Max Verstappen “has been on another planet” with the performances that have made him a two-times Formula 1 world champion, his Red Bull team principal has said.
He won his first title in a controversial finale in Abu Dhabi last year. Following another unusual conclusion to a title fight, Horner said “a championship win is a championship win,” but added that for “this one, I think the blood pressure is way lower than in Abu Dhabi.”
“But it means just as much,” he continued. “For Max, becoming world champion last year, carrying that number one on the car, he’s driven with such conviction this year and he’s defended the title in such a dominant fashion. It’s been a joy to see him reach another level this year.”
Verstappen retired from two of the first three races due to technical problems, which allowed rival Charles Leclerc to build a substantial championship lead. But Verstappen swiftly overturned that and pulled ahead so quickly he was able to clinch the title with four races to spare.
“After a couple of difficult races early in the season, the way the team’s bounced back, the way he’s driven, he’s dominated this championship,” said Horner.
Verstappen won the 28-lap Japanese GP by 26.7 seconds on the road to main title rival Charles Leclerc. But the Ferrari driver was penalised five seconds and so Sergio Perez was promoted to second place to complete a Red Bull one-two.
“To put 25 seconds on Charles in 20-odd laps was a massive performance,” said Horner. “With Checo finishing second as well, fantastic for him and his championship. For the constructors it’s big points as well, so absolutely delighted with the outcome, and I think Max is a truly deserving champion.
“To do it with four races remaining is truly a remarkable performance. I think Max has been on another planet this year. He has dominated this championship, and driven with such maturity, such conviction. And I think that it’s of course far less controversial than the last race in Abu Dhabi, which was a titanic battle last year.”
Verstappen’s Suzuka win was his 12th of the season, leaving him one away from equalling the record for most victories in the single season. Horner sees little chance his driver will ease up over the final races, saying Verstappen is “in the form of his life” after clinching his second title.
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