into himself so that he can then call upon the thing that no other driver has, in qualifying or during a race. I'm very well aware of the way Sebastian prepares, so that gives him a great deal of personal freedom to do what it takes to achieve the best performance.
"He was certainly well looked after by his parents," he reveals. "Young people with a penchant for love and security stay as long as they can in what you would hope is their protected zone. Others are inclined to strike out early and make their own way. But you don't need all that much TLC. It is enough to recognise their strengths. Creating an artificial atmosphere of softness and cosiness just doesn't fit in the world of Formula One."
Asked about 2012, a season in which Red Bull appeared to go out of its way to make things difficult for itself, he says: "The year was characterised by the fact that we couldn't always make full use of the speed we had available. The beginning was rough, then came the high of Bahrain, and just when we thought, 'We're back', came Valencia, with that stupid alternator damage when we were clearly leading. Then Vettel's next alternator problem, in Monza. We were about 40 points adrift then, but there was no finger pointing; in fact it pulled the whole team closer together, and everyone said, "We can do it!" No one more than Vettel: "We can do it!"
The Austrian is under no illusion as to when things turned around. "In Singapore, no question. Adrian Newey and his team found the all-encompassing solution in the harmony between the tyres, the front wing, the exhaust. This lent the drivers confidence, and was most noticeable in qualifying.
Vettel was already ahead by 13 points when the Abu Dhabi nerve-killer came: too little fuel in his tank after the qualifying, shoved to the back, hammer through, mistake under safety car, change wing, thundered back from last place again. Under these circumstances, third place was, of course, fantastic, but it wasn't enough to give us any relief. So everything ratcheted up for the last race in Brazil."
In the eyes of many, Interlagos was the most thrilling race of the season, but Marko didn't see it that way. "Not for me. Vettel is sent into a spin by Senna in the first lap, which may have given the fans the ultimate thrill, but I became very quiet. I see that the engine is running, the damage is quickly assessed, then I see he's in 19th place, with most of the race to go, he's two seconds faster than the guy in eighth, which is where he has to be - and that's what preoccupies me. Thanks to a great team effort, we also managed the additional pitstop and so on."
Reflecting on the season as a while, he says: "Sebastian's driving was virtually flawless. But he is a phenomenon: it is always like that. After the summer break, his performance curve shoots up. That's what happened in previous years, too. I don't know how he does it, but to keep doing it cannot be a coincidence.
"That brings us back to his method of preparation, the way he shuts himself off from the rest of the world, so that he can still call on reserves that other drivers might not have: Fernando Alonso, for example, who is busy with politics and funny comments. Vettel ignores it all, he doesn't read the newspapers, or the internet. And that's the point, you see, we concentrate on our job: to make the fastest car and the best team possible."
And Webber? "It seems to me that Webber has on average two races per year where he is unbeatable," says Marko, "but he can't maintain this form throughout the year. And as soon as his prospects start to look good in the world championship, he has a little trouble with the pressure that this creates. In comparison with Seb's rising form, it seems to me that Mark's form somehow flattens out. Then, if some technical mishap occurs, like with the alternator for example, he falls relatively easily into a downward spiral.
"No driver remains unaffected by this, because the tension is palpable," he admits. "In 2010, it was particularly extreme. Webber headed into the final race with better chances than Vettel, and he probably carried the disappointment of his defeat into the 2011 season, which is so easy to understand.
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