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Red Bull boss Christian Horner says Max Verstappen is already among Formula One’s all-time greats

By Amanda Davies and Thomas Schlachter, CNN

(CNN) — When it comes to Formula One, the sky is the limit for Max Verstappen.

The Dutchman became a three-time world champion on Saturday, clinching the title after finishing second in the sprint race in Doha at the Qatar Grand Prix following his teammate Sergio Pérez’s race-ending crash – the Mexican was only other driver who could challenge Verstappen to the championship.

And Red Bull boss Christian Horner believes his driver, despite being only 26, is already among the very best in the history of the discipline.

“It’s so difficult to judge different generations and different drivers that of course have not worked directly with you,” Horner told CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix, before saying that Verstappen is in “the same bracket as some of the greatest the sport has ever seen.”

“I think that obviously includes Lewis [Hamilton], it includes Michael [Schumacher], it includes [Ayrton] Senna, it includes all the other greats,” Horner explained. “I think you can now talk about him in the same sentence as those kind of icons of the sport.”

It is not just Horner who believes Verstappen is one of the greats to grace the pitlane. Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso, who is a two-time world champion, said Verstappen looks set to be in a league of his own in the coming years.

“I think the next few years will be even better for Max, to be honest. He will keep adding championships so we will compare to Michael [Schumacher] even closer in the future,” Alonso told reporters, per Reuters.

Verstappen’s historic year

Red Bull has won 15 out of the 16 races this F1 season. Verstappen alone has won 13 of these races with teammate Pérez seeing the checkered flag first on two occasions.

“He’s just had a stupendous year this year, he has been in sensational form, I think he’s taken it to another level,” Horner said of Verstappen’s remarkable season.

“There are not enough adjectives to describe what he has achieved this year. It has been absolutely phenomenal,” Horner continued.

“Since the very first round, we have produced a great car, the team has hit a new level as well and to have won all but one race this season is a record that we could never have dreamt about.”

Horner believes that this Red Bull season will go down in history and be remembered alongside iconic years in motorsport such as McLaren’s 1988 campaign. McLaren won 15 out of the 16 races that season.

‘They are all cup finals’

While Red Bull has already won the 2023 World Constructors’ Championship and Verstappen has the drivers’ title wrapped up, Horner insists there is still more to be done as the season nears a conclusion.

“As far as we’re concerned, they [the remaining races] are all cup finals, we are just going to go and attack every race in exactly the same manner that we have from the very first race in Bahrain,” said Horner.

With five races after Qatar, the Red Bull boss made it clear he wants his team to end their historic season as strongly as possible, particularly with Pérez’s ongoing battle for second in the Drivers’ Championship.

“Not lose our focus, not lose our attention to detail that we have had this year and really try and round out what has been a momentous season for us, an historic season for us in arguably our most successful season ever in Formula 1,” said Horner.

“We want to sign it off in the most successful way that we possibly can,” Horner said of the season’s conclusion.

“That second position for Checo [Pérez] is something very, very valuable to us, something we have never achieved before, having drivers first and second in the Drivers’ World Championship. That would be a new landmark for us if we could achieve that this year.”

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