Verstappen tipped for c'ship challenge

LONDON • Max Verstappen is the driver five-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel will “fear the most” this season.

That was the assertion of his Red Bull boss Christian Horner, who told reporters on Tuesday the team could “provide him the tools to do the job”.

He said: “Max, if you look at his performance in the second half of the (last) year, was the second-highest points scorer to Lewis.

“I don’t think he lacks anything that they have.”

Hamilton won 11 races for Mercedes on his way to the title while four-time world champion Vettel of Germany finished as runner-up with five victories, ahead of Verstappen, who won two grands prix last year and ended the season fourth overall.

But Horner expressed his confidence that the Dutchman, who became the sport’s youngest winner when he won the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix at the age of 18, would be their heir apparent.

The Briton said of the 21-year-old, who is now the main man at Red Bull following Australian Daniel Ricciardo’s departure for Renault: “His maturity has increased, we saw that during the course of last year.

“He’s just much more rounded through experience. He’s just more worldly, more experienced, he’s just in a better place to be able to deal with the pressures that are placed on him.”

Although Mad Max’s fiery reputation again preceded him after he was ordered to do two days of public service for shoving Racing Point’s Esteban Ocon following the Brazil race, Horner insisted he had seen “the other side of the fence” after doing one day by accompanying the stewards at a Formula E race in Morocco last month.

He added: “He came back and went, ‘Crikey, these guys have got difficult decisions to make. Whether you penalise or not’. That was actually a useful exercise for him.”

Red Bull’s new partnership with Honda will also be key to Verstappen’s championship bid.

In November, the Austrian team ended an 11-year partnership with Renault, whose engines powered them to four successive driver and constructor title doubles between 2010 and 2013.

The V6 turbo hybrid era brought about the eventual parting of ways, and Horner felt that for the past three seasons, Red Bull had “effectively been paying for a first-class ticket” yet they got “an economy seat” in return.

While Honda had a troubled time with McLaren before their separation before the start of last term, he revealed that the Japanese company had shown good progress, and Red Bull were aiming to be more consistent across all circuits this year.

REUTERS

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