Horner on Verstappen: The only thing that has changed is his age
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says the only thing that has changed about Max Verstappen since joining F1 is his age.
Verstappen was the youngest F1 rookie in history when he joined Toro Rosso for 2015, and was impressed enough to be promoted to Red Bull after four races of the 2016 season, winning his first race for the team. Milton Keynes at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Since that fairytale Barcelona debut, Verstappen has added a further 27 Grand Prix victories and a world championship title to his trophy cabinet, and in an exclusive interview with our associated website formula.huHorner said Verstappen’s speed was evident from his F1 debut.
“Max, from the first time he drove the car, [had] incredible natural speed, great car control, huge confidence, and that hasn’t changed at all,” said Horner.
“All that’s changed is his experience, and obviously his maturity. He joined us as a teenager and now he’s 24, so that’s the only thing that’s really changed.”
Horner hails positive first half
With 13 races of 2022 completed, Verstappen has an 80-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship, while Red Bull is 97 points clear at the top of the constructors’ standings, and Horner spoke about his team’s performance in the first half of the year.
“It’s been a really positive first half of the year – eight wins, two Sprint race wins, leading both championships,” said Horner.
“But of course that means very little. It’s where you are at the end of the season that really matters.
“So while the first half of the year has been very encouraging, it all now depends on what we do in the second half of the season.”
Mercedes should fight back
While Red Bull’s 2021 title rivals Mercedes swept the constructors’ titles from 2014 to 2021, the Silver Arrows have slipped back this year, relegated to third place in the standings behind Red Bull and Ferrari.
Mercedes are yet to win a race so far in 2022, and Horner said he was surprised at the Silver Arrows’ disgrace but warned he expected them to close the gap with the first.
“I think we’re all surprised that Mercedes haven’t been this close or set the tone because they’ve been such a dominant team over the years,” Horner continued.
“But they are obviously working on their issues, and that shows how competitive it is.
“You can see they are closing in on the action. I think at some circuits they could well pose a threat later in the year.”
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Horner: It’s rewarding to race with Ferrari
While last year’s title battle was between Red Bull and Mercedes, the Silver Arrows’ struggles mean it was Ferrari who fought Red Bull this year, and Horner said he was enjoying the battle against the oldest surviving F1 team.
“I think Ferrari is an iconic brand. It all depends on what happens on the track, and it’s very rewarding to race with Ferrari,” commented the team boss.
“The race between Charles [Leclerc] and Max has been fantastic this year, and I hope that continues.”
Horner also spoke about the performance of Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez, who won the Monaco Grand Prix but struggled in recent races, scoring just one podium in the last five Grands Prix.
However, Horner defended his driver and argued Perez was still hungry for success.
“Checo is doing a great job. He’s had a few tough races but he’s having a great season, that win in Monaco, pole position in Jeddah. He’s been doing incredibly well,” Horner said.
“His pace in qualifying has taken a big step forward this year. That pole position in Jeddah was outstanding. So he’s still pushing hard and is very, very motivated.”