It is obvious to anyone that watches F1 that Max Verstappen is the undoubted number 1 driver at Red Bull, the most golden of golden boys you might say. It has been long rumoured though that his contract at Red Bull has had a ‘get out free clause’. This weekend, it has finally been confirmed.
Written By Ian Bruce, Edited by Umut Yelbaşı
Helmet Marko himself has stated, “Yes, there is a performance clause. I don’t want to go into details, but it more or less says that Max can compete for race wins and the world championship on his own merits. If he can do that, his contract is extended. If not, he would be free.”
Max’s contract is set to expire at the end of the 2023 season, but this performance clause can allow him to leave at the end of 2021 if his expectations of Red Bull are not met. The murmurs of Max leaving Red Bull and being snapped up by Mercedes should he, or the team, choose not to renew his contract after the 2021 season, have become much louder.
Red Bull have been one of the main competitors against Mercedes over the last few years, being the only team that could get within half a second of them on a dry day. They have invested a vast sum in chasing them and reportedly favouring Max so much that the car is built mainly for him – these investments haven’t come to fruition yet. With very minor changes in regulations between 2020 and 2021 and the fact that the Red Bull was much closer to Mercedes by the end of the last season, 2021 may be Max’s best chance to win the crown he has long wanted.
If they fail to finally overcome Mercedes, then he is free to cancel his contract and move on. Personally, I can’t see this happening unless Hamilton either retires or moves on himself. There is no chance Mercedes would even consider a Verstappen/Hamilton pairing after the fiasco of the Rosberg days. Plus it appears Russell is already destined for a Mercedes seat even if Hamilton doesn’t retire.
If Max fails to win this year, it will be down to the machinery he is given more than anything. We saw a very mature man last year, his racecraft is much improved over his early years. Red Bull are even trying Mercedes at their own game, by giving the second seat to an experienced driver in Sergio Perez, ensuring that Max has one of the better drivers on the grid as his wingman.
It is obvious that Red Bull are worried that Max will leave at the end of this season, so they are going to throw what they can at delivering that title. With the new budget cap though, it will be difficult to fix any problems they have with the car during the season. We might see a very early start to ‘silly season’ this year, should Red Bull fail to stay close to the Silver Arrows. Verstappen and Russell in a Mercedes next year anyone?