Vettel’s focus gives him edge over Alonso, says Marko

2013 F1 season

Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Circuit of the Americas, 2012Sebastian Vettel’s concentration is what sets him apart from his top F1 rivals.

That’s the view of Red Bull’s motorsport director and former F1 driver Helmut Marko.

Speaking to Red Bulletin, Marko said: “Sebastian’s driving was virtually flawless. But he is a phenomenon: it is always like that.

“After the summer break, his performance curve shoots up. That?s what happened in previous years, too. I don?t know how he does it, but to keep doing it cannot be a coincidence.

“That brings us back to his method of preparation, the way he shuts himself off from the rest of the world, so that he can still call on reserves that other drivers might not have: Fernando Alonso, for example, who is busy with politics and funny comments.

“Vettel ignores it all, he doesn?t read the newspapers, or the internet. And that?s the point, you see, we concentrate on our job: to make the fastest car and the best team possible.”

Marko said Vettel’s team mate Mark Webber reaches similar peaks in performance but can’t sustain them:

“It seems to me that Webber has on average two races per year where he is unbeatable, but he can?t maintain this form throughout the year.

“And as soon as his prospects start to look good in the world championship, he has a little trouble with the pressure that this creates. In comparison with Seb?s rising form, it seems to me that Mark?s form somehow flattens out.

“Then, if some technical mishap occurs, like with the alternator for example, he falls relatively easily into a downward spiral. No driver remains unaffected by this, because the tension is palpable.

“In 2010, it was particularly extreme. Webber headed into the final race with better chances than Vettel, and he probably carried easy, of course; this would gnaw away at anyone?s confidence. It?s more than understandable.”

“There’s no need for Vettel if we can’t give him the car he needs”

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Valencia, 2012Marko added chief technical officer Adrian Newey was “very irritated” by the setbacks suffered by the team during the year. Newey’s response was to “increase his work rate ?ǣ which was already significant.”

“First, he concentrated on understanding the relationship between the car and the tyres, which was a very, very finicky job [last] year,” said Marko. “Secondly, there was his response to the supposed illegality the front wing.”

“Third, he had to deal with the prohibition of the ‘exhaust blowings’. This was perhaps the hardest setback for us, because we were absolutely brilliant when it came to using the exhaust. Our old method has actually been reinstated, albeit in a modified form.

“Lastly, we can say that, at that stage of the season, the ideal Vettel set-up had yet to be found. It is quite different from that of the Webber cars. Only with that set-up can you see the incredible, 110 per cent Vettel in qualifying.”

Marko admitted he suffered sleepless nights at this point in the championship: “The tension was there, but problems make me even more focused than usual. The harder it gets, the calmer I see things, but my sleep suffers.

“I told my people, ‘Boys, there is no need for Vettel if we can?t give him the car he needs in order for his skills to shine.’ Everyone made such an incredible effort, but for a while even we didn?t quite understand what was going on.”

Thanks to Red Bulletin for supplying the quotes. Visit to read the full feature and to download the Red Bulletin iPad app for free, for more sports, culture and lifestyle content.

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208 comments on Vettel’s focus gives him edge over Alonso, says Marko

  1. andae23 (@andae23) said on 8th January 2013, 17:28

    It’s very curious that a driver is only able to perform top-level when the car is set-up absolutely right. In mediocre cars, he and Webber are practically equal to eachother, but when the car is good, something clicks in Vettel’s mind. Even in situations of pressure, he is still able to deliver great performances – I would even say that those are the situations where he really stands out (As explaind by Marko). This leads to the very weird conclusion that Vettel is able to perform under pressure (aside from the Brazilian GP), but is unable to perform in a car that is not to his liking.

    I have given this a bit of thought but couldn’t find any driver that has this same characteristic. Niki Lauda maybe comes close. Does anyone have any ideas about this?

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 8th January 2013, 18:54

      I think really what you are talking about applies to all drivers in all racing series, but perhaps moreso in F1 where such small degrees of change can mean so much.

