Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes Max Verstappen has “really come of age” during the 2019 Formula 1 season.

Verstappen sits third in the championship standings at the half-way stage of the 2019 campaign, trailing leader Lewis Hamilton by 69 points and second-placed man Valtteri Bottas by just seven points.

The Dutchman has been one of the standout performers so far this season and has taken two wins in the last four races. He narrowly missed out on victory last time out at the Hungarian Grand Prix as Mercedes pulled off a masterstroke strategy that saw Hamilton overtake Verstappen late on.

“I think he has driven with great maturity,” Horner said in Hungary.

“Even at the end of the race, to lose the race with four laps to go is hugely frustrating, but I think he gets the bigger picture.

“He knew the situation we were in and understands how the race is being read because to the layman it may seem that Red Bull got their strategy wrong - we didn’t.

“Mercedes just had the quicker car and the ability of a free pit stop opened up to them. He had the maturity immediately to understand what that situation was and I think he has really come of age this year.”

Verstappen has turned around a crash-strewn start to the 2018 season and is currently enjoying a purple streak of 21 races finishing inside the top five, including three victories.

“I think, not just in the last races but during the course of the whole of this season, indeed pretty much since Montreal last year, he’s been driving incredibly well at a very high standard,” Horner added.

“It’s certainly started to come together over the last few races. The win in Austria was a watershed moment, we were competitive at Silverstone, and obviously the race [in Germany] was a phenomenal performance by him, to keep his head, to have the pace in all varying conditions, and come out on top and win the grand prix.

“He’s in great form and hopefully we can continue that form into the summer break and out of the other side as well. He’s certainly delivering at an extremely high level.”

Alexander Albon has been promoted to Red Bull alongside Verstappen for the remaining nine rounds of the season, replacing Pierre Gasly, who has returned to Toro Rosso to see out the rest of 2019 after a difficult campaign so far.

Asked how difficult it is for any teammate to go up against Verstappen in his current form, Horner replied: “I think very tough. If you go up against Verstappen at the moment, for me arguably he is the most in-form driver on the grid.

“That’s an enormous barometer for any driver to go up and be measured against. As a competitor you always want to measure yourself against the best that you can.”

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