Helmut Marko makes big Ferrari engine claim in warning to Max Verstappen

Fernando Alonso has been on the rise since returning to Formula 1 with Alpine in 2021, before moving to Aston Martin this season.

Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko believes Fernando Alonso will “make Aston Martin number two in Formula 1”, with the Austrian trusting the double world champion to elevate the Silverstone-based team above Mercedes and Ferrari.

Alonso has started 2023 emphatically, with the Spaniard having claimed his first podium since the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix at the season-opener in Bahrain.

The 41-year-old’s podium on his Aston Martin debut was the team’s first since the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, with his pace on the opening day in Saudi Arabia having suggested that another could be on the cards this weekend.

Whilst Marko sees Alonso as a huge threat, the Red Bull senior figure is certain that Ferrari haven’t shown their true potential just yet, after they suffered an engine failure in Bahrain.

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“Ferrari has something in reserve with its engine,” Marko told ORF in Saudi Arabia.

Ferrari’s race director Laurent Mekies effectively confirmed Marko’s comment by admitting that the Italians are taking “precautionary measures” with their power unit, with the Charles Leclerc having taken a 10-place grid penalty for this weekend after taking a new set of control electronics.

“At the moment it is best for us to take 100 percent precautions,” Mekies said.

“We took a precautionary measure here so that we could drive as much as possible.”

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For now, the battle behind Red Bull is between Alonso and Alpine in Marko’s eyes, with the Austrian expecting an “exciting battle” at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

“Behind us, or at least it looks like it, will be an exciting battle at least between the Alpine and Fernando Alonso, and Ferrari to some extent,” Marko said.

Alonso does look set to be Red Bull’s biggest threat once again, with the Spaniard having claimed second in Free Practice 2 behind Max Verstappen.

Had it not been for traffic on his fastest lap, then Alonso would’ve come within five-hundredths of Verstappen’s fastest time, highlighting the Spaniard’s potential in Saudi Arabia.

Marko continued to speak very highly about Alonso ahead of the weekend, with the advisor having hailed the Spaniard for being “in his third spring”.

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“Alonso is in his third spring,” Marko commented.

“You always have to factor him in. The overtaking against Hamilton in Bahrain was unbelievable.

“I trust him to make Aston Martin number two in Formula 1.”