Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has said Max Verstappen is the driver Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton ‘fears the most’ in 2019 and believes the 21-year-old is ready to deliver a competitive title challenge.
Hamilton claimed his fifth World Drivers’ Championship in October by finishing fourth in the Mexico Grand Prix, a race won by none other than Verstappen and finished the season 88 points ahead of the runner-up, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Verstappen started the last campaign in miserable fashion but ended it with a flourish and won two races in Austria and, of course, Mexico on the way to a fourth-place finish, just two points behind Kimi Raikkonen.
Mercedes’ star man will be hungry to move one step closer to matching Michael Schumacher’s seven-title record when the new season gets underway next month.
"He has all the skills to take on Lewis or Sebastian or whoever it is. I don't think he lacks anything to take those guys on and he's probably the driver they fear the most," Horner said, according to BBC Sport.
"Max has evolved so much. He is worldlier, more experienced. He is very quick and very determined and has his own character. He is now in a very rounded position. He has the absolute determination and no fear."
Coincidentally, his first win of the season in Austria involved Hamilton’s first race retirement since 2016 but the British veteran recovered and is now just two World Championship wins away from former Benetton and Ferrari driver Schumacher’s record set back in 2004.
However, Horner believes it’s only a matter of time before the 34-year-old’s ability begins to decline.
"Lewis is at a different stage of his career. He has all that experience, but he is 34 and at some point, it is only natural that the brightness of that talent will start to fade.
"Can he have that speed all the time? It's just human. In 10 years, it will be the same for Max."
The 2019 F1 car launches begin tomorrow with Haas in London as the season creeps ever-closer.