      I think a driver is coloured by his car. All drivers who find their car mediocre are going to be handcuffed to do a ton with it. Sure some might be better than others at doing something with a dog for the odd race here and there, but usually the WDC in F1 had the WCC winning car. And when one has a WCC winning car, a driver’s confidence in the car escalates and usually everything follows suit, generally. But having the best car does not always give a driver the ability to handle pressure at it’s greatest, so we look for drivers who have the package AND don’t squander it with mental mistakes.

  2. Pandaslap (@pandaslap) said on 8th January 2013, 17:31

    “Fernando Alonso… who is busy with politics and funny comments.”

    The pot calling the kettle black?

  3. katederby (@katederby) said on 8th January 2013, 17:34

    Perhaps before making statements that will be published in the team’s own magazine saying Webber is a choker Marko thinks how close Vettel came to “choking” in Brazil when he crashed into Senna. With Webber’s luck Vettel’s race could easily have ended like Webber’s Korean GP in 2010. This is how close the margins are but Marko only sees Vettel as flawless.
    Now clearly Vettel is a great driver (the same word Horner used to describe Webber recently) but Marko’s comments don’t do him any favours.
    Whatever your thoughts on Marko’s comments, surely they should be kept within the team, if he actually cares about the team as a whole.

  4. Marko is a straight shooter and calls it the way he sees it. I sometimes have to shake my head in disbelief at the way he comes across, but ultimately I have to agree with him more often than not.

    Vettel is indeed the most focused driver out there and has been able to come out on top every time it`s been tight in the standings. If you could choose just one characteristic in a driver hired to bring you championships that would be the one. The ability to up his game and win when the pressure is Vettels most valuable asset. No wonder Red bull love Vettel, he`s delivered every single time and won by small margins in both 2010 and 2012. How different it might had been if Vettel didn`t have that character trait, Red Bull might have had just one title, in 2011..

    As for his comments about Webber, and there has been several, there`s nothing wrong with what he`s saying. He could have been more diplomatic, but that`s something Marko is not good at. When Marko says “Webber knows what is expected of him” and “They`ve been in the same team for four years, over those four years Vettel has been runner up once and Champion three times, I don`t expect the pecking order to change” a lot of people brush their feathers and claim this is the proof Webber is treated as a number two driver. But that`s not what Marko is saying in my view. I think what he`s really saying is this: “Webber is a lot older than Vettel and they`ve been competing for four years. Vettel has come out on top four times out of four, there`s no reason to believe this is going to change as Webber gets older and Vettel approaches his peak”. That`s just common sense. As for the comment about what is expected of Webber I think Marko means “bring home good points and give us the Constructors Championship”. Don`t forget that Webber has been an important contributor to three Constructor Championships for Red Bull, and that makes Webber a winner in Red Bulls eyes.

    As for his comment about Alonso I don`t know what to think. He might have a point as Alonsos performance compared to Massas dropped at the end of the season. Was this because Alonso spent too much time playing mind-games and was distracted himself by this or was it Massa that took a huge step? I don`t know, but the Doctor might be onto something. Furthermore Alonso has lost two close championships out of two to Vettel..

  5. AndrewT (@andrewt) said on 8th January 2013, 19:03

    i think it’s normal that some high positioned leader in the staff praises his own driver. anyone at Ferrari would do the same with Alonso, or McLaren with Button, Lotus with Räikkönen, Mercedes with Hamilton. the problem begins when you try to compare your driver against a rival, especially when the subject is so relative, and especially when in this relative comparison the other driver seems to be at least as good, or maybe better. and the problem is at its high, when you start to heavily criticise the other driver in your team.
    as a manager you want to make sure, that your driver feels to be strong enough to compete with anyone. Vettel definetley feels to be, and proved to be, so i don’t see any reason why Dr. Marko tries to overexplain things.

    Vettel can extract 95% from a car that was built on him.
    Webber can extract 90% from a car that was built on Vettel. (We did not really see the team building a car around him yet…)
    Alonso can extract 100+% from any car.

