Max Verstappen overlooks Mercedes as new biggest threat now identified

Jamie Woodhouse
Singapore: Red Bull's Max Verstappen engages with the media at Marina Bay.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen engages with the media.

Max Verstappen believes McLaren’s consistency, and the fact they have the best driver line-up in his opinion of the pack chasing Red Bull, now makes them the biggest threat.

McLaren introduced fresh upgrades for their MCL60 in Singapore to build on the successes of their developments earlier in the year, with that next step achieved.

Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri have made it double podium finishes for McLaren in the latest two rounds in Japan and Qatar, while Piastri became an F1 race winner for the first time with victory in the Qatar sprint.

Max Verstappen names McLaren closest rival

Verstappen’s margin of victory in Qatar was less than five seconds over Piastri, so in the post-race press conference, Verstappen was asked if McLaren have now established themselves as the biggest threat to his and Red Bull’s dominant ways?

And he believes that is the case, saying that when he looks at the driver line-ups of their nearest pursuers, they being Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren, he believes McLaren house the strongest driver pairing.

“I do think that as a team, they are probably the most consistent compared to the others behind us,” said Verstappen.

“And I do think they have the best driver line-up out of all of them. They are operating really well and it’s going to be interesting to the end of the year, but also I think start of next year to see where everyone is at.” recommends

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Lando Norris sees McLaren P3 finish as “doable”

While Aston Martin held P2 in the Constructors’ Championship through the earlier stages of F1 2023, it is now clear that they have slipped behind Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren in the development war.

Down to P4, that will soon become P5 with McLaren having obliterated the deficit, which is reduced to 11 points, but is a P3 finish now on the cards with the gap to Ferrari down to 79 points?

At this stage, Norris, who is on a three-race podium streak, is not ruling it out.

“It’s doable. I think so,” he said. “A couple of races ago it was 70 something to Aston. Fernando [Alonso] said we’re overconfident as well!

“I think so. I think we’re just doing a good job. Not just in terms of pace, but today we had a 1.8-second pit stop, which is pretty impressive from the guys, they’ve been working extremely hard, so to reward the whole team consistently is only more motivating and a bigger boost every weekend.

“They like the taste of success. It’s the first time they’re getting it consistently and I think that only makes them want it more and more and more every weekend, that we’re doing, so the guys are doing a great job. I think we’re both doing a decent job too. So we’ll keep it up.

“We know that Mercedes are very quick, probably almost as quick as us today, just they keep making mistakes, so I’m sure if they have a clean weekend they’ll maybe make life a bit more tricky and therefore I’m not as confident saying it, but like us comparing to Ferrari, it was only three weekends ago that Ferrari were close to on pole and almost winning races.

“And nothing has really changed. It’s just a different track. We’re looking better, they’re looking a bit worse. So I think we’re definitely not overconfident. We’re confident, I think we need to be, but we know there’s still going to be some races where we’re not going to be quite as strong.”

With five rounds remaining, Mercedes are likely safe from McLaren’s grasp, the gap 107 points.

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