Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko believes that new F1 world champion Max Verstappen has already proven himself to be better than four-time champion Sebastian Vettel.
The German won all four of his titles consecutively between 2010 and 2013, winning 34 races in an utterly dominant period for Vettel with Red Bull.
He twice beat Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso to the title at the final race of the season, while strolling to the championship in 2011 and 2013.
Verstappen won his first-ever race in Formula 1 on his Red Bull debut at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix at just 18 years of age to become Formula 1’s youngest-ever race winner.
He has since added 19 more to his tally, and claimed his maiden title at the thrilling Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2021.
Dr Marko was asked if he believes this makes Verstappen a better champion than Vettel was.
“Yes, without a doubt he is. What makes him stand out the most? He doesn’t need a warm-up,” the Austrian replied in an interview with Servus TV.
He praised the Dutchman’s adaptability to any and all conditions, including changeable weather and a brand-new circuit.
“If it rains somewhere, the others do five or eight laps. Then Max goes out and sets the fastest time on the first lap.
“Or Jeddah (the venue of the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix) – nobody knew the track.
“The others were driving again, Max goes out – bang! Three times [fastest sector]. That is one of his fascinating qualities.”
Dr Marko has previously praised the maturity of Verstappen since his first year with the team in 2016, saying that while he is still aggressive, he is also more calculated.
“He’s a little less aggressive, yes, but can look at the bigger picture better now. That’s an important difference.
“In the early years, Max wanted to be the fastest at all times and under all circumstances. He has now learned to dose it and delivers it if it is really necessary,” he explained.
The 78-year-old does, however, believe that Verstappen was a mature young racer to begin with.
“The discrepancy is he already showed that maturity during his very first race for Red Bull.”
He lauded the 24-year-old’s growth in patience, indicating that he deals with incidents in a much calmer manner now than he used to before.
“Another important difference is that if we had a problem during free practice a few years ago, Max would explode and yell through the pit box.
“He sometimes took that impatience with him on the track, for example, if a backmarker did not move quickly enough.
“Now Max is much calmer. He performs consistently and at an exceptionally high level. He is truly an extraordinary driver,” Dr Marko added.
Verstappen won 10 races en route to his title success last year, scoring 18 podiums.
He will sport the Number 1 on his car in the 2022 season – the number reserved for the reigning world champion.
The Dutchman claimed the championship amid huge controversy on the final lap of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but Dr Marko has previously rubbished claims that Verstappen is not a worthy champion, labelling Red Bull the “moral winners.”