In anticipation of Max Verstappen’s potential third world championship victory, Dr. Helmut Marko emphatically asserts that the Dutch prodigy surpasses even Red Bull’s most illustrious driver, Sebastian Vettel.
Having clinched four consecutive world championships from 2010 to 2013, the remarkable Sebastian Vettel undeniably left an indelible mark in the annals of Formula 1.
Nonetheless, Dr Helmut Marko, the venerable 80-year-old Austrian figurehead of the team, fervently believes that Max Verstappen’s prowess transcends even the esteemed legacy of Vettel.
“We thought that Sebastian was the best of the best – but then Max came along,” he told Sport1.
“Vettel was an extremely meticulous worker with an enormous basic speed,” Marko explained. “But even in this respect, Max is just one step further ahead.”
One aspect that Dr. Helmut Marko finds particularly awe-inspiring about the 25-year-old Dutch sensation, Verstappen, is his extraordinary ability to seamlessly adapt and perform at an incredibly high level without requiring any significant adjustment period.
“He can go full throttle immediately,” said Marko. “That’s the unbelievable natural talent and the resulting incredible basic speed.
“He has fantastic vehicle control, especially at the limit.”
When it comes to assessing the respective talents of the 35-year-old retired Sebastian Vettel and the remarkable Max Verstappen, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner adopts a slightly more diplomatic stance.
“They are two very different, phenomenally successful drivers,” he said.
“I think Sebastian, with what he has achieved in his career, is one of the really great and most successful drivers in this sport.
“He worked very, very hard,” Horner added, referring again to the German. “Sebastian’s ability to deal with pressure was fantastic. He has a lot of talent and at the same time, he understood that he has to work hard to be the best.
“He wanted to understand every detail of the car and analyzed the opponents and their weaknesses.”
Furthermore, Horner believes that the accomplishments of Max Verstappen often go underappreciated, potentially due to a combination of factors.
Not only is Verstappen’s career still in progress, allowing room for further recognition, but his distinct personality may also contribute to the relative undervaluation of his achievements.
“I think sometimes his achievements aren’t recognized in the way they should be,” said Horner. “It’s an absolutely outstanding performance by a driver who is at the peak of his ability.”
In a candid interview with Eurosport, Guillaume Rocquelin, who served as Sebastian Vettel’s race engineer during their time at Red Bull, shared his perspective on the comparison between Vettel and Verstappen when they initially joined the team.
Rocquelin expressed his belief that Vettel showcased a higher level of overall proficiency as a driver compared to Verstappen during their respective introductions to the team.
However, Rocquelin emphasizes that Max Verstappen’s trajectory continues to ascend as he further hones his skills and grows as a driver. The notion that Verstappen is continuously improving remains a crucial aspect of Rocquelin’s evaluation.
“Compared to the other top drivers, he can still improve technically. There is still a lot of room for improvement,” said ‘Rocky’, who is now head of Red Bull’s driver program.
“I think he’ll only get stronger as he gains technical know-how,” Rocquelin added.
Rocquelin highlighted a significant transformation in Verstappen, particularly during the period spanning from his inaugural title victory in 2021 to the subsequent year, 2022. This particular time frame witnessed the most remarkable evolution in Verstappen’s abilities, leaving a lasting impression on Rocquelin and the racing community.
“That slightly desperate thirst for success has gone,” he said. “Max has matured a lot and is now driving more consistently at the highest level.
“Winning the first title in 2021 gave him enormous additional confidence. He drives differently than a year ago, that’s clear.”
Amid the lulls between thrilling grand prix, one recurring topic dominates the news cycles – the debate surrounding Max Verstappen’s placement among the esteemed legends of motorsport history.
The question of whether Verstappen has already earned a spot alongside the true greats sparks fervent discussions among fans and pundits alike.
“Max has achieved so much in such a short time,” said Horner. “At just 25, it’s pretty scary to think about what’s ahead of him.”