Q: Helmut, you are known as a hard-nosed observer of your team. How satisfied were you with Red Bull Racing’s performance after the first four days testing?
Helmut Marko: We have a beautiful car that is doing very well in fast corners and that has good traction. What’s missing is a bit of reliability and power.
Q: Adrian Newey said that the RB13 is simple and clean. Is that what is required from a car in times of significant regulation changes? The Mercedes looks a bit more ‘grown up’…
HM: The car as you see it doesn’t have as many flaps and fins as the others, so that should help us with the set-up and it gives us a good top speed. We have good aerodynamics and not too much drag, and in the end it should also help us in overtaking to have a small and clean car – so that the aerodynamics are working in our favour.
Q: All teams – at least the big ones – are planning major changes for the second test, and then more for Melbourne three weeks later. What do you have in the pipeline?
HM: Let’s wait and see. First I think it is important to understand these kind of cars better before we start putting things on it – and then we will bring what we think we need to enhance our competitiveness.
Q: The cars are faster, wider and louder – probably closer to what you knew when racing yourself. Do you welcome that?
HM: It is a very positive sign. The cars look far more aggressive. It is really impressive to see how fast they go around corners. I am still a bit disappointed about the sound – it is not anywhere near the noise that I remember from past times and that was such an important part of the F1 experience for the fans. But hopefully we are getting there as well – step by step.
Q: You have watched the cars from various corners of the track: are you surprised by how other teams have interpreted the rule changes?
HM: It is clear that with these massive changes you see different solutions. What I was surprised about was the similarity in the concept of Mercedes and Toro Rosso. For sure there has been no cooperation! (Laughs)
Q: Everybody was surprised that the Toro Rosso is not more in the mould of the Red Bull. Why is that?
HM: The Toro Rosso design was more or less the same for the last couple of years. Now with the rule changes – and because it is our junior team – we wanted to have the car look more aggressive, more young in design and livery. And the feedback has proved us right. Red Bull Racing is another matter – this is the team that has to deliver titles. The junior team can be more of an eye-catcher.
Q: Imagine a beauty contest between all the new cars – who would take the crown?
HM: I am probably not objective, but for me the RB13 is the most elegant car.
Q: Max Verstappen is starting his second season with Red Bull Racing. And the expectations are presumably much higher than last year when he stepped in for Daniil Kvyat…
HM: …of course they are. He is more mature. It will be his third season in F1, so he must be more consistent and make fewer mistakes. We expect both drivers – if the package of car and engine is right – to fight for the championship.
Q: There has been a lot of movement of technical staff between teams lately. Red Bull, however, have stayed pretty much the same. Will that prove positive this season?
HM: We didn’t have any major changes. Not on the top level. That demonstrates that we believe continuity will play an important part this season. Our experience has shown that it takes quite a while to integrate somebody new into the team. And sometimes it completely fails – and you’d better not have that on your hands in a season as difficult as 2017.
Q: How do you see the situation at Mercedes, where James Allison has joined and Paddy Lowe has left, reportedly to head to Williams?
HM: James Allison got a pretty well designed car. Now it will be interesting to see how he develops it, because he has to develop a car that is not a product of his philosophy. Yes he is an experienced guy, so he will manage it…
Q: …but the time factor can play a role: are you hoping that your development speed will be higher than that of Mercedes?
HM: Not really. We have to get our thing right and not be hoping on mishaps from others.
Q: The driver pairings will be an interesting topic – at least for the constructors’ title. Where do you see Red Bull in that pecking order?
HM: We have the strongest driver pairing. Period.
Q: Three years without winning a title – that must go against everything that Red Bull stands for. Is the wait almost over?
HM: Let me make something clear: from the regulations it’s still an engine Formula – and Mercedes simply has an advantage on that side. But we do see our chance this year: the simple design of our car, the driveability of the car, our drivers and the stability in the team. So let’s wait and see.