Never mind confusing Lewis Hamilton’s contract talks, Christian Horner says George Russell’s Sakhir showing confirmed that Max Verstappen is better than Lewis Hamilton.
Russell had a one-off outing in a Mercedes F1 car last season, replacing Hamilton at the Sakhir Grand Prix after the reigning champion tested positive for the coronavirus.
Russell, swapping his back-of-the-grid Williams for the front-running W11, qualified P2, 0.026s behind Valtteri Bottas, and was leading the grand prix by 10 seconds before pit blunders and tyre punctures robbed him of the win.
He could, however, get another chance to sign at Mercedes this season with reports claiming his one-off star showing has a thrown a spanner in Hamilton’s contract negotiations.
That, though, is little more than speculation.
What is fact, at least according to Red Bull team boss Horner, is that Russell’s performance showed that Verstappen is the “best” driver on the grid.
Speaking about his Dutch star, he told RacingNews365: “I think he is the best, and George Russell’s performance at Mercedes confirmed that for me.”
That is because Horner feels Russell’s near miss proved that Hamilton’s success – six World titles with Mercedes – shows that it is the package that is exceptional.
“Max and Lewis stand out for me,” he continued, “but, while we should definitely not be blind to what Hamilton has achieved, he does have a good package at his disposal.
“That while Max has to get more out of his car.”
He added: “At Mercedes, a Williams driver can qualify himself directly on the front row and Russell almost won the race. However, if at Red Bull someone has to get into Verstappen’s car, for example if Max had corona, then nobody will reach his level.”
Applauding Verstappen’s growth as a race driver, Horner added that “his racing craft is excellent, as is his tyre management.
“Max has become better at ‘reading’ the race, giving feedback to the team, but also, for example, in dealing with disappointment. He has matured very much in those areas.”
And there is more to come.
Asked if Verstappen had reached his ‘ceiling’, he replied: “No, I don’t think so.
“The others have a hard time compared to Max’s performance. If you look at his performance in Abu Dhabi: his pole was phenomenal and then he controlled the race in a very mature way from start to finish.”
Verstappen finished third in the 2020 championship as once again Red Bull proved unable to challenge Mercedes for the titles.