Helmut Marko has explained why he considers Max Verstappen to be Red Bull’s best ever driver – despite having one world title to Sebastian Vettel’s four.
Verstappen took on and beat a seven-time F1 Drivers’ champion at the peak of his powers in Lewis Hamilton throughout the 2021 season, albeit lifting the trophy after a controversial climax in Abu Dhabi where the race governance came under the microscope.
The Dutchman became Red Bull’s first World Champion since 2013 when Vettel completed a four-timer before moving on to Ferrari in 2015, unable to add any further titles to his collection since then.
But although the German can boast an impressive roll of honour during his years with the Austrian energy drink giant, Marko believes Verstappen’s abilities already put him at No 1 on their list of driver talent since they entered the sport in 2005.
Asked whether he is the best driver he has worked with, the head of Red Bull’s driver development programme told Servus TV, quoted by Motorsport-total.com: “Yes, without a doubt he is.”
Adding that the 24-year-old has, among other things, an “incredible will” that makes him unique, Marko continued: “What makes him stand out the most? He doesn’t need a warm-up [lap].
“If it rains somewhere, the others do five or eight laps. Then Max goes out and sets the fastest time on the first lap.
“Or Jeddah – nobody knew the track. The others were driving again, Max goes out…bang! Three times [fastest sector]. That is one of his fascinating qualities.”
Previously, Marko had described how Verstappen has matured, having secured the Drivers’ crown in his seventh season of Formula 1 after making his debut for the Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso team in 2015.
“He’s a little less aggressive, yes, but can look at the bigger picture better now. That’s an important difference,” said the 78-year-old Austrian.
“In the early years, Max wanted to be the fastest at all times and under all circumstances. He has now learned to dose it and deliver it if it is really necessary. The discrepancy is he already showed that maturity during his very first race for Red Bull.
“Another important difference is that if we had a problem during free practice a few years ago, Max would explode and yell through the pit box. He sometimes took that impatience with him on the track, for example, if a backmarker did not move quickly enough.
“Now Max is much calmer. He performs consistently and at an exceptionally high level. He is truly an extraordinary driver.”