Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says he would not swap star driver Max Verstappen for five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, and has backed the Dutchman to make a splash in the title race this year after a strong end to 2018.
Verstappen is in his third full season with Red Bull, having won five grands prix since debuting with the senior team in 2016.
In that time, Hamilton has added two more world titles to his collection, with only record-holder Michael Schumacher ahead of him.
However, with Red Bull hoping a switch to Honda power units can propel them back into regular contention this year, Horner is confident Verstappen can be a match for the reigning champion.
"Max is the future," Horner told the Daily Mail. "He is 21 years of age and he is evolving.
"Both he and Lewis are phenomenal drivers. Lewis is one of the best of all time. Max has won grands prix but is yet to compete for a championship.
"However in terms of all-round ability, race craft and speed, Max is capable of going shoulder to shoulder with Lewis.
"Max was top scorer behind Hamilton in the second half of last season, so that shows how well he was driving. Max was criticised in some quarters when he showed emotion after the race with Ocon. At least there was passion. People relate to that kind of emotion.
"That is why he has such a big following. We don't want vanilla characters. Lewis is a Marmite kind of guy. That is good.
"It goes to the heart of what Formula 1 must look to be post-2020, when the new regulations come in. The drivers must be the stars of the show. They must get out of the cars exhausted. Technology plays too big a role at this moment in time."
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