Helmut Marko predicts we will see ‘another Max Verstappen’ at Australian Grand Prix

Oliver Harden
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, looks right. Bahrain, February 2023.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, looks right over his shoulder. Bahrain, February 2023.

Red Bull’s Helmut Marko has warned to expect a different Max Verstappen at the Australian Grand Prix after the Formula 1 World Champion struggled with illness in Saudi Arabia.

Verstappen’s victory chances in Jeddah disappeared when he suffered a driveshaft failure in qualifying, forcing him to start from 15th on the grid before fighting back to finish second behind team-mate Sergio Perez on race day.

The Dutchman raced in Saudi Arabia despite suffering from a stomach bug, which forced Verstappen out of the designated media day in Jeddah.

Marko has revealed more details about Verstappen’s condition at the previous race, estimating that he was operating at “about 80 per cent” with Red Bull junior Liam Lawson on standby in the event that the World Champion was unable to compete.

He told German publication F1-Insider: “Max was not 100 per cent fit, but now he is doing everything he can to return to maximum performance.

“That’s why we’ll see a different Verstappen again in Australia.”

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Verstappen courted controversy at the end of the race in Jeddah by setting the fastest lap and taking the bonus point away from Perez, ensuring he remains in the lead of the Drivers’ standings after two rounds, despite airing reliability concerns in the closing stages of the race.

Marko seemed amused by the affair, adding: “Typical Max.”

Verstappen’s illness appears to be at the centre of a misunderstanding between the Dutchman’s camp and Nico Rosberg, who was critical of the World Champion’s frustrated demeanour after the race in his role as a Sky Sports F1 pundit.

Rosberg had indicated that Verstappen had skipped a Red Bull meeting in the aftermath of his mechanical problem in qualifying, but it has since been claimed that the team allowed him to leave the track early following his Q2 elimination to continue his recovery.

Despite an upset stomach, Verstappen – who had won 10 of the previous 13 races before last weekend, a run stretching back to July 2022 – continued to show blistering pace in Saudi Arabia in racing to second place.

That recovery drive came after he had topped all three practice sessions in Jeddah, with no other driver able to get within two-tenths of Verstappen.

He had been considered the overwhelming favourite for pole position before his driveshaft problem developed during the second segment of qualifying.