Helmut Marko has provisionally ruled out a change of power unit for Max Verstappen in Saudi Arabia this weekend.
With Mercedes planning to re-install Lewis Hamilton’s “spicy” engine in Jeddah after his success with it at Interlagos, thoughts had turned to whether or not Red Bull would give Verstappen fresh horsepower heading into the final two races of this season to try and combat Hamilton’s move.
Verstappen still leads the World Championship ahead of Hamilton, and the Red Bull advisor thinks he is still in the box seat to win the title, having previously stated that the team would not take any more penalties because of any power unit changes.
“An engine change is not planned in Saudi Arabia at the moment,” Marko said to F1-Insider. “If it is, it will come in Abu Dhabi.”
Marko said separately that he hopes his team will be able to bounce back in Saudi Arabia at the weekend, given Mercedes’ dominant performances in Brazil and Qatar in the past two races.
“In Brazil, we had no chance. In Qatar, we made a mistake with the setup. But we’re still ahead,” Marko told Austrian newspaper OE24, quoted by RacingNews365.
“Now we have to fight back in Jeddah. Max still has every chance.”
Formula 1 heads to the brand-new Jeddah Corniche Circuit this weekend, with the track still appearing to be having the finishing touches done on its construction.
With so many unknowns to come, he confirmed that Verstappen has been taking the time to try and learn the track before heading to Saudi Arabia.
“Believe me, our people are working at full speed,” said Marko. “Max trains in the simulator; he even has one at home. It almost doesn’t matter to him that he’s never driven there.”
When asked if the team would head to Saudi Arabia early to try and scope out any elements of the track, he was quick to dismiss that idea.
“What is that supposed to bring us? As far as I am informed, nothing is finished there yet.
“There are still excavators and construction vehicles driving around. The tarmac is only cleaned at the last second. A couple of practice laps are enough for Max to be familiar with the course.”
Verstappen could become World Champion at the weekend if he opens up a 26-point advantage through winning the race with the fastest lap and Hamilton finishes P6 or below – but the Red Bull advisor did not want to speculate about the permutations in Jeddah.
“Please leave me alone with the calculations!” Marko exclaimed. “Or should I come back with the 50 points that Max lost through no fault of his own?
“Only [Valtteri] Bottas always breaks [down] at Mercedes,” he added. “Nothing ever happens to Hamilton.”
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