Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has accepted that Max Verstappen will be Mercedes’ go-to option if Lewis Hamilton quits the sport at the end of 2021.
Hamilton is currently contracted at Mercedes till 2021. The British driver only extended his deal at Mercedes for a year, which has given rise to speculation that he may not be in the sport for long.
Should that indeed be the wish of Hamilton, Horner believes that Mercedes will look to make Verstappen its new poster boy.
“I am sure that should Lewis decide to stop, then Max will naturally be the driver at the top of the list,” Horner told The Sun.
“Mercedes also have George Russell and other drivers available to them.
“It is all down to relationships and us having a competitive car and there are no guarantees for 2022.
“It is a complete clean sheet of paper so if there is going to be a significant mix-up of the order, one would assume it will come with that big regulation change.
“The reality is, that yes of course, as there has always been, there is an element of performance-related clauses to Max’s contract.
“It is a binary performance at a certain measurement in time.
“As with all these things, it is not about forcing a driver that doesn’t want to be there.”
While Horner said he will not stand in the way of Verstappen, he doesn’t think the Dutchman will be tempted enough to make the switch.
It seems likely that Red Bull will have a bright future in the sport given the fact that the team is looking at developing its own engine in the future. Horner believes Verstappen is excited about this project.
“The relationship with Max is very strong, he believes in the project, in what we are doing, he sees the investment that Red Bull is making.
“He believes in the people within the team and that work within the team, so I am confident that we won’t need to refer to any contractual clauses.
“It will be down to us to deliver a competitive car. That is what he wants and that is what we want, so we are in an identical situation.”