Toro Rosso boss, Franz Tost, believes Max Verstappen was a factor in Daniel Ricciardo’s decision to leave Red Bull for Renault.
Ricciardo cited the need for a fresh challenge as one of his main motives to make shock switch to Renault and he is certainly being tested in a team that is massively underperforming so far this season.
Red Bull had always insisted there was parity between Verstappen and Ricciardo, but the Dutchman has always been the team’s chosen one.
Rather than the political element, though, Tost thinks Ricciardo left because the Aussie thought he would struggle to beat Verstappen for pace.
“Max is currently one of the fastest drivers,” Tost said via Motorsport.com.
“I think one reason why Ricciardo left was certainly Max. Because he thought to himself: ‘I won’t beat him so easily anymore’.
Tost went on to praise Verstappen’s refined approach and believes his overtaking moves have become much cleaner and more decisive.
“He realised that he doesn’t always have to go through the wall with his head,” Tost added.
“Now he’s reached a level where he’ll compete for victories and the world championship if everything comes together.
“He also showed super overtaking manoeuvres where you didn’t get the impression that it was on a knife’s edge.
“He really has this maturity now that makes it possible for a driver to compete for a world championship.”
Happy to be on the podium 💪 After a hectic start, our race pace was good and we were competitive. Thanks @redbullracing and @HondaRacingF1, and also all fans for voting me Driver of the Day 🙌 #KeepPushing 🇪🇸 #SpanishGP pic.twitter.com/hz52iz6Im5
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) May 12, 2019
Tost is not the only one to praise Verstappen, with Red Bull boss Christian Horner singling out the Dutchman’s consistency as another key attribute.
“Really in the last 12 months since Monaco last year he selected another gear and his performance has been phenomenal and he’s extracted every ounce of performance out of the car,” Horner also said to Motorsport.com.
“He races so strongly. It was a really intelligent first couple of corners and obviously a very brave pass on Sebastian around the outside of Turn 3.
“I think he’s really showing his maturity and composure and his consistency in the car. He was trading a tenth every lap [in the Spanish GP] and that’s been remarkable.”
Verstappen leapfrogged Sebastian Vettel in the World Championship standings following his podium finish in Spain and is now the nearest challenger to the two Mercedes drivers.