Marko: Danica Patrick not good enough for F1

Danica Patrick has leapt back into the motor racing headlines by becoming the first woman to secure pole for the 2013 Nascar opener at Daytona.

Previously, the highly popular 30-year-old American, who is stealing the show at the pinnacle of US motor sport, has insisted she has little interest in exploring her options in Formula One. But could more doors open now?

“For ten years,” said triple world champion and Mercedes chairman Niki Lauda, “I’ve told Bernie Ecclestone he’s dopey for not getting a woman into Formula One. If we could get a woman into the top six, you would immediately have twice as many fans in front of the TV,” he is quoted by Bild newspaper.

Lauda, however, questioned whether Patrick is the right woman for the job.

“It has to be said that the technical level in the US does not compare to the level in formula one. This is also reflected in the drivers,” he said. “The last American who had success in Europe was Mario Andretti — and that was in my day!” exclaimed the 63-year-old.

Dr Helmut Marko, the outspoken driver manager at world champions Red Bull, also questioned Patrick’s credentials.

“You have to look at Danica’s results in the road races,” he said. “It’s not enough.”

Indeed, there are no female drivers among Red Bull’s current flock of young development drivers, whose ultimate aim is to earn a place at the junior team Toro Rosso.

“We are looking for drivers based on performance, not by quota,” Marko insisted.”

World champion Sebastian Vettel added: “First of all, hats off to Danica for her achievements. But motor sport in the US just has a completely different culture.”


Marko: Horner is not leaving Red Bull

Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko has refuted rumours that team boss Christian Horner could be headed to Ferrari in the near future.

Horner has recently visited Maranello and this has prompted rumours that he could be defecting to the scarlet-clad F1 team. This is despite the fact that several noted F1 figures were also present – including Bernie Ecclestone, Martin Whitmarsh and Niki Lauda – to discuss the Concorde Agreement with Luca di Montezemolo.

Marko told Sport Bild, “How could Christian be negotiating in Maranello if we’ve just extended his contract until 2017?”


Marko eyes Hulkenberg for 2014 Red Bull seat

Mark Webber looks set to struggle to keep his Red Bull race seat beyond 2013.

Granted just a one-year contract for a seventh consecutive season at the team, the 36-year-old Australian is already on notice by Red Bull’s tough Dr Helmut Marko.

Now, Austrian Marko has made clear Red Bull was not happy with Webber’s driving at the 2012 Interlagos finale, when teammate Sebastian Vettel was fighting for the title against Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.

Indeed, Flavio Briatore – still involved with the management of Webber’s career – said after Brazil: “The only one who helped Ferrari was Webber.”

Marko confirms: “Mark was not optimally cooperative in Brazil.”

Germany’s Sport Bild reports that, while Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne are obvious candidates to succeed Webber, Marko is also keen on Nico Hulkenberg.

German Hulkenberg, 25, has signed just a one-year deal with Sauber for 2013, and has also been linked with a potential 2014 move to Ferrari.

Marko confirmed: “A few years ago he was on the list of candidates for our junior team, but Nico already had a main sponsor (Dekra) with which he didn’t want to separate.”


Lauda admires Red Bull’s Marko

Niki Lauda has admitted he admires his Austrian compatriot Dr Helmut Marko. Triple world champion Lauda is Mercedes’ new non-executive chairman.

The German business newspaper Handelsblatt on Thursday reported that he is stepping down from the board of the airline Air Berlin.

“The 63-year-old wants to dedicate his future to his role in the formula one team Mercedes,” the report said, adding that Air Berlin has confirmed the news.

Lauda’s task is to steer Mercedes in the right direction after the three-year period of Michael Schumacher’s unsuccessful return to F1. He sees Red Bull’s Marko – the outspoken, brusque character who like Lauda is the link between the main company and the F1 team – as a role model.

“He’s the tough dog,” Lauda told Austrian television Servus TV, “holding everything together and ensuring no one works against the other. When you have this harmonious effect from the smallest mechanic to the head designer all pulling together, you can have this outstanding result,” he said, referring to Red Bull’s three year domination of the sport.

“This applies to many companies in the world,” Lauda continued. “If all worked as Red Bull do in formula one, then they would all be much more successful.”


Marko not expecting Webber to beat Vettel in 2013

There is pressure on Mark Webber to perform in 2013, Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko insists.

“Mark knows what we expect of him,” Austrian Marko – the main link between team owner Dietrich Mateschitz and the Christian Horner-led F1 team in Milton-Keynes – told Germany’s Sport Bild.

Australian Webber, who openly admits that Marko is closer to Sebastian Vettel, has only a one-year contract with Red Bull Racing. Now 36, he has been with Red Bull since 2007.

“For four years Vettel and Webber have driven together in our team,” Marko said. “Sebastian was runner-up once and champion three times. The statistic speaks for itself. There is no reason to think the balance of power will change,” he added.

If Webber is not retained beyond 2013, he could retire. He says finding the right time to go is important.

“I haven’t been there yet but it is going to be a very difficult moment, no question about it,” Webber is quoted by GP International magazine. “Now I have a lot of wisdom it’s about dropping that into your whole skill set and performing better.

