Red Bull chief Helmut Marko has pulled no punches and told Max Verstappen he has all the tools to challenge Lewis Hamilton for the world title this year. The Dutchman finished third in the standings last year, behind both of the Mercedes.
Hamilton is hoping to extend the Silver Arrows’ dominance by equaling Michael Schumacher’s record seven Drivers’ Championships in 2020.
But Verstappen is out to become the youngest F1 champion of all time and he has been warned by his boss.
“We have no more excuses for 2020,” Marko said. “The engine and Max are ready.
“For the first time, we were on the test bench 14 days earlier than usual.
“So we are entering the new season early with a great concept.”
Meanwhile, Verstappen is confident he can deliver the goods for Red Bull if the car is on par with Hamilton’s.
“Yes. It is very car-dependent, of course,” Verstappen said.
“Lewis is very good. He is definitely one of the best out there but he is not God. Maybe God is with him, but he is not God.
“When you can put the pressure on, of course it is a lot harder for the guy in the lead.
“If you never really have pressure, you can drive at 97-98 per cent and you never make mistakes, or maybe one weekend out of 21-22.
“Even if we start within 0.2secs, you can really mount the pressure and I would like to start straight away there because then it is really on.
“I know that when everything is put together, as a team, under pressure situations like in Brazil for example – but also other difficult situations like in Germany [where Verstappen won in wet conditions while Hamilton and Mercedes made a series of errors] – you can see that the team is really excelling compared to the others.
“I am looking forward to when we get that fight and we are really close; I am pretty sure we can do better.”
Meanwhile, former Red Bull reserve driver Robert Doornbos has compared the 21-year-old to Barcelona star Lionel Messi.
“I think if they continue like this in 2020, Red Bull will be hard to beat. Verstappen, too, is also up to the task,” he told Gassan magazine.
“Max is the Messi of motorsport. Only once in a decade does a talent like him come along.
“Someone who can achieve so much at such a young age is unique. If you think something is impossible, Max does it anyway. He has proven that he can rise above the level of his equipment.
“But if the power is not there compared to Ferrari or Mercedes, it will be difficult.”