    The percentages are obviously a bit rough, but the tendency is was absolutley visible.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 8th January 2013, 20:10

      I think that is well summed up, Andrew.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 9th January 2013, 1:00


      Vettel can extract 95% from a car that was built on him.
      Webber can extract 90% from a car that was built on Vettel. (We did not really see the team building a car around him yet…)

      Yet Webber was with this team since 2007, but failed to match Vettel when he first came to the team in 2009 (never mind the other years).

    • FS (@vfftw) said on 9th January 2013, 9:08

      No such thing as 100+%.

    • F1fanNL (@) said on 10th January 2013, 21:30


      Alonso can extract 100+% from any car.

      So Massa extracted 110% from the car in Austin and Sao Paulo?

      • AndrewT (@andrewt) said on 14th January 2013, 22:28


        I see your point of course. Massa got very close to the limits of his car at the end of the season, and came to terms with it maybe better than Alonso for those races. the difference is, that the Brazilian made ot 2 out of 20 races, meanwhile Alonso for the rest.
        it’s only a little game with numbers, 100+% means for me that the Ferrari construction simply wasn’t that good as Alonso was able to perform with it.

        • F1fanNL (@) said on 15th January 2013, 22:14


          That’s absolute nonsense. No driver is capable of getting more out of the car than it’s got. At the end of the day Alonso drove well this season but most of his succes came from the failures from others. Bad McLaren pitstops in Malaysia and Valencia for example enabled Alonso to take the lead in both those races. The Ferrari’s wet weather performance, great traction and high top speed enabled Alonso to win Germany. Alonso gets all the credits but people seem to forget that Ferrari were absolutely top notch in terms of pitstops and strategies. Not to mention the big sacrifices Massa made at the end. Without these factors Alonso would have never been in the hunt for the title to begin with.

          And I know Ferrari also made mistakes but so did Alonso. He made multiple in just the last two races.
          Alonso might have been the best this season (I disagree) but Vettel certainly wasn’t far behind. Neither was Hamilton for that matter.
          So to say Alonso can extract 100% (impossible) and Vettel can only manage 5% less at best is grade A equine poo poo. 5% is as big as the gap between the front runners and an HRT… If you really believe Alonso is 5% quicker than Vettel than I truly feel sorry for you.

          • AndrewT (@andrewt) said on 16th January 2013, 17:17


            we can keep arguing about it for ages, as far as i can see, and that’s just all right : ) you sketched up pretty well which factors helped Alonso, what did he screw up, and those are all true.
            obviously, if we take a look at the small differences among the laptimes, the best time +5% is somewhere at the back, HRT level, as you mentioned, also true.
            but if you read carefully what i wrote about those numbers, it’s “slightly” different. i did not say that under the same conditions (which practically does not exist in F1), in the same car, Alonso would be 5% faster than Vettel. I tried to explain how much unexploited potiential that particular car they drove this year, actually had. my point of view was that the Red Bull car had more to offer than Vettel could drive out of it, however, Alonso found everything (and maybe more, which might look mathematically grotesque) the Ferrari car could have offered, regardless the difference between those two machines.

            does that make sense to you, or am i considered as insane? : )

  6. JB (@) said on 8th January 2013, 19:11

    Hmmm… this guy never stops…. I mean… why does he feel he has to glorify SV??? 2012 is over… they won and yet he feels he has to take a crack at Alonso?? Hmmm, seems that people still talking about how great Fernando Alonso´s season was and not saying much about Vettel´s season is like rubbing salt in an open wound. There is no need for it… they won… leave it at that and enjoy it… It seems that this really itches him(them) and feels he has to diminish Fernando´s acomplishment.
    Oh well…. it is what it is… and to each his own!

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 8th January 2013, 20:01


      why does he feel he has to glorify SV??? 2012 is over… they won and yet he feels he has to take a crack at Alonso?

      He was asked a question and he gave an honest answer. If you don’t agree with him that’s not his problem.

