Marko: Verstappen lost 'over 50 points innocently' in 2021 F1 battle

Red Bull Formula 1 advisor Helmut Marko believes Max Verstappen's championship lead over Lewis Hamilton could be bigger if not for "over 50 points" that he lost "innocently".

Marko: Verstappen lost 'over 50 points innocently' in 2021 F1 battle

After his victory in last weekend's US Grand Prix, Verstappen currently leads Mercedes rival Hamilton by 12 points as the 2021 season heads into the final five races.

Marko cites the examples of the British, Azerbaijan and Hungarian Grands Prix as examples that Verstappen should be further ahead in the standings.

The Red Bull driver retired from the British GP after first-lap contact with Hamilton as they disputed the lead, the Briton going on to win the race despite a 10-second penalty for the incident.

In Baku, Verstappen also retired while running first with five laps remaining when his left-rear tyre exploded on the main straight, causing him to crash.

And in Hungary he finished down in ninth after sustaining damage at the start, caused by Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas overshooting the first corner and pin-balling Lando Norris into Verstappen. 

"Before the last three races, we actually feared that we would be significantly behind," Marko told Autosport.

"The bottom line is that we scored more points than Hamilton in those grands prix, mainly because of Hamilton's race in Turkey where he was only fifth, while Max finished second in Sochi - certainly by luck as well, because of the rain.

Verstappen struggled to ninth in Hungary after Bottas punted Norris into his car

Verstappen struggled to ninth in Hungary after Bottas punted Norris into his car

Photo by: Jerry Andre / Motorsport Images

"But even more remarkable is: we innocently lost Baku, lost Silverstone and lost Hungary. If you calculate the amount of points we lost carefully, then it's over 50 points in those three races.

"As a result we are only 12 points ahead now. So we have survived all those setbacks and we have also been able to match the upswing from Mercedes."

PLUS: How Red Bull’s ace has become F1 champion material

Marko believes Verstappen will need at least two more victories in the remaining five races in order to secure his first F1 title.

"Looking at the remaining races, I think we have to win at least two more races to be reasonably safe or, let's say, confident going into the final race," he said.

"The high altitude tracks of Brazil and Mexico should suit us significantly better. It's just that so much has already happened this season.

"So-called Mercedes tracks weren't Mercedes tracks in the end and the same goes for Red Bull tracks."

Asked what are Verstappen's chances of winning the title, Marko said: "If we win the next two races, then it's 60-40 for Max."

Marko says the tiniest of factors can affect the competitive balance between Mercedes and Red Bull, but he feels it's Verstappen and Hamilton who are making the difference.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

"It's so balanced that the form of the day, the tarmac and even the temperatures are extremely important," he added.

PLUS: The key details that boosted Red Bull and held back Hamilton in Verstappen’s USA victory

"It looks like Mercedes is much quicker to get their car to the right set-up. We have a more complex car and on average it takes us longer to do it, but still there are only two drivers who always get the maximum out of it. That's Hamilton at Mercedes and Max with us.

"The number two drivers, [Sergio] Perez thank God is on the up, but also Bottas - he did a sensational race in Turkey and more than average in Austin.

"But in the end these two exceptional drivers keep this duel going, no matter if it's the Mercedes car or the Red Bull that is faster.

"Overall, it's the driver who makes the difference. And those drivers are so strong that Verstappen can also beat a faster Mercedes on hard tyres."

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