‘Max Verstappen can only win title in Red Bull’ – McLaren boss fires fresh shot

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen hand to head next to Christian Horner

Max Verstappen, hand to head

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown has issued a fresh Red Bull opinion which is bound to spark debate, claiming that while Max Verstappen is one of Formula 1’s greats, the Red Bull machinery is key to his dominance.

Verstappen reached the Formula 1 summit for the first time back in 2021, though since claiming his first World Championship at the end of an epic season-long title battle with Lewis Hamilton, Verstappen has found title success far easier to come by.

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The 2022 and 2023 crowns were claimed by Verstappen with record-shattering ease, while he now looks well set to make it four in a row having won four of the opening six grands prix in F1 2024.

And Brown has not been shy to voice his opinions on Red Bull recently, focusing on the shock departure of their design chief Adrian Newey and predicting that he will be the “first domino to fall” amid the off-track unrest faced by the team. Now, Verstappen finds himself at the centre of a controversial Brown suggestion.

While the American is taking nothing away from Verstappen, referencing his control over Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez to further highlight his talents, Brown does not believe that Verstappen could win the title if he was not driving the Red Bull.

Brown was asked on the Beyond the Grid podcast whether he would prefer a star driver or designer, to which he replied: “Well, ultimately, you need both.

“I don’t think without a star driver, you’re going win, so you need both.

“First, it does start with the car – people ask me all the time, ‘Is it car or driver?’ And it’s like, ‘Well, it’s both’.

“I think the way I characterise it is, I think there are six, seven drivers on the grid that will be world champions in the Red Bull.

“As great as Max is, and he’s one of the best ever, I don’t think Max wins the World Championship today in any other car, other than the Red Bull.

“But then, when you look at the difference, and Sergio Perez is an excellent racing driver, who’s shown on his day [he] can run with Max, but look at the difference there.

“So, I think you need both, because as Formula 1 gets closer, and Max is doing such a special job, but look at what’s going on from P1, P2, P3, P4, P5.

“One day we’re [McLaren] P2, next day we’re P5 and it’s all moving around. So the cars are so close, that that’s when the driver is going to make the difference. So you need both, at the end of the day.”

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At a time where Verstappen is refraining from absolutely guaranteeing his long-term Red Bull future, amid intense interest from Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, the Dutchman recently pointed the finger at Brown for what he sees as attempts to “stir things up” at Red Bull after his take on the Newey situation.

However, with Verstappen paying little attention to what Brown had to say on that one, it is unlikely that he will give much thought to this title claim from the McLaren boss either.

“He obviously wants to stir things up,” said Verstappen. “For us as a team, we can’t do anything with comments like that.

“From his point of view, I understand it of course, because everyone is trying to attract our people and that is completely normal in the world of Formula 1 as well.

“But I’m not really interested in those things either. I see the headlines, but I don’t even click on them.”

After McLaren’s Lando Norris claimed a shock victory last time out at the Miami Grand Prix, Verstappen will be looking to strike back immediately at the upcoming Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

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