Red Bull technical advisor Helmut Marko believes only two drivers come close to Max Verstappen in terms of skill.
Marko has been a long-term advocate of Verstappen’s skills and was indeed the one who gave the Dutchman a break in the sport.
Eight years later, Verstappen seems to have repaid this faith by notching two back-to-back world championships and 24 race wins.
Having initially taken the risk of putting Verstappen behind the Toro Rosso wheel back in 2015, Marko believes Verstappen could go on to enjoy the most illustrious career of all drivers to have graced the sport.
As of now, he does not believe there is anyone quite at Verstappen’s level, but believes Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Mercedes ace Lewis Hamilton are his closest competitors.
In a recent interview with RTL, Marko explained his reasoning behind the inclusion of Leclerc, who he believes makes too many mistakes in crunch moments but still has plenty of class.
Marko backs Hamilton to come good
Meanwhile, Hamilton is enduring one of his worst seasons in the sport, but Marko still backed the seven-time world champion to get his act together once he is offered better support from Mercedes.
“Hamilton has a clear advantage in terms of experience, he can also motivate himself incredibly and I’m convinced that Mercedes will put out a better car next year,” he said.
Marko chose to leave out the likes of George Russell, Lando Norris and Sergio Perez, believing that only the aforementioned drivers are among the top brass in the sport.
With respect to Verstappen, two back-to-back titles is no mean feat, but Marko believes the reigning world champion will get even better in the years to come.
“He is driving with more confidence than ever, with a greater overview, and at the same time he has developed into a tyre whisperer,” Marko said.
“For example, he drives longer on a softer tyre than his rivals do on a harder compound.
“He gets in the car and is so confident from the first practice session, from the first lap. You can see that when it’s wet, he’s two seconds faster than the rest of the field on the first laps, while the others get used to the conditions.”
Marko explained the crucial elements that Verstappen needs to feel comfortable in a car.
“Max needs a car with very good front-end grip, how the rear behaves doesn’t affect him that much, which is something that makes other drivers nervous,” he said.
Verstappen is already the favourite to make it three successive titles next year, but for now, the young Dutchman will be keen to extend his record of most wins in a calendar season.
Currently, he is tied with Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher on 14 race wins, but with two races still to go, he will hope he can push the mark further up.