Ralf Schumacher and Helmut Marko disagree on leading Austria threat to Max Verstappen

Henry Valantine
Race winner Max Verstappen speaking with second placed Lewis Hamilton. Spain June 2023. Jenson Button

Race winner Max Verstappen speaking with second placed Lewis Hamilton. Spain June 2023

Ralf Schumacher believes Fernando Alonso will be the driver to take the fight to Max Verstappen around the Red Bull Ring next weekend.

This comes in contrast to Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko, who was of the firm belief that is was Ferrari who had the fastest car around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve at the weekend.

Verstappen had a relatively low margin of victory by his standards at the weekend, leading Alonso home by 9.5 seconds come the chequered flag on Sunday, while Ferrari recovered from the midfield to finish fourth and fifth on the road.

But after the form Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz showed in free practice in Canada, both Marko and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner were concerned about the pace shown by the Scuderia, and how they may have performed if their qualifying went more smoothly.

When he was asked if another Red Bull victory was on the cards at their home circuit next time out, Marko told oe24: “Let’s see. What got lost a bit in Montreal: Ferrari had the fastest car.

“The Red Bull Ring suits them. If Leclerc starts from row one or two, it won’t be a big Oktoberfest for Max.”

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But for six-time race winner Schumacher, he believes Alonso and Aston Martin are the team best placed to capitalise on any loss of form Red Bull may have in Austria at the next race.

The AMR23 arrived in Canada with a hefty upgrade package that the German believes nudged them back ahead of Mercedes in the competitive pecking order.

“In Montreal you have already seen that the field has moved closer together and it has become a bit tighter,” Schumacher wrote in a column for Sky Deutschland.

“Aston Martin and Mercedes have narrowed the gap and Red Bull will suffer a bit from not being able to fully use the wind tunnel phase because of the penalty from last year.

“I was particularly impressed with owner Lawrence Stroll’s team. They brought an update that worked straight away.

“I’m sure we can expect a lot more from the green cars. I even see Aston Martin a notch ahead of Mercedes at the moment with the update and believe that Fernando Alonso will be Verstappen’s toughest rival at the next race at the Red Bull Ring.”