For several years, Red Bull tried to break the Mercedes dominance with Max Verstappen. In 2021 all the ingredients finally came together and the Dutchman fought one of the most thrilling title fights in Formula 1 with Lewis Hamilton, at the end of which he celebrated his first world championship title.
Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko knows what made the difference between victory and defeat. “That we continued to develop in 2020. In the end we already had the fastest car,” he analyzed in an interview with ‘Autorevue’.
Engine partner Honda also “made another step”, which contributed to the success as well as the fact that “Verstappen drove almost flawlessly, improved in all areas and is no longer impetuous,” Marko continues. “In the past he would have liked to do everything in the first lap.”
Marko: “You can call it ruthlessness”
Verstappen has not only been one of the superstars of Formula 1 since winning the title. But does the 24-year-old stand up to comparisons with the eternal greats of sport, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher? “It’s impossible to compare that because it’s about different periods,” says Marko.
“But what they all have: a complete focus – you can also call it ruthlessness. There’s nothing other than: ‘I want to win! And I’ll do everything for it.’ And they grow beyond possibilities that don’t normally exist.”
In this context, Marko recalls Verstappen’s qualifying round in Jeddah. Even if it didn’t work out with the pole in the end because the Red Bull driver crashed, “until then he was sensationally fast,” emphasizes Marko. “You could see that he was driving the car so over the limit, that was even visually visible.”
Verstappen has gone through the process of cutting cords
“And in the races, Hamilton should know that you can’t leave even the smallest gap with Verstappen. He stabs in before the other person sees him in the rear-view mirror. This incredible willpower with the necessary talent makes all the difference.” the Austrian enthuses.
In addition, Verstappen has learned over the years to better control his emotions. If he attacked Esteban Ocon three years ago after an accident in Brazil, Marko is sure that would not happen to him today.
“You mustn’t forget: He’s still no older than 24. Max has gone through a clear maturing process. That also has a bit to do with the disconnection, because he was trained and shaped by his father very well. The relationship is always the same still very tight, but Max has his own opinion today,” he says.
“This maturation process was sometimes not so visible from the outside, but it reached the highest level very quickly. Because if something didn’t go right in training in the past, he always exploded. Today he stays calm. We had technical problems a couple of times. Now he just sees the whole thing.”