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Champs constantly looking for winners

Red Bull's driver development program Helmut Marko reveals the secret to Red Bull's track success to Vinayak Pande.

india Updated: Oct 30, 2011 00:32 IST
Vinayak Pande
Vinayak Pande
Hindustan Times
Vinayak Pande,Greater Noida,Helmut Marko

Two world championships, 20 wins and 28 pole positions. And each one with a team backed by Red Bull. Having Sebastian Vettel in the cockpit has clearly turned out pretty well for the team that has won the drivers' and constructors' titles for 2010 and 2011. It wouldn't have been possible, however, according to the head of Red Bull's driver development program Helmut Marko had the team not changed its approach on looking for F1 drivers.

"Before we were looking for a driver who could make it to Formula One," said Marko. "But now we are looking for a driver who can win in F1 and there is unfortunately a big difference in that." And while credit goes to Marko and Red Bull for giving Vettel the stage on which to showcase his talents, it was actually through BMW Motorsport's own development program that Vettel got noticed in the first place.

Vettel physically prepared
"When we looked in junior categories, we noticed that Vettel won 18 out of 20 races in Formula BMW," said Marko. It was, however his physical preparedness that really caught Marko's attention. "In our diagnostic institute, his physical conditioning was remarkable," said Marko who would know a thing or two about the physical strains of driving a racing car. Albeit in a manner far different to what F1 drivers are accustomed to now.

Marko used to be a highly successful driver in endurance racing in the 1960s and 1970s and even started in nine F1 races. The Austrian won the 1971 Le Mans 24 hours endurance race in a Porsche he drove with Dutchman Gijs van Lennep and set a distance record of 5,335.15 km over the course of 24 hours. A record that was not beaten until last year's event.

"Back in the old days," said Marko. "There was no power steering, you had a manual gearbox and a clutch. If you were to drive at Monaco in an F1 race in those days, the skin on your hand would come off at the end of the race and the brake was so hard that you would have problem with your feet."

Standing up to the challenges of driving F1 cars these days is no mean feat though, says Marko. "Now the G-forces are so high and even though you have power steering, the steering remains heavy." The driving position of a driver in a modern day F1 car doesn't make things easier either.

Intelligence at its best
"You lie down so low and so far from the steering wheel that you need to have really good strength in your shoulders to steer the car. And in this aspect, Sebastian is extremely good as well as very intelligent," said Marko. "A lot of drivers have the speed but are not intelligent and just put their foot on the throttle."

First Published: Oct 30, 2011 00:28 IST