Helmut Marko reveals which two drivers can challenge Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen claimed the 2023 title after Sergio Perez crashed out of the Qatar sprint race on Saturday.

Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko believes newly crowned three-time World Champion Max Verstappen makes his team-mates struggle like Ayrton Senna used to, with the Austrian stating that only two drivers can compete with the Dutchman.

Second place in Saturday’s Qatar Grand Prix sprint race was enough to seal Verstappen yet another title, with Sergio Perez’s crash on the 11th lap having secured the 26-year-old another crown.

As Sunday’s race remains, only small celebrations could take place; however, the party at Red Bull will be huge if Verstappen can win the main race.

With him starting from pole position, Verstappen is the favourite for victory, something which would see him move one short of his record-breaking 15 wins in 2022.

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Verstappen is simply unbeatable currently, with nobody being able to touch him once he gets into the lead.

He’s come on a long way already in his F1 career despite him still being young, something Marko hinted at by insisting that the Red Bull driver has a “bright” future.

“As a person, he has made great progress,” Marko told Krone Zeitung.

“He celebrated his 26th birthday just last Saturday and has a strong personality.

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“As a driver, he constantly surprises us with qualifying laps that you wouldn’t think possible. There are no limits to expectations, and the future looks bright.”

Verstappen’s consistency is what becomes too much for so many drivers to compete with, most notably his team-mates.

Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly, Alex Albon and Perez have all buckled under the pressure of partnering the Dutch driver, with Marko believing that only Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton can fight the World Champion.

The 80-year-old believes Verstappen therefore has a similar trait to Senna, in being too strong for their team-mate to live with.

Perez is the current proof that Marko’s comparison is accurate, as the Mexican hasn’t taken the fight to Verstappen since Azerbaijan.

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“Senna’s team-mates also all struggled, Gerhard Berger can sing a song about that,” said Marko.

“But he sought challenges. Max is a different story in his complexity.

“I can only think of older gentlemen like Alonso or Hamilton who could compete alongside him.”