Formula 1’s guarantee for excitement has three letters: MAX. After the phenomenal victory at the Austrian Grand Prix last Sunday, the Dutchman is the number one topic and on everyone’s mind.
So far, his sixth career victory at the Red Bull Ring in Austria has been the best. His mentor Helmut Marko (76) is full of praise:
“Max demonstrated at what level he drives. When I said in 2015 there’s a new Ayrton Senna in the making, some experts criticized me for this bold comparison. Now, no one disagrees anymore.”
Unfortunately, the hype surrounding Verstappen also has negative aspects for his Red Bull team. The young superstar is becoming more and more popular on the drivers market.
It’s speculated, that Mercedes is interested in signing on the Dutchman. The timing for that could fit.
Valtteri Bottas’s contract expires by the end of this year and so far, he has been trailing Lewis Hamilton by 31 points with two victories on his scorecard.
What feeds the speculations is that there is still no definite statement from Mercedes to continue working with the Finn beyond 2019.
On the other hand, Verstappen’s contract continues until 2020. But it contains an opt-out clause that could make a move to Mercedes possible. Helmut Marko:
“It’s performance-related, but I’m not worried at the moment.”
ABMS and F1 Insider learned: Verstappen will be able to get out of his current contract if he isn’t among the top three drivers until this year’s summer break which starts after the Hungarian GP on August 4th.
At the moment, the Dutchman is third with 126 points behind the two Mercedes drivers Hamilton and Bottas.
Honda Power & More Improvements
“Sunday’s victory was an important step. Max appreciates the potential of our team and Honda. In particular, Honda demonstrated in Spielberg what they are capable of,” Marko continued.
“It’s the first time they’ve used a new, more aggressive engine software this season. It has taken us a big step forward. And in Monza we will have a new engine upgrade.”
“We are also improving our chassis with each race and now I can say with confidence that if the others falter we are there.”
Red Bull latest updates on their chassis seem to work. These include new rearview mirrors with baffles, new flaps on the front wing and a new rear wing.
Pierre Gasly Under Pressure
The Austrians continued: “We’re also reorganizing our simulator program.”
Sebastian Buemi, in charge of this program, sometimes has schedule conflicts due to his other racing obligations. Nr 2. driver Jake Dennis can do the job, but after the removal of Dan Ticktum Red Bull is looking for a new addition to their simulator program (Red Bull fired Dan Ticktum two weeks ago).”
Also under pressure Verstappen’s teammate Pierre Gasly (23) who is 83 points behind with the same car. The difference in performance between the two Red Bull drivers was particularly striking in Austria. While Verstappen won, Gasly was only seventh. On top of that, he was overlapped by his own teammate.
“To an extent that can be explained. We had new front spoilers – a big step forward. But there was only one left for the race and Max got that one,” Marco explained.
“Nevertheless, Gasly has to improve. Especially when it comes to overtaking he loses a lot of time. He has time to deliver until the summer break, but I’m sure we’ll get him there.”
It’s clear, Frenchman is under observation and pressure to perform. He still has time to improve and to convince his team and his bosses – at least until the summer break.
*This article was first published in German at autobild.de/motorsport.