Christian Horner impressed with 'maturing' Max Verstappen

SOCHI, Russia — Red Bull boss Christian Horner thinks Max Verstappen showed how much he has matured in 2018 with his stellar performance at the Russian Grand Prix.

Verstappen charged from 18th to fifth in the just seven laps in Sochi and led for a long spell, albeit thanks to being on an alternate strategy to the leaders which meant he pitted in the closing stages. The performance capped off the Dutchman’s 21st birthday.

Horner said the opening laps of Verstappen’s race was especially impressive.

“They were mega,” Horner said. “21st birthday and he drove like a veteran.

“By the time he got to lap seven was in P5. It was one of the most outstanding first few laps I’ve seen for a long time.

“I think he’s had some great races but this was an attacking race. He then obviously led from lap 14 all the way to lap 42 or 43, and he was able to manage the tyres extremely well. It’s just a shame we had to stop!”

Verstappen’s current form is a stark contrast to the beginning of the season, when he suffered from a string of mistakes and incidents. The most notable was when he crashed out of final practice for the Monaco Grand Prix when Red Bull had the car to win the race, meaning he missed qualifying and started at the back at F1’s most notoriously difficult venue for overtaking. His misery was compounded by the fact teammate Daniel Ricciardo won from pole position.

Horner thinks that moment was key in Verstappen’s turnaround in form, which has seen him out-perform Ricciardo since the Australian’s victory at Monte Carlo.

“I think really since after the Monaco Grand Prix if you look at his season it has been very, very strong. He’s driven some great races, so I think he’s maturing. He’s obviously got quite a reasonable amount of experience now and he’s performing at an incredibly high level. You can see that with the barometer of his teammate. They’re two very competitive guys, and he’s driving extremely well.”

“I think following Monaco, I think that hurt him quite badly because he was obviously extremely quick in Monaco. Right up to the point he crashed! Really from that point onwards I think that was a tough outcome for him and I think really since that point he’s driven incredibly well.”