Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has hailed Max Verstappen's development over the past year, pinpointing last year's Canadian Grand Prix as the turning point for the Dutchman. Verstappen began last year with a run of on-track errors, which came to a head in Monaco.
Making contact with barriers or another car cost Verstappen points in five of the first six races of 2018, with potential victories going the way of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in Shanghai and Monte Carlo.
However, he secured podiums in the following races in Canada and France before taking Red Bull's first win at their eponymous home track in Austria, ending the season with another victory in Mexico and a dominant performance in Brazil in which he would have won but for an incident with Esteban Ocon.
"Max selected another gear since last year's Canadian Grand Prix," Horner said in an interview with Red Bull's fuel partner ExxonMobil.
"The way he drove from that point onwards has been hugely impressive. He had a run that came to end in Bahrain of six straight podiums.
"He also scored the second highest amount of points behind Lewis Hamilton in the second half of last season and he's carried that form through the winter to the start of this year.
"We want to give him the tools that he can take the fight to the Ferraris and Mercedes."
Verstappen's performances have put those of new team-mate Pierre Gasly into harsh context – the Frenchman having picked up just 13 points, compared to 51 from the Dutchman.
"Australia was challenging but he drove a good race in Bahrain and then had another solid race in China. Clinching the fastest lap, and the bonus point that came with it, was a real positive for him.
"Whilst Pierre was unable to finish the race in Baku, setting fastest lap in Q1 and racing from the pit lane to sixth on Sunday, before retiring due to a mechanical issue, was his strongest race weekend to date and he will take confidence from it moving forwards."
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