  7. Deepak (@ideepak) said on 8th January 2013, 20:10

    No wonder.

    SV is German. Marko is Austrian. Red Bull is an Austrian/German company owned by an Austrian/German.

    If that’s not apparent bias I don’t know what is.

  8. Klaas de Vries said on 8th January 2013, 20:33

    No, @keithcollantine he could have praised Vettel as usual, but Helmut considered necessary to undermine the merits of another driver (Alonso) who this season proved to be way more focused than Vettel.
    Most team bosses praise their drivers but I didn’t hear the ones from Ferrari or McLaren doing it on the expense of a rival.
    P.S @catracho504 gave his opinion on Marko’s comments ‘if you don’t agree with him that’s not his problem’.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 8th January 2013, 20:40

      (Alonso) who this season proved to be way more focused than Vettel.

      In your opinion. Marko obviously has a different opinion and if he’s asked to share it then fair enough. He is not obligated to agree with you.

      • Klaas de Vries said on 8th January 2013, 21:05

        @keithcollantine Ha ha, if only he wasn’t referring to Vettel’s focus on Ricciardo’s and Senna’s rear wings.
        Yes, Marko has the right to his opinion, just like anyone else has the right to agree or disagree with him.
        But from what I know, this is a forum where people can comment on other people’s comments, right? I don’t understand why you as a moderator, feel necessary to shut anyone up with replies like: ‘if you don’t agree with him that’s not his problem’, ‘he is not obligated to agree with you’ etc. suggesting that our views don’t matter. If they don’t matter what’s the purpouse of this comment box?

        • mharker said on 9th January 2013, 7:12

          Really sorry to break it to you but I’m certain your views don’t matter to Marko. Which is what @keithcollantine said.

          But I guess it does matter to the forum – hence the comment box.

          • Klaas de Vries said on 9th January 2013, 12:38

            Following this logic, Keith should respond to everyone’s comments: ‘You know, Marko, Alonso, Vettel, Webber, Hamilton, Button or whoever the article is about, doesn’t care about your opinion – end of story, end of argument.’
            I think it’s a bit disrespectful for a moderator to answer one of his site followers that way. If you have a counter-argument write it and try to bring some proof with it, but don’t shut him off with such childish and unprofessional remarques.

    • mharker said on 9th January 2013, 7:07

      So you’re saying only Marko ‘undermines the merits of another driver”.

      What about Alonso’s “We are fighting Newey and not Vettel”, Hamilton’s “Alonso deserves the title more”.

      Everyone is doing it. It’s called “mind games”.

      But such things only draw protests from most of the English speaking fans when it’s said against their favorite drivers – Hamilton, Alonso and Webber. Say something against Vettel and most of the English speakers agree, but say something for Vettel and they love to find fault with it.

  9. asingh1 (@asingh1) said on 8th January 2013, 21:04

    I definitely agree: in 2012 Vettel was concentrating on his own racing and getting the most out of the car, whilst Alonso was busy playing pointless mind games and pandering to the media.

    I think Alonso’s qualifying towards the end to an extent backs this up – he wasn’t as focused as he should have been on just driving the car.

  10. Brace (@brace) said on 8th January 2013, 21:09

    I can understand the line “he was asked a question, he just gave a straight answer”, but there’s such a thing as politeness and dignity.

    I’m sure his intentions are petty and undignified since he probably wouldn’t say Newey doesn’t look to handsome with his bolding scalp, or that Horner’s teeth are a horror to look at, even if he was asked his opinion on that by some journalist.

    As I said time and time again, only thing worse then a sore loser is an arrogant winner, and I sure don’t remember anyone as pathetic and unsporting about their rivals as Red Bull is. Been watching this sport since 1993. There were some late season controversies after 1994 and 1997 of course, but I surely don’t remember this kind of low blows.

    It’s quite sad that he is taking this road, since mental strength and focus are actually areas where Alonso is undeniably the strongest one in F1.

