Revealed: Max Verstappen’s ‘don’t even try’ psychological war against rivals

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.

Clocking a fastest lap of the race that was two seconds quicker than Sergio Perez’s best in Bahrain, Helmut Marko says Max Verstappen fired a “don’t even try” message to his rivals.

Verstappen claimed maximum points at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix as he took the chequered flag 22 seconds ahead of his Red Bull team-mate Perez while also bagging the point for the fastest lap of the race.

‘Of course, there was a lot of psychology involved’

Although he didn’t beat Pedro de la Rosa’s record of 1:31.447 set back in 2005, Verstappen’s 1:32.608 in last Saturday’s race was comfortably quicker than the second-best race lap time of 1:34.090 that was clocked by Charles Leclerc.

Having ironed out their shift and handling issues from earlier in the weekend during the practice sessions, Marko says “the rest was Max”.

He told Speedweek: “He’s not just in a class of his own – he drives in a galaxy of his own.

“To set the fastest race lap at the same time with the same car and the same tyres that was two seconds quicker than Perez’s at the time, was a show of strength of the first order.

“Of course, there was a lot of psychology involved. Max doesn’t do anything without thinking.

“In this case, the message to all other drivers was: ‘Hello, you don’t even have to try’.

“[Fernando] Alonso asked his team what the best time was because he wanted to try to set the fastest lap himself and get the extra point – but they had to decline.

“Max’s lap time is far beyond anything anyone else could have achieved, as I said: a galaxy of its own.” recommends

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Verstappen won the season-opening race ahead of his team-mate Perez, but despite Red Bull’s 1-2 result the Dutchman has been linked to a move to Mercedes in the midst of Red Bull’s off-track drama.

Although he has a contract with Red Bull that runs through to the end of the 2028 championship, Marko says he will not stand in the way of his triple World Champ if Verstappen wants to move.

“The internal investigations have been completed. I won’t say anything more about it,” he told F1-Insider. “As far as I’m concerned, I won’t stand in Max’s way [should he decide to leave].”

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