Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Monaco, 2018

Verstappen is “doing his learning in public” – Horner

2018 F1 season

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Max Verstappen’s recent struggles are a consequence of how quickly he arrived in Formula One, says Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.

A series of incidents in the opening races of this season have prompted criticism of the 20-year-old’s approach.

“Look, Max arrived in F1 very quickly,” said Horner. “So he is doing his learning in a very public arena and is in a front-running car very quickly.”

Verstappen had just one year’s experience of driving racing cars, in Formula Three, when he entered F1 with Toro Rosso in 2015. The following year he was promoted to Red Bull and immediately won his first race for the team.

Verstappen’s latest setback occured in Monaco, where a crash in practice meant he had to start from the back of the grid. However Horner believes his driver will put his recent troubles behind him.

“Most guys would have gone through some of this in the lower formulas that you wouldn’t have even seen, whereas he is having to deal with it in a very public arena. I’m sure he will emerge from it on the other side.”

Verstappen’s struggles have contrasted with the fortunes of team mate Daniel Ricciardo, who scored his second victory of the year last weekend. Horner says the pair are a close match in outright speed but believes Ricciardo has improved in other areas.

“Since the beginning of 2016 when they got together it’s been no more than a tenth or so between the two of them.

“Daniel has continuously raised his game and I think he is in a purple patch of his career now at 28 years of age. He’s got the experience, he’s got the speed and [Monaco] was a great example of problem management under pressure.”

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41 comments on “Verstappen is “doing his learning in public” – Horner”

  1. As Mark Webber recently said, “F1 isn’t a finishing school.” Webber’s comments were about Williams drivers but obviously a young driver needs to spend a few years in series such as F3 and F2 not just to literally get up to speed.

    1. I often use this quote (I usually attribute it to David Coulthard, but no idea where it originated from!) and totally agree with it.

      Unfortunately it’s a difficult environment in Formula One at the moment. If a driver is not ready for Formula One and gets an offer to join the grid, he simply cannot decline it because the chance may be gone in 12 months time. I recall Jenson Button telling Sir Frank Williams that he was not ready for Formula One in 2000 before hastily calling back having realised what a mistake he had made. It’s because of this that I simply can’t blame drivers like Verstappen, Stroll or others for being in Formula One before their time. It is down to the team and the decision makers putting them in the cars.

      There is always a reason for a team signing a driver, whether that’s based on talent, finance, marketability, reliability… whatever. Red Bull have clearly understood that they’ve signed a terrifically fast, marketable driver and are “gambling” on him sorting out his perceived petulance and “win or nothing” attitude in the coming years. It’s their choice and they’d clearly rather have a driver like Verstappen who is clearly a huge talent, than someone like Perez or Hulkenberg who are exceptionally good and reliable, but maybe missing that final % and aren’t as marketable as young Verstappen.

      1. @ben-n I absolutely agree with you. When Red Bull offers you an F1 race seat, there is only one possible answer.

        It is true that Red Bull keep looking for ‘the next Vettel’. Although I believe that drivers such as Patrese or Fisichella are vital to F1, I also understand that Red Bull have different goals in this sport.

        The way they are trying to find Vettel II is more questionable. When Red Bull need a new driver, they always choose the one with the biggest potential and do not care about the experience at all. However, Ricciardo has been their most successful driver (on average) since Vettel’s departure and he was also much better prepared for the role than either Kvyat or Verstappen. Maybe that is not a coincidence and there is some correlation that should make Red Bull rethink their approach.

      2. Well said.

      3. Load of nonsense my friend Alain Prost told McLaren he was not ready and waited and still got into F1. Not because of Marketing which I hate but I understand but because of Prost talent. Then again VER is no Prost nor will he ever be.

        1. That was 35 years ago. I agree that it’s now extremely difficult to turn down an F1 offer.

    2. And yet there is a somewhat schizophrenic approach from F1 wanting to attract younger audiences with younger pilots. It’s pretty much like in the business world where a new employee has to have 5+ years of experience but still be under 24 years old.

      1. @spoutnik

        Perhaps then there ought to be greater focus on the junior formulae than there is now (maybe even having them on FTA TV) giving younger people the opportunity to get to know younger drivers that way and follow their careers through to F1. That way you would have younger viewers “growing into” F1 fans as their favourites grow into F1 drivers.

        This could also help build the F1 audience as the commercial rights holder wishes too.

        1. @ahxshades indeed. The main problem being the price that is being asked for a series. I work for an FTA tv and for example this year we got a one year offer for formula E for free, to test on our audience. Next year it would be paying. But for us it’s more than just buying the expensive live streams as we’d have to find commentators that speak our language, travel around the world to comment the races and know about their job: it means it will cost a lot. So for our company it must first raise interest and feeder series are such niches that it’s never going to happen. We pay already millions for f1 it’s one of the most expensive contract we got and each year there are voices that want to stop it. Better would be free livestreams of all feeder series, or at a low price so that we can invest in coverage.

