Max Verstappen is the driver that his rivals should “fear the most” in the 2019 Formula 1 season, according to Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner.
The Dutchman has scored wins in all three seasons with the Austrian team and many believe that he is a world champion in waiting.
Last season, after a difficult start to the campaign, he won Red Bull’s home race in Austria before adding a second Mexican GP win to his tally.
He finished the season in fourth place, overhauling Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas thanks to a late run of five successive podium finishes, and Horner believes Verstappen is the one to watch in 2019.
“Max, if you look at his performance in the second half of the [last] year, was the second-highest points scorer to Lewis [Hamilton],” he told Reuters.
“I don’t think he lacks anything that they have, if we can provide him the tools to do the job.
“I think he’s probably the driver that they fear the most.”
He added: “I think his maturity has increased; we saw that during the course of last year. He’s just much more rounded through experience. He’s just more worldly, more experienced.
“He’s just in a better place to be able to deal with the pressures that are placed on him.”
Horner also feels that Verstappen learnt a valuable lesson with his recent public service at the Marrakech E-Prix, in which he spent time with the race organisers and stewards.
He was given the punishment after shoving Esteban Ocon when he blamed the Frenchman for their coming together at the Brazilian GP.
Horner said: “He came back and went, ‘Crikey, these guys have got difficult decisions to make. Whether you penalise or not.’
“I think that was actually a useful exercise for him to see the other side of the fence.”