When Mercedes is under pressure, the dominant team of the ‘power unit’ era makes mistakes.
That is the gleeful conclusion of Dr Helmut Marko, after Max Verstappen won the Monaco GP at a canter and took over the lead in the drivers’ world championship.
“Max has reached a different level of maturity,” Marko told Servus TV late on Sunday.
“We were also surprised that Hamilton stayed behind Gasly more or less without a fight,” the Red Bull official added. “When there is pressure, Mercedes makes mistakes.
“With this victory, Max’s performance should now be even more confident and controlled.”
2016 world champion Nico Rosberg called it a “pitch-black weekend” for his former teammate Hamilton, with the seven time world champion pointing the finger at Mercedes publicly.
For instance, Hamilton told one reporter immediately after finishing seventh on Sunday: “Lessons for me? No, lessons for the team.”
Later, he clarified: “I’m not pointing my finger at anyone. We will have constructive discussions.”
Hamilton struggled all weekend at the Principality, but team boss Toto Wolff insists that any critical comments to the media do not reveal a rift.
“There is nothing negative between us and Lewis – we are all frustrated,” he said after Sunday’s race. “We all have emotional fluctuations.”
According to Rosberg, Hamilton also needs to look within to find the culprit for the black weekend at Monaco, because the German agrees with Marko that the problem was “also in terms of (Hamilton’s) driving”.
Coupled with strategy errors, it means Mercedes has lost control at the top of both championships for one of the only times since 2013.
“Is it the first time?” wondered Wolff. “I think we were behind Ferrari two years ago.”
However, Baku might only cement Verstappen’s lofty new place at the top of the order.
“Baku is cooler and has smooth asphalt. It could be difficult for us there too,” admitted Hamilton.
As for Verstappen, he took Sunday’s momentous result in his stride, particularly after Hamilton kicked off the Monaco weekend with some mind games about the potential for a crash.
“Well, actions always speak louder than words,” the Dutchman said after receiving his winning trophy. “I think that’s a good lesson for this weekend – you have to talk on the track.
“That’s what I like. As a team, we have made the fewest mistakes so far and that is why we are ahead. So I hope we can keep that going now. But it has to be said that Mercedes still has the faster car on a normal circuit.”
Rosberg says he is enjoying both the closeness of the championship as well as the off-track needle.
“It is a generational fight at eye level with two teams who don’t like each other,” he beamed to RTL.
Former Red Bull driver Robert Doornbos, meanwhile, suspects the Hamilton-Mercedes dynamic will also be interesting to watch.
“Are they now going to talk to each other through the media like this?” he wondered to Ziggo Sport. “In the end, that will only help one team – Red Bull.”