Clear Max Verstappen team-mate warning issued…and not just to Sergio Perez

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen, Red Bull

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen adjusts his cap.

Sergio Perez plans on a fresh title challenge in F1 2024, but Max Verstappen’s former team boss Franz Tost warns no driver will ever be more than his number two.

Verstappen stormed to a third World Championship title in F1 2023, unleashing record-breaking dominance on his rivals by claiming 19 grand prix wins out of 22.

So much was his margin over the rest, Verstappen won his third title on the trot with more than double the points of championship runner-up and Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez.

Franz Tost: Max Verstappen will always beat his team-mate

Verstappen, in his time as a Red Bull driver which began in 2016, has established a reputation for being the ‘team-mate killer’, as Pierre Gasly, Alex Albon and these days Perez have all found out.

Perez is bidding to secure a Red Bull contract extension beyond F1 2024, but knows the likes of Verstappen’s former team-mate Daniel Ricciardo are lurking, while McLaren’s Lando Norris has also been regularly touted as a potential future Red Bull target.

However, Tost, who was Verstappen’s team principal at Toro Rosso when he first burst onto the F1 scene, warns that trio and any driver who may fancy their chances on the opposite side of the garage to Verstappen that they will fail.

Asked by F1-Insider.com whether he sees any driver who could take the fight to Verstappen in the future, Tost confidently replied: “No.

“If Max continues to have a good car, he will win many more races and titles. He’s still not at the limit and he’s only going to get better.

“No driver who is or will be his team-mate will ever get beyond the role of a number two driver.”

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Tost oversaw Verstappen in his rookie season with Toro Rosso back in 2015, the 17-year-old completing his first FP1 outing with the team at Suzuka the previous year.

And although he says it is not possible to spot a future World Champion at an early age, a “natural talent” it is, Tost placing Verstappen alongside seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher and his brother Ralf as drivers who were on the pace from the get-go in F1 machinery.

Tost worked alongside Ralf Schumacher at Williams in his role as BMW’s track operations manager.

“Not a champion, but a natural talent,” Tost answered.

“It’s all about a driver’s skills and their relationship with speed. With Michael, you never got the feeling that he was out of his depth, even on his first lap in a Formula 1 car. It was the same with his brother Ralf. And with Max Verstappen.

“When he drove a Formula 1 car for the first time in Suzuka at the age of 17, he got to grips with it straight away, despite the much higher speed. He also had no problems with braking, despite the enormous centrifugal forces of up to 6G.”

Tost retired from his role as team principal of Red Bull’s junior team at the end of 2023, having held the post since it joined the F1 grid in 2006.

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