Red Bull team principal Christian Horner hopes the team’s move to become a power unit manufacturer will play a part in the team retaining Max Verstappen.
Honda’s impending exit from Formula 1 at the end of this season had cast some doubt over Red Bull’s future in the sport, but a recent engine freeze from 2022-2024 – ahead of new regulations in 2025 – has allowed Red Bull to take over the technology and become its own manufacturer. Verstappen has performance-related clauses built into his contract, and Horner believes the show of commitment will increase the team’s chances of keeping the Dutchman if the team fails to meet them.
“Look, all drivers have safeguards within performance,” Horner said. “And the reality is that, as there has always been, there is an element of performance related to Max’s contract. I’m not going to go into what that is. It doesn’t relate to the power unit in any way. It’s just a binary performance at a certain measurement in time.
“As with all these things, though, to force a driver that doesn’t want to be there… it’s more about relationships than contracts, and you only pull a contract out of a drawer when you’ve got a problem, in my experience.
“I think the relationship with Max is very strong. He believes in the project, he believes in what we’re doing. He sees the investment that Red Bull is making. This recent commitment on the powertrain, he believes in the people within the team and working within the team. So I’m confident that we won’t need to refer to any contractual clauses.
“I think that it will ultimately be down to us to deliver a competitive car. That’s what he wants, that’s what we want. He needs that we need that. So in that respect, we’re both in an identical situation.”
With Lewis Hamilton only signing a one-year contract at Mercedes and his future uncertain beyond 2021, Verstappen would be a candidate to replace the seven-time world champion but Horner says it isn’t a certainty that Mercedes will be a more competitive proposition in 2022.
“I’m sure that should Lewis decide to stop then Max would naturally be the driver at the top of the list, but they also have George Russell; they’ve also got other drivers obviously available to them.
“Again, it’s all down to relationships and us performing a competitive car. There’s no guarantees for 2022. It’s a complete clean sheet of paper. So if there’s going to be a significant mix up of the order, one would assume it’s going to be with that big regulation change.”