Max Verstappen says his early years in Formula 1 taught him “a lot of patience” before Red Bull asserted its dominance in recent seasons.

Verstappen was poised to be F1’s youngest-ever world champion when he became a race winner at just 18 years old at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, but further success was put on hold in an era dominated by Mercedes.

While Mercedes were at the forefront of the 2017 regulation changes with Ferrari as the German manufacturer’s main challenger, Red Bull was in the midst of a sour relationship with then-engine supplier Renault.

Despite victories in that period, Red Bull found itself unable to fight consistently over a season due to poor reliability, leading to its decision to cut ties with the French manufacturer and partner Honda.

The partnership would eventually reap the rewards as Red Bull steered Verstappen to a maiden drivers’ title in 2021 before it pulled clear of the field in the current ground effect regulations.

Reflecting on Red Bull’s difficult period, Verstappen, who is favourite to claim a third consecutive world crown in 2023, said he never doubted the team could work its way back to the top in F1.

Asked if he had doubts about the Red Bull project, Verstappen said, as quoted by “Not doubts, but you have to be patient.

“I think I learned a lot of patience over the years, but I always believed in the project because of how I saw people working, and how motivated they were to really get back on top.

“You cannot force it and just say, you know, we were the third best team at some point and say we need to win now. It’s a process and then you get a few people in maybe different positions, you get a good group together.”

Verstappen recalled how he could feel that Red Bull was heading in the right direction once it made the switch from Renault to Honda engines in 2019.

“At some point, it just clicked from one to the other year, you really made a jump forward,” he added.

“Of course, afterwards it is easy to say: ‘Yeah, I saw it coming, blah, blah.’ You don’t know, but I did trust the process we were in, because I did feel that we were heading into something.

“We had a few years with engine deals falling apart and then it was just a bit of a struggle. Sometimes we had quite a decent package, but then lacked a bit of top speed. And that made it all very hard to really show the true potential.

“And then when Honda came along, again it was a bit of work in progress. But then after a year I think we already became very competitive, and it was just great to see.”