        2. Also obviously F1 commercial right holders only own F1 and so having a global goal when each series follow its own interest is always complicated.

  2. Ehm. Not sure if Horner is actually helping here. Of course, he is learning otherwise you won’t become a champion. Every single of F1 greatest drivers was undergoing this painful process each season even as crowned champions already. However, as much as Red Bull have successfully capitalised on all PR and media gains from “Max, you are doing absolutly right/ your approach is a “breath of fresh air”, now they face the other side of the coin. It was their decision to bring him up at that age and to demote Kvyat that soon. Risk and reward, nothing more. Hamilton, for instance, was pretty much under spotlight and making headlines already in GP2. Vettel’s debut in Indianapolis was record breaking and he got all the media on his tail as well. All F1 drivers, especially those on top, face immense public pressure. Wish all the best for Max in his difficult journey and way more sensible people around him…

    1. Ehm. Not sure if Horner is actually helping here.

      Horner is 100% justified in saying these things now. I can’t think of a single world champion who had incidents in 6 consecutive race weekends…ever. Max is a massive talent, but if he carries on throwing away opportunities like this he’ll go on to rack up lots of race wins but no world championships. As much as we all love people like Gilles Villeneuve and their desire to be the quickest on every lap, its the people who learn from their mistakes and string together results who go on to win world championships.

      1. “Its the people who learn from their mistakes and string together…” Wasn’t I talking about the very same thing? Or you just read the first sentence and skipped the rest? What Horner is saying is absolutely right and, moreover, more or less obvious, like “the snow is white”. More relevant or probably helpful for Ver questions: Why Horner hadn’t emphasised that from the outset of Max career? Maybe Christian should have said as less as possible (keep that all intern) in Monaco not to expose Max even more to the media attention.

        1. Maybe Christian should have said as less as possible (keep that all intern) in Monaco not to expose Max even more to the media attention.

          100% agree with you there. RB / Horner have said so much in public about Max and what he should or shouldn’t be doing, change his approach, look at his teammate and such. He isn’t helping MV in any way with that. Keep your criticism internal. The only thing he should have said is that MV is having a difficult couple of races and that you’ll have confidence that he’s learning from it. And keep repeating that until the media isn’t asking about it anymore.

        2. Why Horner hadn’t emphasised that from the outset of Max career? Maybe Christian should have said as less as possible (keep that all intern) in Monaco not to expose Max even more to the media attention.

          It’s impossible to know for sure, but maybe he has been and now is changing his tactic because his previous approach wasn’t working?

      2. Actually it feels like a hinge time for Verstappen, he either accepts his mistakes and learn from it or he doesn’t.

        In recent years, we can think of Maldonado, Grosjean and Stroll having the same kind of labels attached to them. Potential but reckless. Only one of the three was able to accept his wrong doing and grow from that (even if it seems he went backward recently), the other two kept denying and didn’t show much progress. Was just logical that one got ditched from F1 and probably that the other would be next year as well if it weren’t for his father…

        Hopefully Max will start accepting his mistakes which is his first step towards a WDC.

        1. Don’t get me wrong, Max is a class above the other three but the behavior is kind of similar.

          1. Don’t get me wrong, Max is a class above the other three but the behavior is kind of similar.

            Something like that. Mad Max is certainly talented but he has no idea how to control it effectively most of the time. He is too impetuous and what we have seen thus far makes me think that he will not change….not really. If he gets a heavy penalty he might be more careful for the next race or two but there is that Devil-may-care attitude about him which will take over when he sees what he thinks is an opening before the more sensible part of his mind can control the urge. After a crash he probably would be telling himself that he will not make the same mistake again, but he invariably will…..many times.

            I have this feeling that MV will one day make his mark in F1 by smearing himself against a barrier.

        2. In recent years, we can think of Maldonado, Grosjean and Stroll having the same kind of labels attached to them. Potential but reckless.

          A lot of people wouldn’t look at Stroll that way (especially the potential part)

          1. Idd, stroll was always slow and usually doesn’t make many mistakes, so opposite of verstappen. Only thing they have in common is wet weather flair.

  3. While Horner is correct, that is a problem of Verstappen’s (and the team behind him that fought so aggressively for him to rise through the ranks) own making.

    1. Unless Jos Verstappen had some hidden dirt on Christian Horner and the Red Bull management, then Red Bull are equally accountable for the decision to put him in the team. Nobody forced them into anything.

      By all accounts, they seemed happy with his first year and a half at the team. His balls-to-the-wall approach is spectacular when it pays off, but this year it’s gone wrong so far. He’s been very poor so far and even his staunchest fan can’t deny that there have been too many mistakes, but I have no doubt that he’ll win a few races and this patch will be forgotten by most.

      1. I personally do not like his style. He reminds me of the fast but wrekcless Maldonado. Maldonado was not marketable with VER people really believe the Hype.

