Verstappen to see out Red Bull contract despite off-track turmoil

Published March 22, 2024
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen speaks to the media ahead of the Australian Grand Prix on March 21. — Reuters
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen speaks to the media ahead of the Australian Grand Prix on March 21. — Reuters

MELBOURNE: Three-time world champion Max Verstappen said on Thursday he intends to see out his contract with Red Bull, insisting he was happy despite weeks of off-track turbulence.

The Dutchman is signed until 2028 but suggested at the last race in Saudi Arabia he would consider leaving if Red Bull parted company with long-time mentor Helmut Marko in a power struggle threatening to envelop the team.

It followed his father Jos claiming earlier this month that Red Bull faced being “torn apart” if te­a­m boss Christian Horner remained in his position.

Horner was accused of inappropriate conduct involving a woman colleague but he was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing ahead of the season-opener in Bahrain.

Asked at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne if he would honour his contract, Verstappen replied: “Of course, that is why I signed the contract in the first place.

“For sure, with the deal in place, that is my intention, to be here until the end.

“It would be a great story for me to see it out till the end because it would mean I’ve been part of one family and one team.

“I always felt comfortable (in Red Bull) because for me it is like a second family, it’s good.”

The 26-year-old’s career has been overseen by Marko, 80, and Verstappen reiterated that it was important to keep in place a team that has enjoyed so much success.

“I feel we all want the same, we all want to perform on the track, that’s what we want to focus on as a team,” he said.

“In general, when you have a successful team, when you have a good group of central people, it is important to keep them together and happy and in the same roles.”

His veiled threat to leave Red Bull piqued the interest of Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, who needs a replacement next season when Lewis Hamilton departs for Ferrari.

“It’s always nice to hear that,” said Verstappen, who added that he did not know what would happen after 2028.

“I don’t know after 2028 what happens, if I am going to continue, sign a new deal, I don’t know.” Verstappen dominated the first two grands prix of the season in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Should he finish first in Australia, he will equal his own record of winning 10 races in a row.

Team-mate Sergio Perez, who finished runner-up in the opening two races, said he hoped Verstappen remained, with the team in “a very strong position”.

“To achieve that it takes a lot of years,” he said. “Everyone in the team is working well together now, the whole engineering team is united. So I don’t see any reason to change it and it will obviously be a blow if Max were to leave.”

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2024

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