Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez both earned praise from Helmut Marko after qualifying for the Mexico City Grand Prix, while he was left questioning Ferrari's pace.
The AlphaTauri and Red Bull drivers, respectively, qualified fourth and fifth on the grid - with Ricciardo out-qualifying Perez as he hopes to take his seat at Red Bull for 2025.
The duo were also within two-tenths of Verstappen following mistakes from the World Champion on his Q3 laps that opened the door for Charles Leclerc to grab pole position.
Reflecting on the three-four-five, Marko was also at a loss as to where the performance boost from Ferrari in Q3 had come from.
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Compliments for Perez and Ricciardo
"They must have driven at full power, it has to be. We have no other explanation, but that won't get you far in the race," Motorsport Advisor Marko explained to Sky Germany.
"Max did not have a clean lap in both Q3 attempts, with things going wrong in Turns 13 and 14 (in the stadium) and lost about one-and-a-half-tenths on both laps.
"With an optimal lap, we would have taken pole. However, you can overtake here, so we are still feeling positive for the race."
Turning his attention to Perez - who qualified just 0.160s behind Verstappen in fifth place, Marko praised the home driver for his efforts in out-qualifying Lewis Hamilton.
"Checo has been strong all weekend and only 0.2 seconds behind Verstappen is a good performance," Marko said.
"He's also ahead of Hamilton and that's the main goal, to finish ahead of the Mercedes.
"I'm still optimistic about the race. Everything went well from our point of view, except that we are not at the front. Instead of one and three we are now three and five."
Marko also touched on Ricciardo's performance of fourth place, out-qualifying Perez - labelling the performance "a great comeback after his hand injury and a good recommendation for his future."