Horner sings Verstappen's praises


"He's up there with the very best," insists Christian Horner, as Max Verstappen joins an elite club whose members include names like Brabham, Senna, Lauda and Stewart.

As ever, you can rely on the British tabloid, The Sun, to ask the awkward questions. Just moments after securing the necessary points to claim his third successive title, Max Verstappen was asked for his "immediate feelings", the journo in question pointing out that in 2021 was the "waiting and finding out whether Mercedes were appealing" and last year, when "we had rumblings of cost cap and all that nonsense".

"How does it feel just to win this one straight out and in this moment right now?" he finally asked.

"It has nothing to do with that to be honest," replied Verstappen, "because I think it's more about when you look at the performance of the years, because in '21, people always talk about the last race, but I think a championship is won over the whole season, right? The same in '22.

"So yeah, a little hiccup in Japan that takes a few more minutes to find out if your champion or not. For me, those kind of things, they don't really matter. I think I analyse my performances race after race and not only the race; how I handled leading up to run plays and stuff, or what I did off the track. And the same this year and that's why I think this year is performance-wise, definitely the best one. The first one has been the most emotional one. The middle one... is now the middle one."

Verstappen's boss, clearly not a Sun reader, was in no doubt.

"It was a massive race," he said of the Sprint. "The three safety cars killed our strategy a bit," he admitted, "but congratulations to Oscar on his first sprint race win."

Turning his attention to his champion, he said: "I think from Miami, that was such a massive turning point for Max, that and then the run of domination, ten victories in a row, it's been the most outstanding, unbelievable season.

"To see him now join names in the history of the sport like Jack Brabham, like Niki Lauda, like Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet, Sir Jackie Stewart, there are some massive names, and Max Verstappen now joins that list of very illustrious drivers that now form an exclusive club and part of the history of the sport.

"I think with his age and what he's done and the period that he's been involved, he's up there with the very, very best," added the Briton. "He is achieving some phenomenal and exceptional results and as a team we are really proud of him.

"As a driver, Max has continued to evolve, he's continued to grow. And the level that he's now operating at, in the way he's able to read races, the way he's able to manage tyres. The mental strength that he has in the high-pressure moments, is absolutely outstanding.

"He doesn't leave anything on the table, he wants it all. That drives and motivates the team internally. He is relentless in his pursuit of performance, and he doesn't just want to win, he wants to dominate. I think you see that in any great sportsman, their pursuit of excellence and pursuit of not just wanting to beat but totally dominate their opposition is again a hallmark of what makes him such an exceptional talent."

"Unbelievable!" added Helmut Marko. "I've known Max for about ten years now, and it's always a surprise. It keeps going on and on.

"We will have a small party at the hotel," the Austrian revealed, "but only for short time, because we want to win the race tomorrow."

As ever however, Marko wasn't entirely happy with how the day went.

"The safety car unfortunately ruined our strategy, otherwise we could have gone for a win, but we're World Champions and that's what matters."

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Published: 08/10/2023
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