Christian Horner says Max Verstappen’s seat change has tied him to Red Bull for “multiple years” and given the team the best driver line-up in Formula One.
Verstappen has stepped up to Red Bull, swapping places with Daniil Kvyat, pre-empting a promotion many believed was due to happen in 2017. Mercedes and Ferrari were known to be interested in the Dutch teenager and Horner says the driver swap has ended any doubt over Verstappen’s immediate future.
“Make no mistake about it, he’s one of the hottest properties in Formula One at this present time” Horner said. “It’s only natural that other teams will show interest in a driver that’s demonstrating his kind of ability and talent. I think this move also kills off the driver market regarding Red Bull drivers, certainly for the foreseeable future.”
Speaking about whether Verstappen’s contract had changed since the driver change, he said: “I’m not going to tell you what, but yes. Beyond any doubt he’s committed to this team for multiple years.”
Horner believes the team has now been given the most competitive line-up in Formula One with Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, and he is mindful the imminent regulation changes could make that very significant for the team.
“I think you always want to put your best foot forward and have the most competitive driver lineup you can possibly have,” Horner said. “A Ricciardo-Verstappen line-up, for me, is potentially is one of, if not the, strongest pairing of future years. Of course that depends on how things pan out and develop, and with the regulation change coming for next year and with power units hopefully converging, that provides some great opportunities for this team over the next couple of seasons.”
Verstappen started the season with an angry radio rant at Toro Rosso when stuck behind former teammate Carlos Sainz and left the team amid reports of a rift between either side of the garage. Horner says Red Bull has dealt with difficult driver relationships before and is backing Verstappen to mature with age.
“We’ve had difficult relationships within our team before, it’s nothing new … you tend to get it when you’ve got two quick ones. I don’t see it being an issue, I think he’s growing as a driver and as a young man as well so when he gains more experience his outlook is going to change on certain things.
“You can see this absolute desire burning within at the moment, competitiveness, and a huge amount of talent. And of course he’s going up alongside one of the very best drivers in Formula One as a benchmark, which is Daniel Ricciardo. The way Daniel is driving at the moment I don’t think there’s a better driver in Formula One.”