Red Bull hoping Honda power will reduce gap to Mercedes, Ferrari

Renault

Max Verstappen is the driver five-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel will fear the most this season, said the Dutchman's Red Bull team boss Christian Horner.

Ahead of the launch of Red Bull's new vehicle on February 13, and the start of pre-season testing in Spain on February 18, the team still does not know where it stacks up against its main opposition.

"He's just more worldly, more experienced, he's just in a better place to be able to deal with the pressures that are placed on him", added Horner. He is now in a very rounded position.

"I think it's a very different scenario".

"His maturity has increased, we saw that during the course of previous year", said Horner, though, other than the unnecessary clash with his teammate in Baku, many still question his actions in Brazil, not least the subsequent altercation with Esteban Ocon. "It's just human. In 10 years, it will be the same for Max".

He said Verstappen had learned from his mistakes and that the 'community service' charge he served for starting an altercation with Force India's Esteban Ocon following their crash in Brazil a year ago had opened his eyes.

He did one day by accompanying the stewards at a Formula E race in Morocco last month.

His maturity was on display during the second half of the 2018 season, when he was the second highest point scorer on the grid, only behind Lewis Hamilton.

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He added: "He came back and went, "Crikey, these guys have got hard decisions to make".

"Progress is our target", Horner said, as quoted by BBC Sport.

He said Honda had "had a strong winter" and were "making good progress" but "it will all depend on what the others have done".

One of the main areas that Honda will need to improve in 2019 is its reliability, with Red Bull eager to avoid a repeat of the spate of engine penalties that sister team Toro Rosso endured last season.

"I don't think he lacks anything that they have".

"Obviously it's a huge challenge to do 21 races on three engines".

Ricciardo spent five seasons with Red Bull but made the move to join Renault where many feel he is taking a step down.

"Charles is a really exciting talent".

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