Helmut Marko’s bold claim to highlight Max Verstappen ‘in class of his own’

Jamie Woodhouse
Helmut Marko speaks to Max Verstappen. Montreal, June 2022.

Red Bull's Helmut Marko speaks with Max Verstappen inside the team's garage. Montreal, June 2022.

Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko says Max Verstappen would set a new standard in whichever Formula 1 car he drove, backing him to take pole in a Haas or AlphaTauri in mixed conditions like those at Spa.

Verstappen once more was on devastating form in the final round of F1 2023 before the summer break, destroying the competition in qualifying, before taking the sprint pole and win and going on to dominant the Belgian Grand Prix.

Even starting from P6, due to a gearbox-induced grid penalty, could not halt the Verstappen charge as he went on to win by over 22 seconds from Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez.

Helmut Marko backs Max Verstappen as difference maker

At the wheel of the RB19, Verstappen and Red Bull are the unstoppable force of F1 2023, Verstappen on a run of eight wins in a row with 10 achieved overall. Perez winning the other two means Red Bull are undefeated.

But, Marko is keen to silence any driver versus car debate when it comes to the key influencer behind these results, stating Verstappen simply is the star of the show and would prove that by putting a midfield car on pole in the wet/dry conditions of Spa which placed added emphasis on driver ability and confidence to explore the limits of a drying track.

“Max would be in a class of his own in any car,” Marko told Motorsport-Total.com.

“When conditions are like that, he puts an AlphaTauri or Haas, which is a qualifying car, on pole.”

Of course, if Verstappen was at the wheel of the AlphaTauri AT04, Red Bull’s sister team currently rock bottom of the Constructors’ standings with only three points, then it is safe to say that wins and likely podiums too would be off limits at most rounds, even for a driver of Verstappen’s quality.

Put to Marko then that Verstappen would soon loose motivation driving a car of that level, considering the Dutchman has consistently cast doubt over his long-term future in Formula 1, Marko says it is hard to judge with Verstappen when he would make such a call that he has had enough.

“How long he would have the motivation to fight in an AlphaTauri is hard to say. Max is different,” Marko claimed.

“He will come one day and say, ‘thank you, that’s it’.”

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It was in 2021 that Verstappen emerged victorious over Hamilton in one of the greatest title battles Formula 1 has witnesses, sealing his first crown on the last lap of the season in Abu Dhabi.

Perhaps the Abu Dhabi GP of the previous season was a foreshadowing of what was to come, Verstappen taking victory there to end a season where he had positioned himself to take the fight to Mercedes if only Red Bull could find a few more tenths in performance. It is safe to say they did that and then some.

Marko though believes Verstappen has matured greatly as a driver since 2020 and can now match Hamilton as the “master” of reading races, while the fact Verstappen is “better in basic speed” has seen the Dutchman arguably surpass Hamilton in Marko’s view.

“The Max of 2020 cannot be compared with the Max of 2023 – except for the similarity in name,” Marko stated. “He has gained a tremendous aplomb.

“For me, the master of reading the race was always Hamilton, how he marshalled his tyres. And Max has matched that now. If not better, because he’s better in basic speed. There has been an incredible maturation process.”

Verstappen is now marching towards his third successive World Championship as he sits 125 points clear of Perez at the top of the Drivers’ standings.

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