Helmut Marko reveals two F1 stars who could ‘keep up’ with Max Verstappen in RB19

Thomas Maher
Max Verstappen in the paddock. Canada June 2023.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen walks through the paddock in Montreal.

Helmut Marko believes there are two other drivers on the F1 grid who would be able to give Max Verstappen a run for his money.

While Verstappen is having a peerless season for Red Bull after shaking off an early challenge from Sergio Perez – the Dutch driver having taken six wins from eight races and second place in the remaining two – one of his bosses believe there are two other drivers capable of matching him.

With Perez’s strong early form falling away in recent races to the point where the Mexican is now looking back over his shoulder at the shrinking nine-point gap to Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, Marko believes the Spaniard would be one of a very select group capable of challenging Verstappen if they were in the same car.

Speaking to Austria’s OE24, Marko was asked about the situation in which Perez is often as much as half a second slower than Verstappen in the same car – the Red Bull motorsport advisor pointing squarely to Verstappen’s talent as the differentiator.

“Because Max is Max,” he bluntly said. He’s in the best car.”

But two immediate rivals could keep up, if the circumstances allowed, but Marko doubts they could eclipse the strength of the Dutch racer.

“[Fernando] Alonso and [Lewis] Hamilton could, at most, keep up with him. 

“These three are simply the strongest, among them Max stands out again.”

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With Verstappen delivering Red Bull their 100th Grand Prix victory last time out in Canada, Marko has been part of the team’s management since before Sebastian Vettel delivered their very first win in Shanghai in 2009.

Enjoying the celebrations of the moment in Montreal, Marko said reaching the milestone had meant a particularly lovely flight home east across the Atlantic back to Europe.

“If something like that happens, you don’t run away right away, you also accept the Red Bull-picked clothes,” he smiled.

“But I changed right away and then slept wonderfully on the plane. 100 wins is a wonderful sleep aid.”

With Red Bull heading to their eponymous track for their home race next weekend, Marko said he’s thrilled the outfit are showing up having already secured the achievement.

It’s more reassuring to come to Austria with your 100th victory,” he said.

The national anthem will be played there for the 100th time after a Red Bull victory. At our first in 2009 in China, they played the Blue Danube Waltz by mistake!”