Renault, McLaren no danger to us: Verstappen

BARCELONA • Max Verstappen has dismissed Renault and McLaren as a threat to his Red Bull Formula One team this season, despite all three former champion teams now having the same engines.

Red Bull finished third overall last year while Renault were sixth and McLaren, then with unreliable Honda engines, a distant ninth.

Both Renault and McLaren are tipped to make big improvements, but Red Bull have looked stronger in testing and Verstappen made it clear on Thursday that his focus was on Ferrari and champions Mercedes.

"You pay attention to everybody, but I don't think they will be our main rivals," the 20-year-old Dutch driver told reporters at the Circuit de Catalunya, when asked about the other Renault-powered teams.

"And we don't want that to be the case as well, because that would mean we are not doing such a good job. We need to look (at those) ahead."

Verstappen won two races last year while Australian team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was triumphant in Azerbaijan.

Red Bull, who last won a title in 2013 with Sebastian Vettel, have sounded increasingly upbeat about their car as testing has progressed.

Ricciardo will be out of contract at the end of the year and has been linked in media reports to both Mercedes and Ferrari for the 2019 season.

The Austrian team, who have Verstappen signed up to the end of 2020, want to keep Ricciardo in what is one of the most exciting pairings on the starting grid.

The energy drink brand's motorsport consultant, Helmut Marko, told Sky Sports TV that a time frame had now been decided without revealing the date.

"We agreed with him a deadline," said Marko. "So as soon as this deadline is over, we'll tell you if it's yes or no."

Yesterday was the final day of pre-season testing before this season's F1 world championship gets under way in Melbourne on March 25.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2018, with the headline 'Renault, McLaren no danger to us: Verstappen'. Print Edition | Subscribe