Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has had his hands full in attempting to limit Lewis Hamilton's Formula 1 success in recent years. However,
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has had his hands full in attempting to limit Lewis Hamilton’s Formula 1 success in recent years. However, he already has his eyes set on who will pose the biggest threat to Max Verstappen’s title hopes once the Mercedes superstar steps away from the sport.
Verstappen, 24, is only recently past the genesis of his own career having won a maiden world title in 2021, painting a bigger target on his back for the season ahead.
Red Bull will enter an F1 campaign with the reigning world champion for the first time in eight years, but few things are ever permanent in one of the world’s fastest sports.
It’s still unknown as to whether Hamilton will indeed return to fight for a record-breaking eighth F1 crown in 2022.
Mercedes and their poster boy await the results of an inquest into last month’s season-defining Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, whereby Verstappen won by the most controversial means.
Whether Hamilton, 37, retires now or when his contract expires at the end of 2023, however, Horner is already braced for a new dynasty of driving talent.
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“Well, I think Formula 1 is in great shape at the moment because there’s so many exciting young drivers,” the Red Bull boss told World Is One News.
“Max, of course, is only 24, but he’s got a whole generation around him, like Charles Leclerc, George Russell in the Mercedes this year, you have Lando Norris that looks exciting, [there’s] Carlos Sainz.
“So you’ve got many drivers that are of a similar age that are going to be there for the next 10 years or so.
“I think that’s great for the sport, it’s great for the competition and it’s going to be exciting to see how it pans out.”
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Russell’s move from Williams to Mercedes has been met by plenty of anticipation, with many interested to see how Valtteri Bottas’ successor performs in a superior car.
The 23-year-old came 15th overall last season but impressed en route to a ninth-placed finish at the Sakhir Grand Prix in 2020 when he was a temporary stand-in for Mercedes.
There are those who have suggested the Silver Arrows would have been better off signing McLaren’s Lando Norris, however.
Norris, 22, is almost two years younger than Russell and finished a career-best sixth in the drivers’ standings last year, outperforming team-mate Daniel Ricciardo for much of 2021.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc has also shown shades of brilliance during his early career, although he’s struggled to live up to the standards of a remarkable run to fourth place in 2019.
Verstappen only sealed his first F1 title in the final seconds of the 2021 season, but the truth is he looked the superior performer for much of the campaign.
Nevertheless, Horner—who became Red Bull team principal in 2005—encouraged the seven-time champion to come back: “I certainly hope Lewis will be around this year.
“He’s still driving at an incredible level, the two drivers last year were in a league of their own.
“But ultimately, it’s his choice, it’s his career, it’s his decision, so I’m sure he will decide what’s best for him, what he wants to do, and that’s none of our business.”