JUNE 12, 2024

Norris shaping up as Verstappen's top 2024 challenger

McLaren, rather than Ferrari or Mercedes, could be shaping up as Red Bull's most serious challenger for world championship glory in 2024.

Lando Norris, Canadian GP 2024
© McLaren

It is clear that Red Bull's long period of dominance is now over, with McLaren CEO Zak Brown also keen to pile on the pressure away from the actual track.

There's still a pretty toxic environment there, he said when asked on a Bloomberg podcast about the reigning world champions. And I think there's more to come.

Brown is being hailed for bringing stability and powerful sponsors to the resurgent McLaren team.

The former team boss Andreas Seidl set the course for a promising future with state support from Bahrain, the sponsorship money that Zak Brown brought in and the (Lando) Norris-(Oscar) Piastri driver pairing, ex-McLaren legend Gerhard Berger told Bild am Sonntag.

And now Brown, a marketing and sponsorship specialist, is predicting money trouble ahead for REd Bull.

Sponsors look at who they want to be associated with and what they stand for, he said. So that is a difficult situation for them.

Brown also thinks Red Bull, having lost Adrian Newey, could lose Max Verstappen next, describing it as a very unstable environment.

Berger, famously close to Red Bull's Austrian faction, thinks the troubles date back to founder Dietrich Mateschitz's late-2022 death, resulting in the collapse of a potential works F1 partnership with Porsche.

That would have been a great fit in terms of marketing and would probably have happened if the always far-sighted Didi Mateschitz had not already been so ill at the time of the failure, he said.

With Didi, there were lightning-fast decisions, short paths and a problem-free budget.

Even former Red Bull driver Robert Doornbos tips the rising McLaren as Red Bull's toughest challenger going forward in 2024.

At this rate, it is Lando Norris who will make it the most difficult for Max, he told Ziggo Sport, "because that McLaren is performing well on every type of track.

"I think Barcelona and Silverstone will be the real tests. Red Bull is going to Spain with a major upgrade package, so on that type of track they should be right there again.

But if McLaren can keep up, we'll see a real championship.