Helmut Marko is no stranger to stirring up controversies and riling up opponents, and his latest comments are sure to anger Mercedes. The Red Bull Racing advisor feels the atmosphere inside the Silver Arrows is tense following the departure of their head of strategy James Vowles.

Vowles departed the team to take up the vacant team principal role at Williams. The British engineer is leaving Brackley after 21 years having worked under its many guises including BAR, Brawn GP and now Mercedes.

Marko hinted that he had inside knowledge about Mercedes not being a happy work place following Vowles' departure. The German was asked about Williams becoming a Mercedes B-team following the arrival of their new team principal, but he offered a different view, before revealing multiple exits from Brackley.

"No, I have completely different information," Marko said, as quoted on GP Fans. "Vowles went of his own accord and, so it is said, has even taken good technicians with him. My sources tell me that's why the mood at Mercedes is tense."

Lewis Hamilton
Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton (left) and George Russell (right) pose alongside Mercedes chief Toto Wolff Steve Etherington/MERCEDES-BENZ via AFP

However, Marko is certain that Mercedes will remain title challengers in 2023 despite losing a number of key personnel to rival teams. Not only will they be title challengers, the Red Bull chief feels the Silver Arrows will be their main challengers ahead of Ferrari, who finished 2022 in second place.

"But I still believe that Mercedes will be our biggest challenger when it comes to defending our title," Marko added.

Marko is hoping for Mercedes' return to title contention after seeing Formula 1's decline in Germany. The returning Nico Hulkenburg is the only German driver on the grid following Sebastian Vettel's retirement, and with no race in Germany, broadcasters are not keen to air F1.

"It's unbelievable what's happening in Germany right now," Marko said. "In Austria, it is exactly the opposite. Formula 1 is booming more than ever before."

"That's why I even hope that Mercedes will be strong again so that the Germans will identify with them."

Mercedes will unveil their 2023 challenger on Feb. 15 with the hope they can again fight for race wins after a dismal 2022 season. The team claimed just one win after playing catch up to Red Bull and Ferrari the entire campaign.

Max Verstappen (front, centre) and the entire Red Bull pit crew and team celebrate winning back-to-back world championships at Suzuka
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