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Gambling loss to be spent on team party - Marko

Gambling loss to be spent on team party - Marko
© Reuters
Dr Helmut Marko says he is "happy" to have lost a 500 euro bet to fellow Red Bull boss Christian Horner at the 2023 season finale in Abu Dhabi.

Dr Helmut Marko says he is "happy" to have lost a 500 euro bet to fellow Red Bull boss Christian Horner at the 2023 season finale in Abu Dhabi.

"Christian said Max would qualify on the front row; I predicted the second row," he smiled after qualifying, explaining that Verstappen had struggled through the practice sessions.

Ultimately, the triple world champion beat Ferrari's pole specialist Charles Leclerc to the top spot.

"Our engineers did an incredible job because they made exactly the right adjustments in the small areas where they were still allowed to make changes," Marko told Sky Deutschland.

And the 500 euros? "It will go towards an evening out, so that the engineers can have a fun evening on Sunday," the 80-year-old Austrian smiled again.

"Max did an incredible performance again, where my predictions were completely wrong," Marko said. "But I'm happy when I'm so wrong when a result like that comes out in the end."

And if Verstappen wins on Sunday, that will extend Red Bull's tally to an incredible 21 victories out of a possible 22 - an amazing 95.5 percent winning record.

"We want to get that," Marko said. "After the season we've had, you also want things to run optimally in the last race as well."

The fact that Red Bull was able to recover at one of its more difficult events is a concern for the teams that are trying everything to close the gap.

"The really impressive thing about Red Bull is not their speed, but their consistency," said McLaren boss Andrea Stella. "They deliver even on difficult days.

"They get it done again and again with breathtaking consistency. It shows how much work we still have to do. Just being as fast as them isn't enough."

Mercedes, meanwhile, is struggling not only to close the gap to Red Bull, but also to keep up with the likes of Ferrari and McLaren.

Lewis Hamilton failed even to make Q3 in Abu Dhabi.

"I'm tired of explaining why everything went wrong," team boss Toto Wolff said. "I'm just glad that this is the last qualifying of the season and the next one will be with a new car."

Before that happens, though, Ferrari is pushing to secure 5 more points than Mercedes in Sunday's race - and secure what France's L'Equipe believes is an extra EUR 14 million in official prize money for finishing second rather than third overall.

"Second in the constructors' would be nice," said Leclerc. "Because in the drivers', honestly, finishing fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, I don't care."

It is rumoured that Ferrari is now ready to offer new deals to both Leclerc and Carlos Sainz - who has had a scrappier finish to his own season - for 2025 and beyond.

"Charles had a bit of a difficult time coming back from the summer break," team boss Frederic Vasseur told Canal Plus. "He came back very well.

"When he is not on pole, he is on the front row, which is very good for us. To have a leader like Charles who is pulling us along at the moment feels good."

But will it be enough to catch Red Bull in 2024?

"Red Bull's dominance will last a while longer," predicted two-time champion Fernando Alonso.

And Mercedes' George Russell doesn't really disagree with that, despite frenzied work in the Brackley factory to produce a much better car for 2024.

"We are changing a lot of little things," said the Briton. "I can already see that in the wind tunnel.

"But Red Bull is so far ahead even though they stopped developing months ago. So they're definitely going to take a big step."

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