Christian Horner hails ‘untouchable’ Max Verstappen as best driver in the world

Christian Horner has hailed “untouchable” Max Verstappen as the best driver in the world after the Red Bull star overcame a chaotic rain-hit Dutch Grand Prix to equal Sebastian Vettel’s record of nine wins in a row.

Despite two separate downpours wreaking havoc at the beginning and conclusion of Sunday’s 72-lap race in Zandvoort, Verstappen delivered in front of 105,000 expectant fans to take the chequered flag ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, with Pierre Gasly completing the podium.

Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, slapped with a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit-lane, finished fourth while Lewis Hamilton – who bemoaned his Mercedes team’s poor strategy in the inclement conditions – came home in sixth place.

Verstappen, who has won 11 of the 13 rounds so far, will head to next weekend’s Italian Grand Prix in Monza 138 points clear in the drivers’ championship.

There remains an outside chance he could complete his hat-trick of titles at the Japanese Grand Prix on September 24 with half-a-dozen rounds still to run.

“Max is in a period of his career where he is just simply untouchable,” said Red Bull team principal Horner, who oversaw Vettel’s streak of nine straight wins a decade ago.

“I don’t think there is any driver on the grid that would be able to achieve what he is doing in that car.

“To win nine races in a row is insane, and it is something that none of us would have envisaged, and I never thought we would repeat it after we managed it with Sebastian. What we are witnessing is a driver that is generational.

Dutch Grand Prix results
Dutch Grand Prix result (PA graphic)

“Max has been in incredible form for the past three years, and the most impressive thing for me is all the pressure that he is under here.

“With the expectation of 100,000 Dutch fans, a lot would have cracked under that pressure, but he kept his composure and delivered, as he has done so many times.”

Come wind, rain or shine, 25-year-old Verstappen is the man for all occasions. On pole, he found himself down in 13th place after seven drivers – including team-mate Perez – took advantage of a sudden first-lap downpour to move on to wet tyres.

But by lap 13, Verstappen – who at one stage was lapping his home track four seconds faster than Perez and two seconds quicker than anybody else – was back in the lead.

His record-equalling feat was placed in doubt when the rain returned with vengeance with a dozen laps to go, and Zhou Guanyu crashed out, and the race was stopped.

A 43-minute delay and six-lap dash to the chequered flag followed, but Verstappen denied Alonso any hope of taking his first win in a decade with an assured drive. He finished 3.7 sec clear of the Spaniard.

As Verstappen ensured Red Bull’s unbeaten run remained, Hamilton’s afternoon was scuppered by Mercedes’ dithering following the first-lap downpour.

Hamilton was not called in for wet tyres until the end of lap three with team-mate George Russell following in on the next lap. When the dust settled, Hamilton and Russell, who started third, were 16th and 18th respectively.

From there it was a damage-limitation exercise for both men, with Hamilton driving well to take sixth place.

Russell might have finished seventh but for a late duel with countryman Lando Norris leaving him with race-ending harm to his Mercedes. Norris crossed the line in seventh place.