Red Bull boss Christian Horner says Max Verstappen “selected another gear” across the past 12 months, following on from his nadir in Monaco in 2018.
Verstappen endured a troublesome opening spell in 2018 amid a sequence of incidents and setbacks, culminating in a practice crash in Monaco in a weekend in which Red Bull held comfortably the fastest package.
It limited Verstappen to a low-key ninth in the race but he has since bounced back to emerge as a strong contender.
Since Canada last year he has scored 280 points, compared to 284 for Valtteri Bottas and 288 for Sebastian Vettel – albeit with Lewis Hamilton some way in front on 410.
Verstappen has not finished outside of the top five since last season’s summer break, during which spell he has taken eight podium finishes and one win.
“I think really [he’s stepped up] in the last 12 months since Monaco last year, he selected another gear,” said Horner.
“His performance has been phenomenal and he has extracted every ounce of performance out of the car. He races so strongly.
“In Spain it was a really intelligent first couple of corners and then a very brave pass on Sebastian [Vettel] around the outside of Turn 3.
“I think he’s really showing his maturity and composure in the car. He was trading a tenth on every lap [in Spain] and that’s been remarkable.”
Verstappen has twice finished on the podium this season during the early stages of the Red Bull-Honda relationship, and Horner says the partnership can be pleased with initial results.
“I think Honda are making good progress, reliability compared to previous years has been fantastic and performance is strong, but of course the others don’t stand still either,” said Horner.
“Ferrari introduced another engine, Renault introduced another upgrade, Mercedes no doubt around Montreal will introduce another engine.
“Of course your opponents don’t stand still but we are very happy with the progress that’s being made.”