    I don’t know where did Alonso lose focus? When Grosjean collected him, or after Vettel impeded him in quali in Japan, which in turn made the following events with Kimi possible.
    Vettel was reprimanded for impeding him so that means stewards have no doubt he did compromise Alonso’s lap.

    Just when I start to forget all the reasons why I dislike Red Bull so much, they keep reminding me.

  11. Trido (@trido) said on 8th January 2013, 23:11

    Vettel was not flawless. Twice towards the end of the season he tried to throw it away with bone headed mistakes. Only his brilliance as a driver saw him win the championship.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 9th January 2013, 1:02

      @trido – Well summed up. He made a couple of errors, but atoned for them, to grab the title.

      • Atoned for them by relying on Mclarens car failing and people crashing into Hamilton.

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 9th January 2013, 18:43

          Vettel wouldn’t have even needed 6th if Alonso wasn’t promoted into a podium position by the retirements of others in Brazil. Vettel atoned for his errors by fighting through the field to get a podium from last in one instance,and by doing the same to get 6th in Brazil with a damaged car.

    • mharker said on 9th January 2013, 7:15

      That’s why Marko said “virtually flawless” as opposed to “flawless”.

    • uan (@uan) said on 9th January 2013, 17:11

      In Brazil, Alonso nearly threw away any opportunity for the championship by going off track at T1 on the 3rd lap when Vettel was looking to finish out of the points if he was even going to be able to finish, letting Hulkenberg through into 3rd spot. Only the incident between Hulkenberg and Hamilton late in the race salvaged a podium spot for Alonso–not his brilliance as a driver.

  12. chaostheory said on 8th January 2013, 23:46

    Alonso can be flawless on track all season AND put some psychological pressure on his rivals off track, Vettel can be flawless, but needs to “shuts himself off from the rest of the world”.

  13. Todfod (@todfod) said on 9th January 2013, 5:24

    Boys, there is no need for Vettel if we can’t give him the car he needs in order for his skills to shine

    I think Marko sums up pretty well. Give Vettel a phenomenal car.. or else he’s not really going to shine.

    • F1fanNL (@) said on 10th January 2013, 21:38


      A bit like Alonso in 2009 then.

      As for this year. Alonso’s entire season was based on the mistakes and failures of others. He drove well, he never did anything extraordinary.

  14. Dutch Guy said on 9th January 2013, 7:37

    Although cant say it about vettel vs. alonso in racing but Marko seems to be regularly beating Luca when it comes to giving stupid comments to the media… so RBR has definitely one up on Ferrari in this respect…

  15. mnmracer (@mnmracer) said on 9th January 2013, 14:02

    I’ve done some calculations to check the merrit of Marko’s claim, though one that most of us have opted at some point: Webber can be the fastest driver on the day, but he is very much geared towards his favorite tracks.

    Since Mark Webber joined Red Bull in 2008, he has raced 93 Grand Prix’ on 24 different tracks (21 tracks more than once).
    He has scored 904 points (’08-’09 points system adjusted).

    He has scored 250 of those 904 points, or 28%, on just his 3 favorite tracks: Silverstone, Monaco and Sao Paolo.
    He has scored 426 of those 904 points, or 47%, on just his 6 favorite tracks: Silverstone, Monaco, Sao Paolo, Barcelona, Istanbul Park and Shanghai.

    So, in an average 24 race season, he would need almost 18 races to score as many points as in his 6 best races.
    This is not too unsimilair to 2012, where he scored 95 points in his best 5 races (53%, 19 points per race), and 84 points in the other 13 races he finished (7 points per finished race).

    To compare:
    In 2012, Sebastian Vettel scored 125 points in his best 5 races (40%, 25 points per race), and 156 points in the other 13 races he finished (12 points per finished race, 1.7x Mark).
    In 2012, Fernando Alonso scored 111 points in his best 5 races (40%, 22 points per race), and 167 points in the other 13 races he finished (13 points per finished race, 1.8x Mark).

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