Helmut Marko tells rival how Max Verstappen can be stopped at Austrian Grand Prix

Jamie Woodhouse
Red Bull celebrate their 100th grand prix win, Max Verstappen P1, with Helmut Marko and Sergio Perez either side. Canada June 2023

Red Bull celebrate their 100th grand prix win, Max Verstappen P1. Canada June 2023

If Ferrari wish to burst the Red Bull bubble on home soil for Formula 1’s dominant force, then getting Charles Leclerc in the top four on the grid will go a long way to doing that, says Helmut Marko.

Nobody has had an answer for Red Bull yet in F1 2023, with all eight grands prix to have taken place so far producing Red Bull victories with relative ease.

And with Max Verstappen 69 points clear of team-mate Sergio Perez in the Drivers’ Championship, and Red Bull 154 points up on closest rival Mercedes in the Constructors’, it is already looking like a foregone conclusion that Red Bull will secure consecutive title doubles.

The comeback must start somewhere though for rival teams, and already Mercedes and Aston Martin are showing signs of narrowing the deficit.

Mercedes took a big step closer to Red Bull with their new-look W14, while Aston Martin’s upgrade package for the Canadian Grand Prix also saw them make strides. Verstappen’s final margin of victory was down to nine-and-a-half seconds over Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, with Lewis Hamilton only four-and-a-half seconds further back in the Mercedes.

A name absent from that equation are Ferrari, both drivers having started slightly out of position in Canada as the narrow window for dry tyres in Q2 was missed with Charles Leclerc, while Carlos Sainz suffered a grid drop for impeding.

Both drivers comfortably had the beating of Perez come race day who was also on a recovery mission, and if Ferrari can ensure Leclerc is starting in the top four in Austria, then Red Bull advisor Marko believes Verstappen will not be casually strolling to another victory.

Asked if Red Bull victory number 101 is coming in Austria, Marko told oe24: “Let’s see. What got lost a bit in Montreal: Ferrari had the fastest car.

“The Red Bull Ring suits them. If Leclerc starts from row one or two, it won’t be a big Oktoberfest for Max.”

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It is true that the Red Bull Ring is not the most demanding of circuits on tyre management, a particular weakness it seems for Ferrari, and indeed they were victorious courtesy of Leclerc in Formula 1’s most recent visit last season.

Verstappen though is truly in his stride at the wheel of the RB19, and even apparent woes with tyre temperatures in Canada could not put him under any threat of losing the win. It is not even clear how much of the performance pool in that RB19 Verstappen is needing to use, as he rarely is facing any competition.

And even if Leclerc and/or Sainz did get themselves ahead on race day, then they are going to need to quickly build a gap north of one second over Verstappen and keep it that way throughout the race, as the efficiency of Red Bull’s DRS leaves all other challengers a sitting duck down the straights.

It would be fantastic for Formula 1 and the fans if Ferrari, Mercedes or Aston Martin were able to trouble Red Bull at their home race, but their relentless form so far in F1 2023 means it is hard not to look sceptically on Marko’s assessment.