Helmut Marko has revealed that he considers Lotus to be Red Bull’s closest rival in the hunt for the 2013 world championship.
The team advisor, who is one of the most outspoken characters in the paddock, has also directly snubbed Ferrari after the Italian team suffered some bad luck during the opening four races. Therefore, it is Kimi Raikkonen who is Sebastian Vettel’s closest challenger in the drivers’ championship, whilst Lotus overtook Ferrari in the constructors’ championship thanks to a double podium finish last time out in Bahrain.
“We knew for a long time that Lotus would be the toughest opponent. We currently fear Lotus more than Ferrari,” Marko explained to Kleine Zeitung.
However, he did acknowledge that it was still too early in the season to make any assumptions, although Lotus’ pace was highly impressive.
“We are only four races in and something can still change. What is making the Lotus so quick in the races is a mystery to us.”
Kimi Raikkonen won the opening race of the season in Australia for Lotus, and their pace was reinforced by the team’s good result in Bahrain. The Enstone-based team will be looking to continue its good form at the next race in Spain, where Raikkonen finished third last season. Should Red Bull encounter some problems in Barcelona, Lotus could be poised to seize the lead of both championships ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix at the end of May.
On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.
And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.
Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.
The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.
“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.
“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.
“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”
A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.