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Helmut Marko

Relieved Marko reveals deciding factor in Verstappen and Norris battle

Max Verstappen was beaten to pole in Spain by Lando Norris, but Helmut Marko is relieved that the Dutchman is starting on the front row.

Verstappen Norris Qualifying Spain
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Helmut Marko has revealed where he felt Lando Norris denied Max Verstappen Spanish Grand Prix pole position in a tight qualifying session. 

Verstappen had set provisional pole with an improved effort on his final Q3 lap, lowering the benchmark to 1:11.403, but Norris pipped him by 0.020s for a second career pole. 

The McLaren was expected to be Red Bull's closest challenger in Barcelona owing to the high-speed corners in which the MCL38 excels, with Red Bull not topping any of the practice and only Q2 of the sessions held thus. 

As a result, motorsport advisor Marko was relieved Verstappen was able to bank ninth front-row start of the season from 10 attempts.

"I am relieved," Marko told Sky Sport. "After the third free practice, we were not sure we could secure a place on the front row. 

"In the end, we lost time to Lando in turn four. In sectors one and three we were faster, so overall we went in the right direction.

"It's absurd what you can do with tyre pressure. It is something tested in the simulator and can make all the difference.

"It is clear that McLaren has caught up incredibly in the last few races and has a good car on all tracks and with all tyre types.

"But on the other hand, hot weather was always an advantage for us. Now it is cooler and we are better up front. You can't take anything for granted anymore."

McLaren 'the favourite'

The veteran Austrian also hinted that it was McLaren and Norris who were favourites heading into the 66-lap race, which Verstappen has won the previous two years.

"If you look at Friday's long runs, McLaren is clearly the favourite. But with the changes we made, we can also assume that the tyre wear will be better," Marko added to Sky DE.

"Let's see if it stays dry at all. That is the other question.

"If it stays dry, it will probably be a two-stop race and then, of course, pit-stops and correct timings are important."

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