Horner calls for Verstappen to build team around him
Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner says that Max Verstappen should stay on at the squad and make it his own.
Verstappen has been linked to both Ferrari and Mercedes after 2018, but Horner says that the Dutchman would be better off being RBR’s main man rather than a team-mate to Sebastian Vettel or Lewis Hamilton.
“I think he can see the strength and depth of the team,” Horner told Autosport.
“He feels comfortable in the team. He’s the youngest grand prix winner, he’s the youngest double winner, he’s the youngest points scorer.
“And Lewis is pretty set at Mercedes, Seb has signed for three years at Ferrari.
“The obvious thing is to build a team around you.
“But it’s down to us to provide him with a competitive car.”
Horner believes Red Bull’s progress from starting 2017 adrift of Mercedes and Ferrari to winning the Malaysian Grand Prix in a straight fight should make it attractive to Verstappen.
“We’ve put a serious amount of performance on the car, and we’ve outdeveloped our opposition from our starting point to being grand prix winners on merit,” said Horner.
“We need to keep that trajectory going.”
Verstappen has retired from seven of this season’s 16 GPs and started down the order due to reliability problems and grid penalties at two others.
Horner reckons his driver deserves to be lying third in the world championship rather than his current sixth.
“The experiences that he’s gone through only broaden his shoulders, and it makes you appreciate the good days like Malaysia even more when you’ve had tough days like a couple of weeks earlier in Singapore, or at his home race at Spa,” said Horner.
“There were so many races this year when he was in a fantastic position to achieve big results.
“He’s had four mechanical issues, all engine problems.
“If you look at the points lost, he should be sitting a pretty close third in the championship at the moment.”
Horner praised Verstappen for his maturity in difficult circumstances.
“Credit to him that at such a young age he hasn’t let frustration boil over, he’s kept his head down, he’s kept plugging away,” he said.
“I always said, when it comes right for him, it’s going to come right in a big way.
“And that’s exactly what happened in Malaysia. He drove a great race there, with no issues.
“It’s quite astounding that he’s only just turned 20.
“Just look at the following he has in F1 now. He’s one of the most, if not the most, popular driver in F1.
“He’s growing in all areas. He has so little experience in car racing per se that every weekend he’s learning and getting stronger.
“There’s no shortcut to experience. He’s now close to completing his third grand prix season, and the level he’s performing at is phenomenal.
“What’s exciting is what the future holds for him.”