“But there comes a point where even that’s not enough to keep you at the front. And that’s when you need to stop,” he said.


Marko on Austria GP return – ‘never say never’

Dr Helmut Marko has answered “never say never” when asked if his native Austria could return to the F1 calendar.

As he celebrated his latest championship with Austrian energy drink Red Bull’s main F1 team in Graz, Sebastian Vettel said he can imagine a grand prix being staged at the former A1-Ring. The track in Spielberg, refurbished by Red Bull and now called the Red Bull Ring, last hosted a formula one race in 2003.

When asked about Vettel’s comments, Red Bull’s leading motor racing official Marko said: “At the moment, the world economy is quite simply booming in Asia and South America.

“There are (F1) sanctioning fees in the order of $20 to $30 million to pay, so one simply has to ask the question of where does this come from. But with (Dietrich) Mateschitz, you can never say never. Let’s see how it develops,” added Marko.

He suggested there might be room on F1’s apparently cluttered annual schedule.

“There are places like Korea, where the track is not great, there is only one hotel and it’s difficult to travel in and out. Places like that are not going to stay,” predicted Marko.


Marko ‘not relaxed’ as alternator crisis looms for F1 finale

On paper, Sebastian Vettel is the overwhelming favourite to seal his third consecutive drivers’ crown this weekend in Brazil. His 13-point lead over Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso means he can steer his ultra-competitive Red Bull to just fourth place at Interlagos and still set off for his winter slumber with the title.

“But Alonso still must win,” Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko is quoted by Speed Week. “He must take the risk. That’s the important thing.”

But it’s not quite as simple as that. First, there is the pressure of the season finale, with Alonso a hardened, never-say-die samurai-loving competitor. And Marko acknowledged that Brazil is often a “crazy race”, even without the forecast high probability of rain.

But the Austrian insisted: “The only question mark is reliability. So no, I’m not relaxed.”

Marko is undoubtedly referring to Red Bull’s recurring alternator failures in 2012, the latest of which struck Mark Webber’s car in Austin. It was believed Renault offered Red Bull a brand new specification of the Magneti Marelli unit for the US grand prix, but in fact the reigning champions opted for the tried-and-tested previous version.

Spain’s Mundo Deportivo newspaper said Red Bull will definitely use the brand new specification for the Sao Paulo finale.

“We are ready with the new one,” Renault’s Remi Taffin is quoted by Brazil’s Globo Esporte. “Generally we feel more comfortable with something we have known for a long time, but we have tested the new design and so there’s no need to be worried,” he added.


Marko: Vettel-Ferrari rumour ‘to upset Red Bull’

The ‘Vettel to Ferrari’ story that emerged with renewed vigour in recent days was planted to disrupt Red Bull, Dr Helmut Marko has suggested.

Runaway championship leader Sebastian Vettel slammed the story after winning Sunday’s Indian grand prix, calling it “bullsh*t”. Some paddock figures suggested the source of the rumour could be Ferrari itself, whose Fernando Alonso is locked in a head-to-head battle with Vettel for the 2012 championship. Responding to the rumours, Red Bull’s Marko is quoted by SID news agency: “It was totally unnecessary, because someone just wanted to create unrest for us.”

But the Austrian did not point the finger at Ferrari, insisting: “I do not know where it came from. All I know is that it’s not true.

“Sebastian has a fixed contract with us through 2014. And Seb’s not stupid. Alonso is fixed until 2016 with Ferrari and he’s not going to be his teammate.”


Marko: Buemi could go to Force India

Red Bull’s reserve driver Sebastien Buemi on Sunday had a meeting with Force India officials, Blick newspaper reports from India.

The Swiss, who lost his Toro Rosso race seat at the end of last season, has already been named as a possible successor for the probably Sauber-bound Nico Hulkenberg. Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko also seemed to confirm the possibility Buemi is in with a shot of the Force India cockpit.

“If Buemi doesn’t go to Force India,” he is quoted by the Swiss newspaper Blick, “then we want to keep him. He might also do the (sports car) endurance world championship with Toyota,” added Marko.


Marko suspects Massa spoiled Vettel on purpose

Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko has hinted Felipe Massa deliberately impeded Sebastian Vettel at the end of qualifying in Korea.

Vettel’s last Q3 run was indeed interrupted by Ferrari’s Massa, but the German – who ultimately qualified second behind his teammate Mark Webber – initially blamed his engineer.

“Why did you not tell me about Massa?” Vettel shouted to his engineer Rocky on the radio.

Vettel told reporters afterwards: “These things happen, it’s not Felipe’s fault at all. If anything it was my mistake.”

Outspoken Marko, however, hinted he sensed Massa was playing a team role to boost Ferrari’s number one Fernando Alonso.

“Massa was out in front of him with new tyres and a good pace and then he suddenly stopped his lap,” he told the Austrian broadcaster ORF.

Vettel, however, is adamant he just wants to move on.

“I don’t like all these discussions; we’ve had a lot of them lately,” he said.