Horner lauds Verstappen’s patience, development on route to latest F1 title run

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Photo credit: Red Bull Content Pool

When Red Bull placed a 17-year-old Max Versrappen in a full-time race seat at what was then Toro Rosso, it was in the hope that he would develop into a driver who would contend for wins and championships in the years to come. 52 wins and three championships later, that promise has been fulfilled and then some, and with it a continued development that has seen Verstappen reach new heights with each season—from contender to narrow champion in 2021, and on to historical levels of dominance this season.

After sensationally winning on debut for the team at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, the Dutchman found himself embroiled in quite a few incidents with other drivers. He also tended to overdrive to try and make up for the lack of performance they had compared to Mercedes.

Through it all, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has seen this journey first-hand. The Brit believes the big turning point for Verstappen came in 2019 as he developed into a driver who became more calm and complete behind the wheel.

“2019, I think it was during that period he really, really stepped it up. Then ’19 into ’20 to a degree. Mercedes had a rocketship in ’20, but we were still able to win some races that year. And then obviously ’21 was massive.”

That 2019 season saw a then-career-high three wins for Verstappen, with two more in the shortened 2020 season setting up his legendary title fight with Lewis Hamilton in 2021. Since then, Verstappen has won an astonishing 32 of the last 42 races run.

Horner attributes this success to a developed patience during races. “Max has become so good at reading a race. He doesn’t panic if he sees someone taking time out of him in the middle sector or whatever. That’s because he’s looking at the long game. And I think he’s just got that inner confidence that he knows where he is.”

It’s a confidence that has certainly only grown with each successive win, and built into a near-indestructibility in this 2023 season. At the top of his game, with two races still to run, the other drivers and teams are still trying to reach a peak that somehow keeps rising.