Christian Horner thinks Max Verstappen is in “good shape” for the start of this season as he chases a third successive Austrian GP win.

Red Bull showed good form during pre-season testing, second quickest behind Mercedes.

The team’s pace coupled with an ever-more reliable Honda engine has many pundits predicting that Red Bull will be Mercedes’ main challenger in this year’s championship.

Facing a shortened 2020 championship, at present has only eight races have been confirmed, every grand prix counts for more with drivers paying a huge price for mistakes.

The season begins with a double header at the Red Bull Ring, which is not only Red Bull’s home circuit but also a venue where Verstappen has won the last two years running.

Horner is hoping he adds a third, maybe even a fourth, this year.

“Both Alex [Albon] and Max are raring to get going but for the latter it is a chance for him to achieve his third straight win in Austria,” said the team boss.

“Max took two brilliant wins in 2018 and 2019 and is looking in good shape for the start of this season.

“He has been working hard on his endurance training and is possibly in even better condition than he was when we first went into the lockdown.

“Max lives for racing and is capable of beating anyone to the title, providing we give him the tools to do it.”

Horner, though, acknowledges that it is Mercedes who go into the new season as the favourites.

Not only is the Brackley squad seeking a seventh straight Constructors’ Championship title but Lewis Hamilton is also chasing a seventh World title.

Horner added: “Let’s not forget, Mercedes go in to this season as the clear favourites, they are six-time World Champions.

“But,” he said, “we feel as though we are in a very good place and go into the season with the mindset to challenge what has become the status quo.”

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