MONTREAL (Reuters) - Max Verstappen checked out of the Red Bull dog house on Sunday, with a polished error-free weekend that ended with a third place finish at the Canadian Grand Prix.
The young Dutchman arrived in Montreal at the center of a storm of criticism following a series of costly errors but finished the week — which began with a threat to head-butt anyone who asked him about his crashes — in a shower of champagne.
That criticism peaked at the Monaco Grand Prix two weeks ago when the 20-year-old crashed during final practice and started the race from the back of the grid, prompting team boss Christian Horner to issue a yellow card to his prodigy warning him to stop making mistakes.
Verstappen appeared to have got the message, delivering one of his best start-to-finish performances of the season as he dominated practice, put down a strong qualifying effort and drove a smart race.
Horner was full of praise for Verstappen, who showed a continued willingness to go wheel-to-wheel with his fellow drivers but did not push things too far.
“You don’t want to defuse that, it’s part of what makes him so exciting,” Horner told reporters. “He had a very clean weekend this weekend and I’m sure it will give him a bunch of confidence heading into the next batch of races.
“His approach here has been slightly different he’s been here on his own and I think he has done a super job this weekend.
“He is such an exciting talent and in any sport you see sportsmen have periods where things don’t go quite as well for them as others and that has been very public for him.”
Horner said the team had discussed the idea of Verstappen making the trip to Canada alone but provided no other details other than to say it was something between the driver and the team.
Verstappen’s father Jos, a former Formula One driver, is at his usually side on the Grand Prix circuit but he was not spotted in Montreal.
“I think it is the first race he has ever done on his own,” said Horner. “It’s something different but whether that contributed in anyway that is impossible to say.
“He’s still evolving and maturing as a driver and as he gains more experience.
“He’s been very immersed in everything the team has been doing this weekend and he has done a super job and all credit for him.”
Editing by Ed Osmond