Red Bull boss Christian Horner has said he wants Max Verstappen to stay on a long-term basis so that the team can be built around him.
Both Verstappen and team-mate Daniel Ricciardo have been linked with moves further up the Formula 1 ladder at either Mercedes or Ferrari.
But Horner feels Verstappen will be overshadowed by the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel who are firmly in the long-term picture with their respective teams.
“I think he can see the strength and depth of the team,” Horner told Autosport.
“He feels comfortable in the team. He’s the youngest grand prix winner, he’s the youngest double winner, he’s the youngest points scorer.
“And Lewis is pretty set at Mercedes, Seb has signed for three years at Ferrari.
“The obvious thing is to build a team around you.
“But it’s down to us to provide him with a competitive car.”
Horner also reckons that Verstappen should be closer to third in the World Drivers’ Championship after a plethora of race retirements have left him down in sixth spot.
“The experiences that he’s gone through only broaden his shoulders, and it makes you appreciate the good days like Malaysia even more when you’ve had tough days like a couple of weeks earlier in Singapore, or at his home race at Spa,” he added.
“There were so many races this year when he was in a fantastic position to achieve big results.
“He’s had four mechanical issues, all engine problems.
“If you look at the points lost, he should be sitting a pretty close third in the championship at the moment.”
But Horner has praised Verstappen for the way he has conducted himself throughout a difficult season.
“Credit to him that at such a young age he hasn’t let frustration boil over, he’s kept his head down, he’s kept plugging away,” he said.
“I always said, when it comes right for him, it’s going to come right in a big way.
“And that’s exactly what happened in Malaysia. He drove a great race there, with no issues.
“It’s quite astounding that he’s only just turned 20.
“Just look at the following he has in F1 now. He’s one of the most, if not the most, popular driver in F1.
“He’s growing in all areas. He has so little experience in car racing per se that every weekend he’s learning and getting stronger.
“There’s no shortcut to experience. He’s now close to completing his third grand prix season, and the level he’s performing at is phenomenal.
“What’s exciting is what the future holds for him.”