Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has compared Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen, the two most successful Formula 1 drivers in his team. However, the British man did not want to commit himself to the best driver, but he did reveal a slight inclination towards one of his drivers.
The question of who is or was the best driver in Formula 1 has always been a source of endless discussion for experts and fans of the pinnacle of motorsport.
Even scaled down to the question of the best driver in Red Bull’s 18-year history, there is no easy decision between four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel and two-time champion Max Verstappen, who is preparing to take home his third title this year. At least that’s what team boss Christian Horner has let slip.
Vettel at Red Bull Racing
From 2009 to 2014, the German driver cemented his place in Formula 1 history as one of the sport’s most successful and dominant figures. During his time with the Red Bull Racing team, Vettel captured four consecutive World Championships, breaking numerous records
Vettel’s journey with Red Bull Racing began in 2009, when he joined the team as a young and promising talent. Partnered with experienced driver Mark Webber, he quickly showcased his skills and determination. In only his third race with the team, Vettel secured his second ever victory at the 2009 Chinese Grand Prix, the first being in 2008 for Red Bull junior team Toro Rosso at Monza. The win during that 2008 Italian Grand Prix meant that Vettel had become the youngest-ever race winner in Formula 1 history at the age of 21.
The Championship years
In 2010 that he truly announced his arrival as a force to be reckoned with. He engaged in a fierce battle for the championship with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton. In a nail-biting season finale in Abu Dhabi, Vettel emerged victorious, clinching his first World Championship title by just four points.
With the taste of success, Vettel’s hunger only grew stronger. In 2011, he embarked on a dominant campaign, capturing 11 wins out of 19 races and securing his second consecutive World Championship. This remarkable achievement made him the youngest-ever double World Champion, surpassing the previous record set by the legendary Ayrton Senna.
The years 2012 and 2013 proved to be equally remarkable for Vettel and Red Bull. Despite facing stiff competition from rival teams and drivers, Vettel showcased his exceptional driving skills, consistency, and strategic acumen. He secured a record-breaking nine consecutive race victories in 2013, equaling the record set by racing icon Michael Schumacher.
Vettel’s fourth consecutive World Championship title in 2013 elevated him to an elite group of drivers who had achieved such a feat, joining the likes of Juan Manuel Fangio and Schumacher.
Vettel’s final year with Red Bull in 2014 was challenging due to the team’s struggles with the new regulations. The German finished in 5th place, behind his then new team mate Daniel Ricciardo.
Enter Verstappen for Red Bull
Verstappen’s journey with Red Bull began under unique circumstances. At just 17 years old, he made his Formula 1 debut with Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s sister team. His remarkable debut at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix made him the youngest-ever Formula 1 driver.
In 2016, Verstappen was promoted to Red Bull Racing, replacing Daniil Kvyat. The move raised eyebrows and expectations, but Verstappen quickly proved his worth. In his very first race with the team at the Spanish Grand Prix, he seized the opportunity and clinched a historic victory, becoming the youngest-ever race winner in Formula 1 at the age of 18.
From that point on, Verstappen’s star continued to rise. His aggressive yet controlled driving style, combined with his natural speed and racing instincts, marked him as a genuine talent. He consistently challenged the established order of the sport, going wheel-to-wheel with the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
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Successes with Red Bull
Verstappen’s partnership with Red Bull Racing has yielded consistent success. While the team faced a period of relative competitiveness compared to their dominant years, Verstappen remained a constant force, consistently extracting the maximum performance from the car and achieving podium finishes.
In 2021, the tides began to turn in favor of Verstappen and Red Bull. With a highly competitive car at his disposal, Verstappen mounted a serious challenge to Mercedes’ dominance, engaging in a thrilling season-long battle with Lewis Hamilton for the World Championship of which the Dutchman clinched in the final race at Abu Dhabi.
Since then the Red Bull team, spearheaded by Verstappen, has dominated F1 to this day with the Dutchman almost certain to gain a third drivers title this year.
Red Bull boss compares the two multiple champions
“Well, they’re quite different, aren’t they?” said Horner in response to a question from Channel 4 on the sidelines of the recent Canadian Grand Prix.
Sebastian Vettel had worked “very, very hard” for his success. The German had been “a great driver”.
“It was a privilege to have him in the team,” Horner said of the now 35-year-old, who secured his four World Championship titles between 2010 and 2013 with Red Bull.
Unlike Vettel, who had to fight for a lot of things, Max Verstappen has “just this raw talent and natural ability”. The Dutchman, who currently leads Formula 1 almost uncatchably, is “still so hungry” and yet “so controlled”.
Horner: F1 is experiencing “something very special” with Verstappen
The 25-year-old, who was considered a hotshot in his early days, has made this impressive development in the meantime, he said. “He is driving with such maturity now that we are actually experiencing something very special,” Horner revealed as a Verstappen fan.
In the eight Grands Prix so far in 2023, a Red Bull driver has always finished at the top of the podium. It is quite possible that the dominant Austrian racing team will remain unbeaten this year. Horner, however, does not want to know anything about that for the time being.
“We always focus on one race, which is the next race,” said the Brit, who nonetheless let slip that Red Bull has high ambitions.
“I mean, we’ve won 27 per cent of all the races we’ve been in, that’s a great statistic and we want to keep building on it.”