Red Bull Formula 1 advisor Helmut Marko feels Max Verstappen’s championship lead could be bigger if “over 50 points” were not lost “innocently.”
Verstappen presently has a 12-point lead over Mercedes opponent Lewis Hamilton as the 2021 season enters its last five races.
Marko cites the Grands Prix of the British, Azerbaijan, and Hungary as evidence that Verstappen should be further ahead in the standings.
The Red Bull driver retired from the British Grand Prix while leading after colliding with Hamilton, who went on to win despite receiving a penalty for the incident.
Verstappen, who was running leading with five circuits remaining in Baku, also retired when one of his tyres exploded on the main straight.
In Hungary, he finished eighth after being hit at the start when Valtteri Bottas overshot the first corner.
“Before the last three races, we actually feared that we would be significantly behind,” Marko told Motorsport.com.
“The bottom line is that we scored more points than Hamilton in those grands prix, mainly because of Hamilton’s race in Turkey where he was only fifth, while Max finished second in Sochi – certainly by luck as well, because of the rain.
“But even more remarkable is: we innocently lost Baku, lost Silverstone and lost Hungary. If you calculate the amount of points we lost carefully, then it’s over 50 points in those three races.
“As a result we are only 12 points ahead now. So we have survived all those setbacks and we have also been able to match the upswing from Mercedes.”
In order to win his first Formula One title, Marko believes Verstappen will need at least two more victories in the remaining five races.
“Looking at the remaining races, I think we have to win at least two more races to be reasonably safe or, let’s say, confident going into the final race,” he said.
“The high altitude tracks of Brazil and Mexico should suit us significantly better. It’s just that so much has already happened this season.
“So-called Mercedes tracks weren’t Mercedes tracks in the end and the same goes for Red Bull tracks.”
“If we win the next two races, then it’s 60-40 for Max,” Marko remarked when asked about Verstappen’s prospects of winning the championship.
The tiniest of circumstances can influence the competitive balance between Mercedes and Red Bull, according to Marko, but he believes Verstappen and Hamilton are the key players.
“It’s so balanced that the form of the day, the tarmac and even the temperatures are extremely important,” he added.
“It looks like Mercedes is much quicker to get their car to the right set-up. We have a more complex car and on average it takes us longer to do it, but still there are only two drivers who always get the maximum out of it. That’s Hamilton at Mercedes and Max with us.
“The number two drivers, Perez thank God is on the up, but also Bottas – he did a sensational race in Turkey and more than average in Austin.
“But in the end these two exceptional drivers keep this duel going, no matter if it’s the Mercedes car or the Red Bull that is faster.
“Overall, it’s the driver who makes the difference. And those drivers are so strong that Verstappen can also beat a faster Mercedes on hard tyres.”
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