Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko has named Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton as the only two drivers who could “keep up” with Max Verstappen in Formula 1 currently. 

Red Bull’s dominance of 2023 means Verstappen is well on course to win the Drivers’ title for a third time this year, with the Dutchman already a mammoth 69 points ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez. 

After winning two of the opening four races, Perez’s form has nosedived in recent rounds and the Mexican has failed to reach Q3 for the past three race weekends. 

Speaking to Austrian outlet OE24, Marko says the gulf between the Red Bull pair can be attributed to Verstappen’s talent shining through in the fastest car on the grid.

“Because Max is Max,” the 80-year-old summarised. “He’s in the best car.”

While Marko has unsurprisingly earmarked Verstappen as the best driver in F1 currently, the renowned Austrian talent spotter has bookended Alonso and Hamilton as the duo closest in ability to the reigning champion.

Hamilton went toe-to-toe with Verstappen for the title in 2021 but has been unable to compete since amid Mercedes’ struggles in the current cycle of technical rules. 

However, the Briton, 38, has been in good form this year, particularly since the Brackley-based operation introduced its revised package at the Monaco Grand Prix. 

Despite approaching his 42nd birthday, Alonso also remains at the top of his game, delivering six podium finishes in his first eight races for a resurgent Aston Martin. 

“Alonso and Hamilton could, at most, keep up with him [Verstappen],” Marko added. 

“These three are simply the strongest, among them Max stands out again.”

1st place Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB19, 2nd place Fernando Alonso (ESP) Aston Martin F1 Team AMR23, 3rd place Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14 with Adrian Newey (GBR) Red Bull Racing Chief Technical Officer. 18.06.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 9, Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal, Canada, Race Day.

Verstappen’s sixth win of the year in Canada extended Red Bull’s unbeaten run in 2023 and subsequently also delivered the Austrian outfit’s 100th victory in F1.

Red Bull has become only the fifth side in the sport’s history to hit the century milestone, with Verstappen’s Montreal success also witnessing him draw level with the great Ayrton Senna on 41 race victories.

“If something like that happens, you don’t run away right away, you also accept the Red Bull-picked clothes,” Marko joked.

“But I changed right away and then slept wonderfully on the plane. 100 wins is a wonderful sleep aid.”

Marko, who has overseen the Red Bull driver development programme since 1999 and therefore witnessed every victory the side has amassed in F1, says he’s glad the feat was achieved ahead of the team’s home race in Austria.

It’s more reassuring to come to Austria with your 100th victory,” he said.

“The national anthem will be played there for the 100th time after a Red Bull victory. At our first in 2009 in China, they played the Blue Danube Waltz by mistake!”

Since an F1 race was revived at the Red Bull Ring in 2014 following an 11-year absence, Red Bull has tasted home success on four occasions.

Alongside winning the Austrian Grand Prix three times – a joint F1 record – Verstappen also won the Styrian Grand Prix in his maiden title-winning season in 2021.

However, the 25-year-old was narrowly beaten to the win last year by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, despite claiming the brace of pole position and the Sprint race victory.

The modified Sprint format will again make an appearance at the Red Bull Ring this weekend – the second of six occasions its scheduled to be held across the year.

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