Max the man for Horner

The victory of Red Bull driver Max Verstappen at the Austrian Grand Prix last month ended the Mercedes hegemony in the season's first eight races.
The victory of Red Bull driver Max Verstappen at the Austrian Grand Prix last month ended the Mercedes hegemony in the season's first eight races.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Red Bull boss praises Verstappen's passion, backs 21-year-old to trump champ Hamilton

LONDON • Max Verstappen is the best driver in Formula One on current form, ahead of even Mercedes' five-time world champion and overall leader Lewis Hamilton, according to his Red Bull team boss Christian Horner.

The claim comes ahead of this weekend's British Grand Prix at Silverstone, a home race Briton Hamilton is favourite to win for a record sixth time.

However, Verstappen, 21, won the last race in Austria and Horner believes he is "in the form of his life at the moment" as he was "giving it everything" every lap and extracting the maximum from his car.

The Briton said: "Arguably for the past 12 months, he's been the best driver in the world.

"How do I substantiate that? He's not in the best car but, when you look at the results that he's got out of that car since Montreal last year, some of the performances that he's put in, he's made virtually zero mistakes in that period.

"It's only natural that there's always the next generation coming.

"Lewis has got the benefit of experience, he's still extremely quick, he's in the best car, in a very well-oiled machine. For me, Max is very much the coming man."

Hamilton has won six of nine races this year and leads the championship by 31 points from teammate Valtteri Bottas.

But Horner praised Verstappen, in third and 40 points behind Bottas but ahead of both Ferrari drivers, for embracing his role of senior driver since the departure of Australian Daniel Ricciardo for Renault.

IMPECCABLE DRIVING

He's not in the best car but, when you look at the results that he's got out of that car since Montreal last year, some of the performances that he's put in, he's made virtually zero mistakes in that period.

CHRISTIAN HORNER, Red Bull team boss, on his driver Max Verstappen.

The Dutchman has always been direct and to the point, as well as forceful on and off the track.

Last term, he drew controversy and punishment after shoving Esteban Ocon, then driving for Force India, in the pits, following a clash at the Brazilian race in November.

Horner, though, feels "that's part of the reason people warm to him".

"Max's passionate," he said. "He's not afraid to say it as it is. Is that a bad thing? I'd rather have a driver who is like that, who has that passion, that fire in his belly and you can channel that."

And, when asked whether he would still back Verstappen if he and Hamilton were racing as teammates in equal machinery, Horner was adamant he would.

"From what I see here and now, I would absolutely back Max," he said.

"The sport's crying out for more drivers like Max Verstappen."

Separately, F1 announced yesterday that a five-year deal had been agreed to continue staging the British GP at Silverstone.

Chief executive officer Chase Carey said: "It is a pleasure to announce that we have renewed the Silverstone agreement through to 2024.

"We are thrilled to have this in place. Silverstone is a signature race on the calendar and a special event."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2019, with the headline 'Max the man for Horner'. Print Edition | Subscribe