Verstappen must be on Ricciardo’s pace – Marko

May 14 (GMM) Dr Helmut Marko says he expects Max Verstappen to be immediately close to new teammate Daniel Ricciardo’s pace.

“He must not necessarily beat Ricciardo,” said the Red Bull official, “but he has to be on the same level as him.

“As a team this is for us important,” Marko told the Austrian broadcaster ORF.

Dr Marko is known for his toughness, seen most recently in his decision to relegate Daniil Kvyat to the junior team Toro Rosso to make room for Verstappen.

Asked if he is now putting undue pressure on 18-year-old Verstappen too early in his career, Marko insisted: “I still remember having to listen to everything that was said about bringing a 17-year-old to formula one.

“Then it was nothing but praise with three of four FIA awards going to Verstappen,” he added.

“If we did not know exactly how mentally strong he is and what other qualities he has, we would never have done this exchange,” the Austrian insisted.

“In the long term you have to withstand this pressure if you want to be world champion, which he does. Now he has the opportunity to show us how it’s really possible for him,” Marko added.

Interestingly, the early promotion for Verstappen is also backed by Mercedes team chairman Niki Lauda.

“Now we will have to look how close Verstappen and Ricciardo are,” said the F1 legend.

“If Verstappen lives up to all the promise, then I worry that Helmut has a similarly top driver lineup for 2017 as we do with Lewis and Nico,” Lauda added.

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