Christian Horner: ‘Max Verstappen’s achievements don’t get the recognition they deserve’

Sam Cooper
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and Max Verstappen before the Hungarian GP. Hungaroring July 2022.

Red Bull's Christian Horner and Max Verstappen talk on the grid before the Hungarian Grand Prix. Hungaroring July 2022.

Christian Horner believes his driver Max Verstappen deserves more credit after the Dutchman became a two-time World Champion.

The Red Bull driver set a new record following his win at the Mexican Grand Prix as he became the first driver in F1 history to rack up 14 victories in a single season.

It is not the first record Verstappen has broken. He remains the youngest driver ever to have started a race, the youngest to win one and has also broken the record for the number of points garnered in a single campaign.

All the while he faces the unfounded criticism that his titles and achievements are somehow tainted as the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, of which he did nothing wrong, and the breach of the cost cap by Red Bull, of which he also did nothing wrong, are used against him.

Verstappen has seemingly grown tired of this rather subjective portrayal of the facts, refusing to speak to Sky Sports after one of their reporters twice said he had “robbed” Hamilton, and his team boss Horner has backed him up, saying he does not get the recognition that he deserves.

“They are two very different, but incredibly successful drivers,” Horner said when comparing Verstappen to Red Bull’s previous champion, Sebastian Vettel, as reported by RacingNews365.

“What Sebastian has achieved places him among the greatest and most successful drivers in the sport. But what we see today with Max is incredibly special and sometimes I really think his achievements don’t get the recognition they do deserve.

“We had the years of Mercedes dominance, but now we saw perhaps the most impressive campaign from one individual.

“He won the most races and on top of that, two sprint races and by no means all of them from pole position. He had to race and fight for it and looking back on the year, you can only conclude that it was an excellent season.”

Horner said the fact that Red Bull had two drivers in the top three of wins in a single season – Vettel achieved 13 in 2013 – brings him great pride.

“What we have seen this year is a downright outstanding performance from a driver who is performing at the top of his game,” Horner said.

“That we delivered two of the three front-runners in that list is something we can be very proud of.

“There are a lot of people working for us who did the same work for Sebastian before. We are a racing team and that is embedded in our DNA. We are racers, pushing boundaries and in that we take an aggressive approach. We follow our passion and that means going out on the track and just doing our stinking best there.”

Toxic world of social media takes aim at Formula 1 and Max Verstappen

Social media, and society in general, has become increasingly polarised in recent years and nowhere is that more true than in the world of Formula 1.

Search the name Max Verstappen on the social media platform of your choice and you will be met by responses praising him while in equal measure there will be posts denouncing him.

#CostCappen are some of the low-effort names used by fans of rival teams to diminish Verstappen’s achievements and it is not just the Dutchman who is the target of this abuse.

When Nicholas Latifi crashed in Abu Dhabi last year and inadvertently had a major role in the title race, he received death threats. Former race director Michael Masi received similar.

Following a baseless theory that she she in some way affected the result of the Dutch Grand Prix, Red Bull’s head of strategy Hannah Schmitz became the target of online abuse.

It is not just on social media this toxic environment has crept into F1 either.

When Lewis Hamilton crashed in Austria, he was booed. When Verstappen spoke at Silverstone, he was booed. The same happened to Hamilton in Mexico.

A fan, dressed in Red Bull attire, decided to burn Hamilton merchandise at the Austrian Grand Prix, an act which was denounced by Verstappen.

All of these examples have come within the past year and represent the polarising nature of F1 fandom which has made off-track discussion a battleground of fans on one side or the other.

It has made the sport an uglier place with fans shooting themselves in the foot as their favourite drivers are no longer interested in spending more time on social media.

Verstappen has called for an end to it, Hamilton has too so perhaps it is time the fans took note.