Red Bull’s Helmut Marko marvels at ‘clever’ Ferrari but outlines ‘risky’ French GP issue
F1 preview: A lap of the French Grand Prix
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Red Bull boss Helmut Marko praised Ferrari for using a “clever” strategy to secure pole at the French Grand Prix but issued a crucial warning which could play into Max Verstappen’s favour this afternoon. Verstappen will start the race from the front row of the grid but in second place after Ferrari used Carlos Sainz tactically for a slipstream.
The Spaniard had already been issued grid penalties for taking new parts after an engine blowout in Austria. However, the team sent him out in Q3 anyway to slow for Leclerc and give him an optimal tow down the long Mistral straight.
The move appeared to give the Monegasque a few extra tenths and he managed to just pip Verstappen to take his first pole since Azerbaijan. Marko praised the move, but stressed the tactic helped stretch the gap between the two cars on Saturday.
Speaking after the session, the Red Bull chief said: “Ferrari played it very well. The distance is marginal. I would say the three-tenths is not reality – it’s maybe a tenth.
“Up to Q2, the duel was at eye-level. Then Ferrari organised the clever slipstream game so the gap is not as drastic as it looks.” Friday’s long-run pace suggests Red Bull could have the upper-hand in the Grand Prix.
Meanwhile, Verstappen and Perez looked quicker down the straights which could aid any overtaking opportunities with the help of DRS. Ferrari is also struggling with reliability fears after Sainz suffered a mechanical failure in the closing stages in Speilberg.
Leclerc has also suffered two retirements this season with the incidents mainly coming at warmer circuits. Temperatures were high at both the Spanish Grand Prix and in Baku where Leclerc was forced out with problems.
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With the mercury expected to hit 34 degrees celsius this afternoon, reliability is sure to be a concern for the Prancing Horse. Marko added: “We have seen some problems with the engines at Ferrari.
“At these temperatures, it would be risky for them to drive the entire distance at full power. The Honda engine is not like that. In terms of reliability, things are looking good for us. We have no concerns about that.”
A retirement at this stage could be cataclysmic to Leclerc’s title hopes as he already lies 38 points behind reigning champion Verstappen.
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