Red Bull chief insists ‘pressure is off’ Max Verstappen in Lewis Hamilton battle

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Team principal Christian Horner says Red Bull will be ‘operating out of their skins’ to beat Mercedes this season, but insists there’s no pressure on Max Verstappen to get the job done.

Verstappen has a huge challenge on his hands this season if he is to become the 2021 world champion, and that’s not a simple task, as he’s going up against a seven-time world champion in a championship-winning Mercedes.

Lewis Hamilton threw down the first gauntlet in Bahrain, despite Red Bull dominating the weekend for pace alone in the opening round of the season, but it was Verstappen who stood on the top step at the rain-affected Emilia Romagna GP – partly due to Hamilton spending the second half of the race carving his way through the field after hitting the barriers.

However this will be the first time in Verstappen’s career he’s actually fought for an F1 title, with the package at Red Bull proving strong against the might of the Mercedes.

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But it won’t be an easy feat, as Hamilton could become the most decorated driver in Formula 1 history, if he wins the title this season – and with the future unknown in F1 thanks to the 2022 regulation changes, he’ll be keen to get it done this season.

When asked on Sky Sports F1 by Nico Rosberg, a man who beat Hamilton to the title in 2016, if he’s discussed with Verstappen about taking a more cautious approach this season, Horner replied: “Yeah, we’ve obviously discussed it’s about [it being] a marathon, not a sprint.

“Obviously trying to optimise each weekend, and each session, and get as much as we can out of the car.

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“And look, as you well know, Mercedes are a formidable team. they’re the seven-time reigning champions, and we’re going to have to be operating out of our skins to be able to take this fight to them.

“But I think in Max, the confidence we have in the team and the great job that Honda have done, we’ve got the tools hopefully to do that.”

Verstappen goes into the third round at Portugal just a single point behind Hamilton in the driver’s standings, with 22 races still to go in the season.

And when asked if Verstappen has the momentum to keep up the challenge the entire season and put pressure on Hamilton and the Mercedes team, the Red Bull chief seemed confident.

“He hasn’t got that pressure on his shoulders,” he explained. “He’s not the defending champion, he’s driving without that pressure and everything is an opportunity for him.

“I think that youthful exuberance as well, you see that in his driving.”

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