Verstappen now a “very polished diamond” after third F1 title win – Horner

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Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said Max Verstappen is now a “very polished diamond” after winning his third world championship.

Verstappen sealed the title in Saturday’s sprint race at Losail International Circuit. The 26-year-old is the 11th driver in the sport’s history to win the championship three times.

It has been a dominant campaign for Verstappen, who tied Michael Schumacher’s record from 2002 of clinching the title with six grands prix left in a season.

Red Bull faced some criticism for promoting Verstappen to F1 at the age of 17, despite his apparent potential. However Horner said his potential was immediately obvious.

“He’s always had the speed from the moment he sat in the car and I think that he now couples that with experience,” Horner, whose team also took Sebastian Vettel to four world titles, told media including RaceFans.

“He arrived in Formula 1 as quite a rough diamond, he’s now a very polished diamond and I think that he’s maintained all those raw attributes that he had but now brings experience.”

After Horner spoke, Verstappen scored his 14th grand prix victory of the season in Qatar. Although he and his team have taken their usual cautious approach when asked previously about their chances of winning, Horner admitted the outcome has been a foregone conclusion for a long time.

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“I think we’ve known it was coming from about the fourth or fifth race,” he said. “It’s been the most outstanding, unbelievable season.”

However, it is still beyond anything Red Bull could ever have dreamed of as the team has won all but one grand prix in 2023 so far.

“It’s exceeded all our expectations,” said Horner. “Max as a driver has just continued to evolve. The level that he’s now operating at, the way he’s able to read races, manage tyres, the mental strength that he has in the high pressure moments, it’s absolutely outstanding.”

And it is now at a point where Horner believes some of Verstappen’s skills are at a level that’s never been reached in F1 before.

“His ability to adapt and the confidence he has in himself you see it time and time again,” said Horner.

“Whether it’s on an out-lap or an in-lap, whether it’s the first lap of the grand prix, whether it’s changing conditions, his ability to adapt and be at one with the car is beyond anything we’ve ever seen before.”

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Horner believes his driver is still hungry for more success. “He doesn’t leave anything on the table, he wants it all. He is relentless in his pursuit of performance and he doesn’t want to just win, he wants to dominate.

“I think you see that in any great sportsman, their pursuit of not just wanting to beat but to totally dominate the opposition.

“With his age, with what he’s done and achieved in the period that he’s been involved, he’s up there with the very, very best and he’s achieving some phenomenally exceptional results.”

Despite such a dominant season, Horner expects Red Bull’s closest rivals to make things much tougher for his team and Verstappen in 2024.

“You can see the opposition will get closer,” he said. “With stable regulations, the concepts are converging and we expect a much closer fight next year than we’ve had this year.

“We are going to enjoy this moment and celebrate. It’s not often you get days like today.”

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Author information

Ed Hardy
In 2019, Ed started working on Formula 1 writing articles during race weekends. Alongside that, he also built up experience in football working on...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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7 comments on “Verstappen now a “very polished diamond” after third F1 title win – Horner”

  1. Its a fine achievement and I am sure he will go on to win many more titles, but to really see a driver’s worth is seeing how they cope under pressure. 2021 will forever be a tremendous year of F1 with Max saying he could not have put up with that level of intense pressure for long – so that is what we need to see again. A ding-dong battle to the last race to really see how this talent performs again…with many expletives and frustration along the way. Lets hope for a RedBull/Mercedes/McLaren three-way fight in 24. Maybe Ferrari too, but we live in hope.

    1. Easy to not cope with almost death one would have to assume.

      1. Yeah, thanks to the halo or Hamilton’s neck would have been broken.

        1. A pity then ..
          (N mode)

      2. Not this nonsense again.

      3. Yes Silverstone was certain death is past years cars.
        Unbelievable someone only got a small penalty for such an attack on his life.

    2. I agree that it must be much easier to stay calm and patient when you know that your pace advantage will inevitably help you past your opponentin a few laps. If you’ll only get one chance, you’ll be much more likely to make an ill-judged move.

      However, if you use 2021 as yardstick to judge a pilot, then I think you are downplaying how exceptional that year really was. In terms of intensity and room for errors (i.e. the lack thereof), we have probably never seen anything like it. Maybe 2006 comes close, but that was a season of two halves.

      If the greatness of a driver can only be judged after multiple 2021 seasons, than no driver can be seen as great.

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