Red Bull chief Helmut Marko ups the ante in Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton battle

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Red Bull chief Helmut Marko believes it will be down to the drivers in Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton to win the F1 world title in 2021, not the car. This year’s championship is one of the most exciting battles in recent Formula 1 history.

Mercedes currently lead Red Bull by 23 points in the constructors’ standings.

However, the Milton Keynes-based team have the advantage in the Drivers’ Championship as Dutch star Verstappen leads seven-time world champion Hamilton by just 12 points with five races to go.

The Brit started the weekend with a one-two in first practice at the Mexico City circuit but Verstappen and Red Bull dominated in the second session.

The 24-year-old surged ahead, finishing four-tenths clear of Valtteri Bottas and another tenth faster than Hamilton.

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Pundits have spent the season going to-and-fro between whether the Red Bull RB16B is a better car than the W12; the early season results suggested Christian Horner’s team were faster but upgrades brought the Silver Arrows right back into the mix.

When asked if the car or the driver will decide the world title, Marko told Auto Motor und Sport: “The driver.

“First of all, both teams have to be as flawless as possible – something neither Mercedes nor we have succeeded so far.

“The mistakes in terms of strategy, preparation and pit stops have to be minimal, so the whole package has to be right.”

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Marko believes that the fact Sergio Perez and Valtteri Bottas have managed one win each this season while their teammates are battling for the world championship in the same machinery suggests the title will be determined by the driver.

“You can see that Bottas has a good day here and there and is at the front – the same goes for Perez,” Marko added. 

“But nobody can keep up with the two top people [Verstappen and Hamilton].

“The driver makes the difference.”

Red Bull are the favourites to secure the win in Mexico this weekend, as the high altitude of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez subsequently helps the Honda engine more than its Mercedes counterpart.

The 2021 title race is on the home straight with just five races remaining, with Hamilton coming second behind Verstappen at the United States Grand Prix in Austin.

While the seven-time world champion pushed all the way to the end, the Dutchman held on to extend his lead at the top of the standings.

“The [USGP] win was incredibly important from a moral point of view,” Marko said. 

“The last three races in general. We scored more points than we had calculated. We expected a tie at most, but rather an advantage.

“Now we have a lead of 12 points. We hope that the forecasts are correct. That we have a certain favourite position in Mexico and Brazil because of the engines.

“It should actually be a double victory.”

Formula 1 returns to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez for the Mexican Grand Prix on November 7, with Red Bull star Verstappen holding a slender 12-point lead over Mercedes’ Hamilton.

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