Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko has brushed off suggestions that Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc are Max Verstappen’s biggest threat, with the Austrian admitting that both drivers have “weaknesses”.
The point of Norris and Leclerc competing with Verstappen was raised by ex-Formula 1 team owner Eddie Jordan, who revealed that if he owned a team today and couldn’t sign Verstappen, then he’d want Leclerc alongside Norris.
Jordan thinks the Ferrari driver is Verstappen’s “one challenger”, with the Irishman not being able to “trust” Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso to “keep up” with the reigning World Champion.
Hamilton and Alonso have nine titles between them; however, they also have a combined age of 81 years.
When you compare that to Leclerc’s and Norris’ combined age of 50, it certainly suggests that perhaps Hamilton and Alonso are past their prime.
Whilst the two veterans are still exceptional drivers and can compete for victories if given the right car, they aren’t going to become better drivers, realistically.
Unlike Norris and Leclerc, who are more likely to further improve, because they are in their mid-20s.
“I only see one challenger for Max and that is Charles Leclerc,’ Jordan told Auto Bild.
“If I had a top team now and didn’t get Max, there would only be one driver pairing that would be able to take on the fight with Verstappen – Leclerc and, as a teammate, Lando Norris.
“I simply no longer trust Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, although they are well-deserved champions, to be able to keep up with Verstappen because of their age,” Jordan added.
Marko accepts that both Leclerc and Norris are “exceptional talents”, but he believes that “consistency” is their weakness.
Leclerc in particular was very inconsistent in 2023, whereas Norris struggled in the first half of last season before thriving from the Austrian Grand Prix onwards, when McLaren introduced a huge upgrade.
The Red Bull advisor sees no reason to fear either driver because he’s confident Verstappen “will get even better”, given that he is the same age as Leclerc.
Worryingly for the paddock, Marko is convinced that the Dutchman “is not yet at his limit”.
“Leclerc and Norris are certainly exceptional talents,” said Marko. “But both have shown weaknesses in consistency in the past.
“In addition, Max is not yet at his limit. He will get even better. It is our job to provide him with a car that is as good as the one in 2023. Then he will be the benchmark again.”