Despite a strong showing by Lewis Hamilton in qualifying that saw him take second on the grid for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Helmut Marko isn't convinced Mercedes will be fighting for the top spots in Sunday's race.
After a difficult Friday that saw the team unable to crack the top 10 in FP2, the Silver Arrows responded in part. While Valtteri Bottas will start down in 10th, Hamilton credited the team for making improvements as he'll start on the front row alongside pole sitter Charles Leclerc. Nevertheless, Marko doesn't believe Mercedes were actually the second fastest car on Saturday.
"Mercedes took a big step in qualifying, but we must not forget that Bottas gave Hamilton a slipstream," the Austrian told ORF. "That gave him at least five tenths. If you don't count that, then ... I don't think they really participate at the front at race pace, but the field is pretty mixed up again.
"We can look forward to an exciting race."
As for Red Bull, Marko believes the team didn't get their strategy right in qualifying.
"In Q3 we actually took it a bit easier on the first run, to turn it on a bit more in the second run," Marko added. "Max was actually a lot faster, but when Yuki Tsunoda and Carlos Sainz crashed, it was all over.
"Here you would do well to throw all tactics overboard. You have to get to the front as quickly as possible and put in a quick lap on the board as quickly as possible."