  4. But he was doing well until this year, he forgot during spring break?

    1. @johnmilk Last year he had four mechanical retirements ie. he missed four opportunities to crash…

      On a more serious note, you are right of course. Verstappen has always seemed to be accident-prone but that never really got in the way of greatness until this year. It is possible that he is feeling more pressure from Ricciardo (who is having a ‘purple period’, according to Horner) or there is just something we cannot see, something that distracts him or bursts the ‘happy bubble’ Hamilton once talked about.

    2. @johnmilk I think everyone now is starting to excuse much less since the “he’s young” excuse is no longer valid. He’s young in age terms but spent a lot of time in F1.

      1. @m-bagattini
        Even more so, some of the f-boys of Max are using his age now as an excuse for his recent string of ‘incidents’ (, if they even acknowledge them). But when he entered, being three years younger, they refuted the claims saying he’s too young, and even arguing he was the best driver on the grid, ever even.

  5. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    1st June 2018, 11:07

    So what you’re saying is that it’s not his fault he’s becoming erratic, it’s yours?

    Nah, he may be inexperienced but he’s not thick, don’t excuse him. He often drives like he’s the only one out on track and seems to place higher priority on beating his team-mate than getting a decent result. His overtaking flip-flops from being jaw-droppingly cool to ‘move or or I’ll crash into you’. The annoying thing with Verstappen is he’s clearly a great natural talent but if he doesn’t calm it down and ignore his own hype for a bit he’s not going to realise any of it.

    It’s weird that Red Bull, with all their ‘grown talent’ seem to be having trouble with helping Verstappen grow & learn – it must something he’s either going to sort himself or not at all. Has to be pointed out, Kvyat was booted for less. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

    1. No, that’s not what he is saying. And yes, Kvyat got the boot for less…talent.

      1. Yeah, versappen is a natural born killer…

        Of race weekends anyways…

    2. Kvyat didnt show potential in other areas on top of what we saw. There is more to a racer than what we see on track, like feedback to mechanics, being able to improve the car, being a benchmark for your team mate and so on.. Verstappens total package is, despite his recent glitch that needs to be addressed and will given his age, much better than Kvyats

  6. Ricciardo having a purple patch or has he lifted his game and now Verstappen is struggling to keep up? I think Verstappen was brought in to F1 to early. Sure he dazzled a few people at first with his barge or bust 11tenths style better suited to stock car racing, but it’s not the way to become a WDC.
    Red Bull have taken on the task of ‘training’ an up and coming driver and good on them. That should be done in GP3 and GP2 before stepping up to F1.
    I recently read an article about Niki Lauda having a laugh at Helmet Markos expense over Verstappen. About how someone from Red Bull seen Jos Verstappen going into the Merc complex at a race early last year and concluded that he was there to make a deal concerning his son. It turned out that Jos was paying a social visit to an old friend nothing more, Merc had and have no interest in young Verstappen. Red Bull panicked and now are stuck with a very very expensive learner driver.
    All the time Ricciardo has just been getting on with the task at hand, he has now confirmed himself as a genuine WDC prospect.
    Even if Riccardo stays at Red Bull he will continue to out perform Verstappen, in my opinion he’s just the more complete driver.

    1. Well said. History teaches us that speed alone is not enough to be a great driver. I recently watched Lauda talking about his final championship on Channel 4 and he was saying how in terms of raw pace he could never match Prost. So he started focusing on other areas like consistency etc in the race and in the end he did it by half a point. We also saw the same with Senna and Prost- where Senna had more outright speed but Prost was arguably the more complete driver. In 2011 Hamilton was faster than Button more often than not but he was beat. In the time that VERS and Ricciardo have been team mates RIC has finished ahead on points every season and looks likely to repeat that feat this season. Again- history teaches us all these things and IMO its sink or swim time for Max. If he gets beaten again next year by RIC (assuming RIC stays) then people will have to review Max’s standing in the pantheon of the top F1 drivers.

      1. Speed only was enough for Vettel. You just need to be lucky to be in the fastest car

  7. José Lopes da Silva
    1st June 2018, 23:56

    The big problem with Verstappen is that tenth of a second that he’s keeping with Ricciardo, 8 years his senior, since he arrived in F1. You can’t let that go away because someone well will grab him. Unlike Kvyat, which was nowhere near Ricciardo.

  8. He’s doing his learning in public Christian because stupidly you didn’t fund his “learning years” in F2 for a while before promoting him to F1 like you did with your other drivers so he could learn what to do and, more importantly what not to do, in a race and a championship fight.

    Max’s early bird promotion to the front of F1 could very well be something that ends up ruining his career like a child movie star gone wrong after too much fame, money, publicity and scrutiny too young with no freedom to grow.

    1. Well, the same as what happened to kvyat, while less talented overall, he was also promoted too soon.

  9. Horner knows MV is leaving Red Bull at the end of this season. Good news for ‘The Smiling Nose’. Next year he will be the quickest driver of Red Bull in every single weekend, by far!!!
    Good job Mercedes!!!!

    1. I heard VER will probably be driving for Force India next year.

      1. FUN

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