Horner: Verstappen doesn't need mind games in title battle with Hamilton

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says Max Verstappen will do "his talking on the track" in his title battle with Lewis Hamilton this year and believes the 23-year-old is more than capable of soaking up pressure from his rival.

After four rounds of the 2021 championship, Hamilton leads Verstappen by 14 points at the top of the drivers' standings in what looks likely to become a two-horse race for the title.

Mistakes have been a key feature of the opening four rounds, with Verstappen giving away points and positions in Bahrain and Portugal due to minor errors, while Hamilton was lucky not to lose more points after hitting the barriers at Imola.

Ahead of last weekend's Spanish Grand Prix, Hamilton highlighted Verstappen's errors, saying Mercedes couldn't "continue to rely on mistakes from others", but Horner said such comments have no impact on his driver.

"Max will do his talking on the track," Horner told ESPN.

"Lewis has demonstrated he's capable of, excuse my French, dropping a b------ occasionally.

"He's capable of making a significant mistake as we saw in Imola, and he just got very lucky that he wasn't a lap down and didn't pay a bigger price for it.

"Look, they can all make mistakes and we're at the non-pressured stage of the championship at the moment. As we get to the business end it will count for more.

"When five races are left and if there is still the points difference that there is now, that's when the pressure mounts up, not at this stage."

Although he is an 11-time race winner, Verstappen has never been in a title battle during his six years in Formula One, while Hamilton is already a seven-time world champion.

Asked if Verstappen was at a disadvantage compared to Hamilton due to his lack of experience, Horner said: "I think he's got that youthful bravado; he's got nothing to lose.

"Every big pressure point in his career I've seen him deal with previously, he's stepped up to the plate tremendously well.

"I've got no doubt he'll be able to deal with it should the opportunity come."

Ahead of each race this year, Mercedes has been keen to label itself as the hunters rather than the hunted in the title battle, but Horner said he was already tired of questions about who is the favourite ahead of each round.

"[Those statements] don't have any impact on the team at all," he said. "Lewis is a multiple world champion and Mercedes are the reigning seven-time world champions.

"I think far too much has been made of who the favourite is. Go to the bookies if you want to see who the favourite is."