We are currently experiencing a very hard battle for the Championship, one that we haven’t experienced in years.
24-year-old Max Verstappen is leading the pack – with a twelve-points advantage over main contender Lewis Hamilton.
However, according to Red Bull Formula 1 advisor Helmut Marko, the Dutch driver could be further ahead in the standing if “50 points weren’t lost so innocently”.
In an interview with Motorsport.com, Helmut Marko has made several examples supporting his thesis - the British, Azerbaijan and Hungarian Grands Prix, just to name a few.
In Silverstone, Verstappen had to retire while leading the race due to contact with Hamilton, who went on to win the race despite a penalty for the incident.
In Baku, Verstappen also retired while running first with five laps remaining when one of his tyres exploded on the main straight.
And in Hungary, he finished in ninth position after he was hit by Valtteri Bottas at the very start of the race when the Fin overshot the first corner.
"Before the last three races, we actually feared that we would be significantly behind," commented Marko.
"We scored more points than Hamilton in those grands prix, mainly because of Hamilton's race in Turkey where he was only fifth, while Max finished second in Sochi - certainly by luck as well, because of the rain”.
Then, he went on to explain his point, if it wasn’t for some – very unlucky circumstances – like the blown tyre, the young Red Bull’s driver could have an even greater advantage at five races from the end of the season.
"But even more remarkable is: we innocently lost Baku, lost Silverstone and lost Hungary. If you calculate the number of points we lost carefully, then it's over 50 points in those three races.
"As a result we are only 12 points ahead now. So we have survived all those setbacks and we have also been able to match the upswing from Mercedes."
Marko thinks Verstappen will have to win at least two more races in the remaining five Grand Prixes in order to secure his first F1 title.
"Looking at the remaining races, I think we have to win at least two more races to be reasonably safe or, let's say, confident going into the final race," he said.
Moreover, he believes that after the Circuit of the Americas, the two upcoming races in Portimao and Mexico will fit Red Bull more than Mercedes.
"The high altitude tracks of Brazil and Mexico should suit us significantly better,” Marko added.
Yet, “so much has already happened this season”, with Mercedes being less competitive than expected in tracks that are normally their ‘fortresses’.
"So-called Mercedes tracks weren't Mercedes tracks in the end and the same goes for Red Bull tracks."
Asked what are Verstappen's chances of winning the title, Marko said:
"If we win the next two races, then it's 60-40 for Max."
Marko says the tiniest of factors can affect the competitive balance between Mercedes and Red Bull, but he feels it's Verstappen and Hamilton who are making the difference.
"It's so balanced that the form of the day, the tarmac and even the temperatures are extremely important," he added.
"It looks like Mercedes is much quicker to get their car to the right set-up. We have a more complex car and on average it takes us longer to do it, but still there are only two drivers who always get the maximum out of it. That's Hamilton at Mercedes and Max with us”
Despite the title battle being between Hamilton and Verstappen, “number two” drivers have a pivotal role in this play because they can serve to bring home precious points for the Constructors’ Championship and, most importantly, they can block their opponent to the advantage of their team-mate.
"The number two drivers, Perez thank God is on the up, but also Bottas - he did a sensational race in Turkey and more than average in Austin.
"But in the end these two exceptional drivers keep this duel going, no matter if it's the Mercedes car or the Red Bull that is faster.
"Overall, it's the driver who makes the difference. And those drivers are so strong that Verstappen can also beat a faster Mercedes on hard tyres."