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Max is the man Hamilton fears the most, says Horner

08 February 2019

Max Verstappen is the driver that five times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel will fear the most this season, his Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said on Tuesday.

"Max, if you look at his performance in the second half of the (last) year, was the second highest points scorer to Lewis", Horner told reporters.

"I don't think we will match Ferrari and Mercedes straight away in terms of power", said Verstappen, "but Honda is giving everything to get there as quickly as possible". I think it's there now from both sides - the team and the engine supplier.

Red Bull and Verstappen have talked up the new partnership with Honda, after taking digs at Renault past year and questioning its commitment. We would rather see consistent evolution, and if that means taking a penalty or two along the way, as we saw a year ago the impact of those penalties at the right venue can be fairly minimal.

Following his crash-strewn start to last season, Horner reckons Verstappen has grown in maturity that will enable him to deal with any challenges he may face.

He said Verstappen had learned from his mistakes and that the 'community service' charge he served for starting an altercation with Force India's Esteban Ocon following their crash in Brazil past year had opened his eyes.

"It was interesting talking to him after the Formula E race".

He added: "He came back and went, "Crikey, these guys have got hard decisions to make. That was actually a useful exercise for him".

But according to the Dutch driver, his new Red Bull RB15 - the first of the team's cars that will feature Honda horsepower - already feels good on the simulator. It is exciting, although that will really come when I sit in the vehicle.

He said Honda had "had a strong winter" and were "making good progress" but "it will all depend on what the others have done".

Red Bull's relations with Renault were fractured from the start of the V6 turbo hybrid era, when Mercedes began a period of domination that has now brought them five successive title doubles.

"I think it's a very different scenario".

"This is the first time that Red Bull and Honda have collaborated, and we know that at the beginning of a relationship, it always takes a little time for things to become automatic and you get the most out of it".

Having entered F1 in late-2017 with the junior team, Gasly's only race experience in F1 comes with the Italian outfit.

Max is the man Hamilton fears the most, says Horner