Max Verstappen debuted in the senior Red Bull team in 2016 Spanish GP and since then paved his way to 10 wins and 42 podiums. He became the youngest driver to compete in F1 during the 2015 Australian GP, where he drove behind the wheel of the Toro Rosso car. Since then he became quite a controversial figure in F1, due to the fact that fans either love him or hate him. Many praise him, as well as many attack him for his driving style, but arguably he is one of the top tier drivers on the current grid, and one of the small amount of drivers that can actually challenge Lewis Hamilton.
During the 2020 season he stood 11 times on the podium and eventually finished 3rd in the championship, being realistically the only proper threat to Hamilton on track, after Valtteri Bottas failed to pose any challenge to Hamilton. One race of the previous season definitely stood up more than others to the Team Principal of Red Bull Racing Christian Horner.
In an interview with RacingNews365.com, Horner expressed he believes the replacement of Hamilton by George Russel (due to COVID-19) during the 2020 Sakhir GP only confirmed Verstappen is a better driver than Hamilton. Russell, who replaced Hamilton on a very short notice, was able to qualify P2, only 0.026s then Mercedes’ regular driver Bottas, and was leading the GP before a series of ridiculous problems during the pitstops robbed him out of his chance to win the race. Horner, in a pretty controversial manner, said that the great performance of Russell only proved to him Verstappen is better than the 7-Times World Champion, because those 6 titles won with Mercedes are only thanks to the exceptional Mercedes package.
As he said: “I think he is the best, and George Russell’s performance at Mercedes confirmed that for me. Max and Lewis stand out for me, but, while we should definitely not be blind to what Hamilton has achieved, he does have a good package at his disposal. That while Max has to get more out of his car. At Mercedes, a Williams driver can qualify himself directly on the front row and Russell almost won the race. However, if at Red Bull someone has to get into Verstappen’s car, for example if Max had corona, then nobody will reach his level. His pace in qualifying is at an extraordinary level and his race craft is excellent, along with his tyre management. Max has become better at ‘reading’ the race, giving feedback to the team, but also, for example, in dealing with disappointment. He has matured very much in those areas.”
When asked if he believes Verstappen reached his peak performance, Horner expressed it is not the case. As he said: “No, I don’t think so. The others have a hard time compared to Max’s performance. If you look at his performance in Abu Dhabi: his pole was phenomenal and then he controlled the race in a very mature way from start to finish.”