Christian Horner surprised by Red Bull and Max Verstappen’s ‘unbelievable start’

After five races of the new season Verstappen is well in the mix at the top of the standings

<p>Max Verstappen is battling to defend his world title </p>

Max Verstappen is battling to defend his world title

Christian Horner has admitted he did not expect Red Bull to be as competitive as they have been in the wake of Max Verstappen's maiden world title.

Red Bull threw all their energy and resources into last year's RB16B car in an effort to help Verstappen overcome Lewis Hamilton, which of course he did in dramatic circumstances in the final race in Abu Dhabi, leaving them behind the curve when it came to the new regulations.

After five races of the new season Verstappen is well in the mix at the top of the standings once more, 19 points behind early pace-setter Charles Leclerc of Ferrari. Red Bull have struggled with reliability in their new RB18 car, but Verstappen has won every race he has finished so far.

"Having put so much effort into last year's car, to come on to these new regulations, we elected to take that risk because we had an opportunity to win last year and you've got to go for it," Horner told CNN.

"That put huge pressure on the team coming into the second half of last year that we had to play catch up. Personally, I didn't expect us to start the year as competitively as we have.”

Ferrari have emerged as credible challengers and Leclerc has claimed two victories already this season, with Horner expecting that battle to go on all year long.

“Look, there is a long, long way to go and it is so tight with Ferrari. There has been some great racing,” he said. “You can see there is a great respect between Charles and Max, they are enjoying racing each other, you can see that.

“I was rather hoping we weren’t set for another competitive year like last year but it looks like this one could well go all the way as well.”

While both teams have shown their relative strengths on different circuits, Horner noted that Miami was better-suited for Red Bull’s own car, whereas the next outing - the Spanish Grand Prix - may play more into their rivals’ hands.

That only makes it more important to pick up points and podium spots when the track is in each team’s favour, which Verstappen managed in Miami.

“It has been nip-and-tuck and Barcelona is a different challenge, high-speed corners. We know Ferrari is strong in that area. It is horses for courses and [the last race] suited us. We were able to make it work and thankfully got the result.”

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