Helmut Marko makes gloomy 2023 Red Bull prediction despite great start

Helmut Marko has put a dampener on expectations that Red Bull may dominate the 2023 F1 season with a rather pessimistic outlook on the year.

The energy drink-sponsored squad maintained their strength from the 2022 campaign at the 2023 opening round in Bahrain. After being near the top of the timesheets throughout practice, Max Verstappen put his car in pole position for the race in Sakhir.

F1’s reigning world champion then produced a lights-to-flag victory which saw him unchallenged throughout the whole 57-lap race. Meanwhile, Verstappen’s teammate, Sergio Perez, came home in second to deliver a Red Bull one-two.

Whilst single-lap speed proved more of a battle, Red Bull’s race pace was absolutely imperious. The assertiveness of their Bahrain GP weekend even had their rivals admitting defeat.

For instance, Mercedes driver George Russell said (via BBC Sport): “They [Red Bull] have this championship sewn up. I don’t think anybody is going to be fighting them this year. They should win every race with the performance they’ve got.”

However, the team’s motorsport advisor, Helmut Marko, was a lot more hesitant to say that the championship was a certainty.

Helmut Mark plays down Red Bull’s supremacy

In an interview with Formel.de, Marko suggested that Red Bull’s wind tunnel restrictions could allow rivals to catch up.

“We prepared ourselves optimally for the season,” said the Red Bull advisor, via Motorsport.com. “Once we knew that the penalty would be imposed, it was clear that, when we went into the wind tunnel, it had to be done in an efficient manner. Each run needed a clear plan.

“At the moment, we’ve managed to do that. But as the season progresses – and we run out of wind tunnel time – the others will have that available. Our lead will then melt away. That’s why it’s extremely important that we take points with us now.”

Helmut Marko also rubbished George Russell’s claims that Red Bull should win every race in 2023.

“No,” he said, bluntly. “Russell’s statement can perhaps be explained by the frustration from the Bahrain race. It was a race on a specific circuit where the surface is extremely rough, which means that tyre wear plays a very big role.

“We put in a good performance. But so much for winning all the races and having the World Championship title in the bag. If it were that easy, it would be nice.”

So, the reigning constructors’ champs believe that their restricted wind tunnel usage will see others close the gap on them. But why do Red Bull face these limitations, anyway?

Red Bull: cost cap punishments for 2023

The wind tunnel testing reduction comes as a result of punishments for breaching the cost cap in 2021.

Red Bull reportedly overspent the limit of £114 million during the 2021 campaign by £1.8 million. In that season, Max Verstappen claimed his first world drivers’ championship in dramatic circumstances.

The Milton Keynes-based outfit accepted its cost cap breach in October 2022. In response, the FIA handed Red Bull an enormous $7 million fine. Most crucially, though, they added further punishment with regard to car development.

Red Bull suffered a 10% reduction in their allotted time for aerodynamic testing in wind tunnels for 2023. This may have a large impact across this season, as other teams will have more hours available.

After news of the punishment emerged in October 2022, Christian Horner lamented the testing limit’s potential impact.

“I can tell you now, that is an enormous amount,” said the Red Bull principal, via Autosport. “That represents anywhere between a quarter and half a second’s worth of lap time. This comes in from now and has a direct effect on next year’s car.

“By winning the constructors, we become victims of our own success. In addition to that 10% (punishment), having 5% incremental disadvantage or handicap compared to second and third place.

“It will impact our ability to perform on track.”

Time will tell if Helmut Marko’s prediction comes true as the 2023 season progresses. Meanwhile, Red Bull’s rivals will want to close the gap to the frontrunners at this weekend’s Saudi Arabian GP.

Featured image credit: Getty