As ABMS and F1 Insider learned: Mercedes is still chasing after the super talent from the Netherlands. What’s more, a so-called performance clause in Verstappen’s Red Bull Treaty, which actually runs until the end of 2021, could make the switch to the “Silver Arrows” possible by 2020. Valtteri Bottas has no contract for 2020.
It’s no secret that Toto Wolff has a very good relationship with the Verstappens, and he is not hiding it, that according to him the Dutchman is a pilot that every team boss must have his/her sights on.
Red Bull Motorsport chief advisor Helmut Marko (75) is aware of the danger. The Ph.D. holder from Graz, who made Verstappen an F1 pilot at the Red Bull junior team Toro Rosso at age 17 says to F1 Insider & ABMS: “Toto Wolff often calls Max and his father Jos. This is happening already for months. But I’m relaxed, the performance clause in Max’s contract should be safe, and he feels comfortable with us, and if we provide him WM-worthy material, I’m not worried that he will stay with us.”
Underlining his statements are the most recent tests in Bahrain. Marko: “The tests were very good and insightful, we’ve pinpointed the problems of the race weekend and can now take concrete action. Basically, our car needs more downforce.”
This should be achieved by the fifth race in Barcelona at the latest. After two races, Verstappen scored 27 points with his Red Bull Honda and currently is third behind the two Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas (44) and Lewis Hamilton (43). Red Bull-Honda also ranks third in the constructors’ championship behind Mercedes and Ferrari. The total rankings could play a decisive role in Verstappen’s contract due to the performance clause.
The reason is simple: Sebastian Vettel already had a similar contract when he drove at Red Bull in 2014. The German from Heppenheim had to occupy a place among the first three of the drivers’ championship by the end of September, it would have automatically extended his contract with Red Bull. As we all know, this was not the case, so he was able to make use of his exit clause and switch to Ferrari.
However, Verstappen’s exit clause is supposed to be harder. Apparently, Red Bull has learned from the past.And Mercedes doesn’t have only Verstappen as an option. A contract extension with Valtteri Bottas is also possible as well as a promotion of Junior Mercedes Driver Esteban Ocon.