Cape Town - Red Bull's Max Verstappen is now ready to challenge Lewis Hamilton after making big strides in 2019, according to F1 managing director Ross Brawn.
Hamilton secured his sixth Drivers' Championship in dominant fashion this season, but Verstappen also put in his best campaign to date, scoring three wins, the most of any non-Mercedes driver, and earning another six podium finishes en route to P3 in the standings.
Both Verstappen and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc have been touted as the most likely challengers to Hamilton, and Brawn thinks the "clinical" edge Verstappen has now developed takes him a big step closer to the Briton.
"Could one ask for more from Max Verstappen? That would be hard, because, in his fifth year in Formula 1 he finished the championship in the top three for the first time and enjoyed an excellent season overall," Brawn wrote in his Abu Dhabi GP review.
"Max scored the first pole position of his career in Hungary (and then a second in Brazil) and took three wins during the season to take his career total to eight.
"Perhaps more significantly we saw fewer mistakes, which in the past have mainly been due to his impatient nature. Those episodes of hot-headedness have cost him dearly in previous seasons but this year rash moments were few and far between.
"The Red Bull youngster, who only turned 22 a couple of months ago, is now undoubtedly in the most clinical form of his career to date and is now ready to challenge Hamilton.
"Of course he needs a car capable of doing that, which was not the case in the early part of this season.
"However, the Red Bull-Honda partnership took a number of steps forward during the season and is now beginning to produce results that suggest they will be fighting for the championships in 2020."