Red Bull thought Sebastian Vettel was ‘the best of the best until…’

Michelle Foster
Christian Horner smiles at Sebastian Vettel. Suzuka, October 2011.

Christian Horner smiles as Sebastian Vettel celebrates. Suzuka, October 2011.

With a new World Champion on a winning streak for Red Bull, Helmut Marko says while they used to think Sebastian Vettel was the “best of the best”, that was until Max Verstappen came along.

Vettel spent six years with Red Bull from 2009 to 2014 and won four World titles for the team while also setting new records and matching the one for the most wins in a single season, 13.

And then along came Verstappen.

Joining the team in 2016, and winning on his Red Bull debut at the Spanish Grand Prix, the Dutchman is today’s reigning World Champion with two titles on the trot and last season he smashed that record for the most wins in a season when he bagged 15.

With 40 wins on the board, he has surpassed Vettel’s record of 38 wins as a Red Bull driver with rivals and pundits believing this is just the beginning of the Verstappen era.

That’s a sentiment echoed by the team’s motorsport advisor, Marko, who believes in Verstappen they have a driver who is even better than their four-time World Champion, Vettel.

“We thought that Sebastian was the best of the best,” Speedweek quotes him as having told Sport1, “but then Max came along.

“Vettel was an extremely meticulous worker with an enormous basic speed, but in this respect Max is just one step ahead.

“He can go full throttle immediately. That’s the unbelievable natural talent and the resulting exorbitant basic speed. Fantastic vehicle control, especially at the limit.”

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Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has previously weighed in on his two World Champions, saying while Vettel can count himself amongst the greats of the sport, Verstappen is doing something “special”.

“They are two very different drivers, two phenomenally successful drivers,” he said last season.

“I think that what Sebastian has achieved in his career puts him amongst one of the greats and most successful drivers in the sport.

“But I think Max, what we’re seeing, we’re actually witnessing something very special.

“I actually think his achievements sometimes don’t receive the plaudits that they should, because I think actually what we’ve witnessed is an absolutely outstanding performance from a driver that is very much at the top of his game.”

Having won the 2021 World title in a hard-fought battle against Lewis Hamilton, last season Verstappen cruised to the title with 15 wins from 22 races and wrapped up the title with four races to spare.

This year his team-mate Sergio Perez launched a challenge at the start of the championship with both Red Bull team-mates winning two of the opening four races. However, in the last three race weekends Verstappen has pulled out a 53-point advantage over the Mexican driver.

Verstappen, though, acknowledges neither he nor Red Bull can let up in the title chase.

“At the moment it all looks great but you can’t stand still in this world,” he said after taking his fifth win of this season in Spain.

“We just keep trying to find things on the car, try to learn – like today understand why the hard [tyre] wasn’t working with the car.

“And yeah, we’ll see what happens in the coming races. I don’t know if there are going to be tracks that are better or worse. We’ll find out.”