Red Bull boss aims thinly-veiled dig at Lewis Hamilton when hailing Max Verstappen

Hamilton takes stunning win after crash with Max Verstappen

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Red Bull boss Christian Horner has lauded F1 Championship leader Max Verstappen – and taken a swipe at Lewis Hamilton in the process. In what has been an enthralling title race thus far, Verstappen leads the Mercedes driver by just six points in the standings with as many races to go.

At 24, the Dutchman is still seeking his first world title while Hamilton, 12 years his senior, is chasing what would be a record-breaking eighth crown.

And in an interview with Channel 4, Horner, who as Team Principal signed the star to Red Bull in 2016, has praised his dedication.

“He has got great self-confidence and he is just a racer. That’s all he wants to do. You won’t find him at a-lister parties. If he’s not in a race car, he’s in a simulator. That’s the generation that he is,” said Horner.

“He’s single minded like all top athletes have to be, but he is also a strong team player and has a huge sense of loyalty. That’s what makes him so popular in the team because everyone knows he’ll give 110%.”

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While the comments reflect favourably on Verstappen, they also appear a clear dig at Hamilton, who is no stranger to the spotlight outside F1.

He has made voiceover appearances in Cars 2 and Cars 3, boasts his own clothing line, has much-publicised music interests, and regularly attends the ‘A-lister’ events Horner refers to. Only last month, he was at the prestigious Met Gala in New York, where he hosted a table of emerging black designers in the fashion industry.

Furthermore, despite F1 teams investing millions in simulation technologies, the British driver has previously admitted it’s not a concept he’s keen to embrace.

“I hardly ever drive on the simulator,” he once told Martin Brundle, of Sky Sports. “I maybe do 20 laps a year, maybe. I have no interest in the simulator.”

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Even Horner’s description of Verstappen as a “strong team player” can be viewed as taunting Hamilton, with the reigning world champion having had disagreements with his team in each of the last races.

In Turkey, he was furious when with eight laps to go the team ordered him into the pits against his will, with Hamilton adamant he would be able to finish the race on the same tyres with which he started.

He subsequently dropped from third place to fifth, which proved his final finishing position, and afterwards Mercedes chief Toto Wolff was forced to defend his mechanics for their perceived caution.

Two weeks beforehand in Russia, Hamilton had again been unhappy about being called into the pits late on in the race as rain started to fall, but the decision was vindicated as he duly overtook McLaren’s Lando Norris to notch his 100th career win.

In 2016, Verstappen won the Spanish Grand Prix to become the youngest ever F1 race winner at the age of 18 years and 228 days, and Horner also praised the speed of which he has matured.

“Max is at a stage of his career where you see that with his experience of more than 100 races in F1 he is gaining that maturity and has been very rounded this year.

At 23 (now 24) it’s nuts to have 100 races. When he joined us he was 17, now he is matured and we’ve seen a huge evolution in that time. That pure speed and aggression is still there with makes him so exciting. Now, he can balance that with the experience he has.”

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