Only two drivers scored 100 points or more across the last six races of the 2018 F1 campaign. One was world champion Lewis Hamilton. The other? Max Verstappen. The Dutchman was in sensational form after the summer break and Hamilton plus championship runner-up Sebastian Vettel reckon he can be a title contender come next season, providing, that is, Red Bull-Honda deliver a good enough car…
At certain tracks this year, Red Bull had the best package, and they ended the campaign with four victories, their highest tally since the start of the V6 hybrid turbo era began in 2014. However, at the majority of races, the Renault-powered RB14 was no match for pacesetters Mercedes and Ferrari and therefore not a real threat for either title.
But next year heralds a new era, with Red Bull parting ways with Renault, the manufacturer with which they have enjoyed all their previous championship success but also a fair amount of pain, in favour of a works partnership with Honda.
The Japanese manufacturer made gains this year with Toro Rosso and with their full focus on the two Red Bull teams, they could provide the circumstances for Red Bull to thrive again. And Verstappen has already said things are looking promising for next year.
If Red Bull-Honda delivers, Hamilton and Vettel acknowledge he will be a danger. “Max has been driving very well throughout the year and has shown his consistency and has been up here many, many times with us,” said Hamilton.
“So if his team does the job and delivers a platform with which he can compete even closer with us, then of course he’ll be in the fight.”
Vettel added: “He’s got all the ingredients. I think there’s a couple of guys out there who have these qualities and Max is certainly one of them. Yeah, I think we’ve seen that.
“I also remember from my time, it’s important to have a competitive package throughout the season and Red Bull are certainly very, very strong and they put more performance to their car than any other team across the year, so obviously that allowed them to be very competitive, especially looking after tyres, etc.
“Max and Daniel (Ricciardo) have proven that they can be very, very quick and very consistent so I’m sure we will see more of him, he’ll be up here.”