Horner opens up on Red Bull's 'barren spell' amid Mercedes dominance
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Max Verstappen is now a different beast after changing his mentality over 2022, Lewis Hamilton has been warned as he looks to dethrone the back-to-back champion this year. Ex-F1 star Jolyon Palmer noted how Verstappen enjoyed a “turnaround” last year after Ferrari dominated the early part of the season.
Charles Leclerc picked up two wins from the first three races after Red Bull suffered mechanical woes. Verstappen even admitted that a title bid looked off the cards after slumping more than 40 points behind the Monegasque.
However, he quickly turned things around to go on one of the sport’s most dominant runs. The Dutchman picked up a record-breaking 15 race wins to secure his second world title as early as October. And Hamilton has been warned Verstappen is a completely different driver to the one he battled for the title in 2021.
Palmer told F1 Nation: “In terms of the change from last year, he’s always been rapid. [In 2021], he made very few mistakes and was in a tight fight. [In 2022], he’s just relentless. I think the change that I see – it’s harder to put the analytics on it – but more just the mentality of Max.
“I think we saw it at the start of the year. He turned up and Red Bull didn’t have the best car. They broke down twice in the first three races. Leclerc was looking like the complete package. I think we all probably thought, around Imola time, ‘Ferrari are going to walk away with this’. [It looked like there would be] that much dominance for Ferrari this year that they’re going to wrap it up early.
“And then the turnaround from [Verstappen] to stay calm through all of that, to put in the year that he’s done with wins from anywhere on the grid, taking on so many different challenges through those dominant race victories as well, and doing everything just quite calmly.” In comparison, Hamilton struggled at the Silver Arrows who lacked pace to Red Bull all season.
The Briton dropped to P6 in the Drivers’ Championship, his lowest-ever result at the end of a campaign.
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He also dropped behind new team-mate George Russell in the standings and failed to win a Grand Prix over the course of a season for the first time. However, Red Bull admit Mercedes are their main rival in 2023 after the German marque began to challenge over the final few races.
Red Bull chief Helmut Marko admitted: “I would say that we should fear Mercedes more. Mainly because they have an advantage over Ferrari in terms of strategy and reliability.”
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