Fernando Alonso’s ’19 drivers think’ prediction draws Helmut Marko’s attention

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen in the Red Bull garage with Helmut Marko and Adrian Newey.

Helmut Marko says it's "realistic" to think Max Verstappen will win '24 title.

Helmut Marko smiled when told that Fernando Alonso believes 19 of this year’s 20 drivers “now think” they won’t win the title after Max Verstappen’s pre-season performances.

Although the reigning World Champion didn’t finish the three-day Bahrain test with the fastest overall lap time, that was perhaps more down to tyres and fuel loads rather than his outright performance.

Instead, it was Ferrari who claimed not only P1 but the 1-2 with Carlos Sainz’s 1:29.921 four-tenths faster than Charles Leclerc’s best time.

Helmut Marko predicts Ferrari fight, notably in qualifying

As for Verstappen, his fastest time set on the opening day, a 1:30.755, put him sixth on the overall timesheet behind his team-mate Sergio Perez.

That did nothing to change Alonso’s opinion that the Dutchman will win a fourth successive Drivers’ title this season.

“I think Max is the World Champion and Red Bull is dominating the sport,” said the Aston Martin driver. “I think 19 drivers in the paddock now will think that [they] will not win the championship.

“It happens 99% of the time in your career. This is a brutal sport.”

Told of the Spaniard’s prediction, Marko smiled and said to Krone Zeitung: “That’s realistic.”

But on a “serious” note, he added: “I think that Ferrari has become stronger and that things could get tight in qualifying between Max and Leclerc, who is one of the best qualifiers.

“And then you just have to look, because there are also track-specific parameters. If you don’t get pole in Monaco or Singapore, it will be difficult to win.”

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This season the goal is once again the championship as Red Bull managed last season, a 1-2 in the Drivers’ standings also a target.

But the one thing Red Bull won’t be chasing is last year’s impressive tally of 21 wins from 22 Grands Pix.

“That’s not our goal,” said Marko. “Of course, we want to get close to this dream result, but the competition has gotten closer. Our goal is the World Championship title.

“But we have to wait and see – the test is one thing, not all the cards were revealed yet, the qualifying on Friday is another.”

It is a case of so far so good with the team impressing in pre-season testing.

Asked why he feels ‘positive’ about the year ahead, the Red Bull motorsport advisor replied: “That we were already very successful with the 22 and 23 cars.

“Therefore, with all our know-how, we were able to develop a concept that was more revolutionary than evolutionary, so we could go to extremes without risking it being a flop.

“In addition, the word conservative simply does not exist in the minds of our technicians around Pierre Wache and Adrian Newey – that is also part of Red Bull’s DNA.

“We surprised everyone with this car, one look at the narrow side pods is enough. You can also see that the entire field, let’s call it, was based on our car. So our package fits.”

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