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Horner: Red Bull doesn't want Verstappen to be "PR robot" in F1

Red Bull Formula 1 team boss Christian Horner says he doesn't want Max Verstappen to be a PR "robot" as he reflects on the Dutchman's outspokenness in 2023.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Verstappen became more outspoken this year at various points, launching an eloquent monologue at the recent Las Vegas Grand Prix which he felt steered F1 too far towards entertainment and away from the sporting element.

The triple world champion's appraisal of Vegas and his lack of enthusiasm over street circuits in general was well received by a lot of F1 fans, even if F1 itself was less amused by criticism of its new event.

But according to his team principal Horner, Verstappen's blunt honesty is something to be appreciated as he doesn't want his drivers to be "robots".

"We believe in our drivers having a freedom of choice," Horner told Autosport. "They're not robots, they have opinions. And Max has a voice as the world champion, and we don't constrain him to give a PR view.

"He's a very honest, young guy and he'll tell you how he sees it. And I think that's actually quite refreshing."

Horner doesn't believe Verstappen, who debuted at the age of 17 and won his first race at 18, has otherwise changed much over the years.

"I think he's changing because he's maturing a little bit, he's got a bit more facial hair these days," Horner joked. "But no, the essence of who he is [is the same]. He gets in, he drives the car, drives the wheels off it.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, in the post Qualifying Press Conference

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, in the post Qualifying Press Conference

"He doesn't enjoy all the razzmatazz that surrounds Formula 1, but he never has. He does his job professionally. He's just an out-and-out racer and [has his] feet on the ground. And if he's not racing here, he'll be driving a GT car or racing online. He lives and breathes it."

But Horner does suggest the benefit of experience has given Verstappen, who won 19 out of 2023's 22 grands prix, more patience and an "outstanding" control over how races play out, shedding off the more reckless image of his teenage years when he was more prone to first-lap accidents.

"If you look at the control that he has in races, the way he's reading races, the tyre management that he has: outstanding," he added.

"And he's just using the experience that he's gleaned [from] both racing this year, last year, 2021.

"In many respects, first corners, he's been absolutely more reserved than in the earlier days of his career. His timing has been [excellent]. The way he's played out races, he's not rushed to get it all done in the first couple of laps, he's built his way through a race."

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