Zak Brown: ‘Six or seven’ drivers could be champion in Max Verstappen’s Red Bull

Oliver Harden
Max Verstappen punches in the air in celebration after winning the 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

Max Verstappen punches in the air in celebration after winning the 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

McLaren chief executive Zak Brown has claimed “six or seven” drivers on the F1 2024 grid could win the World Championship in Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.

Verstappen has emerged as the dominant force of modern Formula 1, with the reigning three-time World Champion winning 49 of the last 73 races stretching back to the start of his maiden title-winning season in F1 2021.

Zak Brown claims car central to Max Verstappen’s F1 success

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

The Dutchman collected his fifth victory from the first seven races of the F1 2024 season at last weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, pipping McLaren star Lando Norris to the chequered flag by 0.725 seconds.

McLaren arguably have the strongest driver line-up on the current grid, with Norris and Oscar Piastri establishing a productive partnership over the last 12 months.

Brown has been linked with a move for Adrian Newey after Red Bull announced earlier this month that he will leave the team in early F1 2025, having played a key role in the success of Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel.

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Asked if a star designer or star driver is more crucial to a team’s success, Brown said both are preferable – and claimed almost half the current grid would win the title with Verstappen’s car.

He told F1’s Beyond The Grid podcast: “Ultimately, you need both.

“I don’t think you’re going to win without a star driver, so you need both, but it does start with the car.

“People ask me all the time: is it car or driver?

“It’s both, but the way I characterise it is that I think there are six or seven drivers on the grid that would be World Champions in the Red Bull.

“And 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 car other than the Red Bull.

“Sergio Perez is an excellent racing driver, who’s shown on his day that 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 P2, P3. P4, P5 – one day we’re P2, the next day we’re P5 and it’s all moving around.

“The cars are so close, that’s when the driver is going to make the difference.

“You need both at the end of the day.”

With Norris coming close to a second grand prix victory at Imola, just a fortnight after breaking his duck in Miami, the 24-year-old claimed that the drivers can make the difference with the fight at the front now so close between Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari.

He told media including’s Thomas Maher after the Emilia Romagna GP: “It depends on your driving, honestly.

“I think we’re all very close in qualifying.

“Maybe you would have put us a bit ahead of [Red Bull] on Saturday. Without Max’s slipstream [from Nico Hulkenberg], we would have been ahead.

“And without Oscar’s penalty [for impeding Kevin Magnussen in Q1], we would have had a one-two on the grid, so probably in qualifying we had the best car.

“In the race, I think it’s more down to driving than car. If you push a bit too much, you deg off; if you go too slow, you’re just too slow.

“It’s all about the driver judging it and driving to the correct limit. I don’t think you can just say this car was quicker, this car was slower.

“I think it’s tight enough and when you’re split by one tenth in qualifying, you can’t really say: ‘This guy was way better than the other one.’

“Hopefully it continues like that because it’s exciting, it’s tough and gets you excited every weekend.”

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