Red Bull make Daniel Ricciardo admission over Max Verstappen despite Alex Albon decision

Daniel Ricciardo ‘had his heart set on Ferrari’ says expert

Red Bull racing chief Helmut Marko has claimed that Daniel Ricciardo would be ‘clearly’ adrift of Max Verstappen if the Australian still raced for the team. Ricciardo left at the end of the 2018 season to join Renault and will drive for McLaren alongside young Brit Lando Norris next season.

The 31-year-old, who began his career in Formula One through Red Bull’s junior programme, was Verstappen’s team-mate for three years.

During the latter stages of his spell with the Bulls, he began to struggle in challenging the Dutchman at the front of the grid with the youngster impressing heavily.

Marko has revealed his belief that the gap between the two drivers would now be significantly larger if they had remained as his team’s pairing.

“If you look at it this way, apart from Ricciardo no one has performed at the same level as Max,” Marko told Motorsport-Total. “And the longer the Ricciardo-Max combination had lasted, the more often and more clearly Max would have been in front of it.”

Marko is known for being ruthless in his role as Red Bull’s primary advisor, and the Austrian was involved in another high-profile decision earlier this month as the team opted to replace Alexander Albon with Sergio Perez in 2021.

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Albon struggled to lay a glove on Verstappen last season and will step down from his race seat to fill the position of test and reserve driver next year.

“Of course, all the reports and the unsatisfactory results disturbed him,” said Marko. “The gap [to] Verstappen has increased, not decreased, over the course of the season. It’s marginal, but it’s increased.”

Offering further explanation on the decision to drop Albon, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner revealed that he could not ignore Perez’s superior on-track performances and his ability to claim impressive results against the odds.

The Mexican joined the exclusive list of Formula One race winners last season when he took a surprise victory for Racing Point at the Sakhir Grand Prix.

“Max’s 2021 team-mate has been a matter for debate, and at times, something that has yielded intense questioning and external pressure for Alex,” Horner said, speaking to F1i.

“He handled this extremely well and it impressed me how much strength, resilience and class he has displayed throughout.

“All of us wanted to see Alex retain the seat for 2021. We therefore made the decision to evaluate the performances at the end of the season with a full set of data.

“Looking at the delta between our two drivers and given Sergio’s strong performances, particularly in the second half of the year, we made the decision that Sergio had earned the 2021 seat.”

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