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Marko: We don't have a number one

NEWS STORY
23/12/2017

In the opinion of many, not least Pitpass, in much the same way as Red Bull previously favoured Sebastian Vettel above all others, the Austrian team now 'belongs' to Max Verstappen.

With the Dutch sensation having agreed a new deal which keeps him on board until the end of 2020, it is widely believed that once his current contract runs out at the end of next season Daniel Ricciardo will seek pastures new... Mercedes Toto Wolff having made no secret of his desire to have the Australian in his team.

However, Red Bull's Helmut Marko insists there is no number one at Red Bull, telling the official F1 website that if he appears to rate Verstappen's performance higher in 2017 it was mainly down to qualifying.

"I didn't favour him!" he insists. "But in qualifying he was most of the time faster.

"With seven DNF's his season was not a walk in the park," he continues, "and sometimes his morale was really down... but it was a steep learning process for him and he came out better than he was before. His two wins were the proof.

"We don't have a number one. Both drivers are equally treated and it is up to them to define the pecking order. I will always love the faster one!"

Reflecting on the season, he said: "The start of the season was not good. We had correlation problems that had forced us to start the season with a non-competitive chassis. We were able to change that at the start of the European season in Barcelona, and from Budapest onwards I would say that we had the competitive chassis we had in mind. I would even go so far as to say that sometimes we had an outstanding chassis.

"Engine-wise - and this was no secret - we had a lot of reliability problems, which hindered the engine manufacturer in further power developments.

"Ricciardo struggled a bit in the first half of the year but then adapted and on some occasions was at the same speed - and sometimes even faster - than Max. My verdict is both drivers developed from last season. They pushed each other to the next level and hopefully next year to the very top!

"On the circumstances - or let's say luck - we had more than ten DNF's. Picture this! This outstanding record speaks for itself. Without that we would have been significantly further up in both championships - P2 would very likely have been ours."

Many, including Toto Wolff, are predicting a three-way - possibly even four-way - battle in 2018, however, while Red Bull is sure to produce a competitive chassis there remain doubts in terms of the Renault power unit.

"So far Renault was always fair with us," says Marko. "And we have learned our lesson from this year: we will not show up at the Barcelona tests with a non-competitive chassis! We have changed our schedule and how we approach the winter preparations. F1 is a competition, and if they are better then we have to work harder.

"It should be better if we have a reliable power unit," he adds, looking ahead, "and if we have more horsepower then we should come nearer to Mercedes, so it really could be the scenario that Wolff saw in his crystal ball. It will be an exciting season, that is for sure."

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