In motorsport, being the quickest driver is definitely not enough to secure a championship. Winning one requires the combination of certain factors, among them, a competitive car. It is admitted that the best drivers attract the most competitive cars. So when considering the constructors' pecking order, Mercedes, then Ferrari and Red Bull have been the most likely to put their drivers in the position to fight for wins and championships during the last decade.
However in the hybrid era, Mercedes has been the undivided dominating force, having won seven consecutive double - drivers and constructors - championships since 2014. Their seats are therefore, the most coveted ones on the grid.
Coming to the driver's factor, Max Verstappen is considered by many, as the most promising talent of the sport, and a future F1 world champion. Early January 2020, the young Dutchman signed a 4-years deal with Red Bull. The said contract was reportedly written with an exit clause, which would be activated by Honda leaving the sport. The contract was also rumors to be worded with a performance clause which Helmut Marko vigorously denied the existence of, back in October 2020.
When Max Verstappen got questioned about the terms of a possible termination of his contract with Red Bull, the 23-years old was adamant he would drive for his current team until the expiration of his contract. He have asserted that there was a reason why contracts are signed, and that reason is to honor them till their full term.
But, Helmut Marko made an unexpected U-turn, as he recently admitted the clause he was keen to deny a couple of months back. According to him, that clause is indeed a performance one that would allow his Dutch prodige to secure a seat in another team, theoretically, one that is more competitive than the one he is currently driving for.
“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," Marko said to F1-insider.
The man from Graz reminded how the will to win keeps driving the Milton Keynes' crew, and seems confident they can achieve this goal with their Hasselt-native star.
" That's our goal and I believe in it, not only because of Max, but because it's in our DNA that we want to win."
"We are on track and I think we can fulfill the clause ."
When asked about the driver’s market, with both Mercedes’ drivers out of contract by the end of 2021, Ex-Formula 1 driver Robert Doornbos ruled out Verstappen going to Ferrari, while acknowledging the attractiveness of a potential offer from the Brackley team.
“Everything depends on this year. Mercedes knows that and so does Red Bull. Max is not going to Ferrari, but Mercedes would obviously be an attractive option. Red Bull, together with Honda, must pull out all the stops to make sure Verstappen wants to fulfill his contract.”
In the end, the drivers' market will be a wild saga coming summer, as not less than ten out of twenty of them are out of contract for the next season - including those of the world champions stable. For the Dutchman, a 2021 campaign with Red Bull gives him his best shots to target the two vacants seats to fill at Mercedes, whether he feels the need to do so. After all, with the upcoming massive regulations change in 2022, it would be tricky to predict which team will interpret best, the new F1 rulebook.