2021 will be Verstappen’s sixth season at the Milton Keynes-based team but is yet to get a car that has been good enough to challenge Mercedes for the championship over the course of a full season. Despite that, the 23-year-old has won ten races, one more than Valtteri Bottas.
After Helmut Marko told F1-insider recently that Max Verstappen has a performance clause in his contract that means he could exit Red Bull Racing, Christian Horner confirmed it today.
Nonetheless, the British team principal is that they can retain the Dutchman for the foreseeable future and ''he believes in the project'' following the announcement of the agreement between Red Bull and Honda earlier on Monday.
"All drivers have safeguards within performance," Horner told select media. "The reality is that there is an element of performance-related to Max's contract. I'm not going to go into what that is. It doesn't relate to the power unit in anyway, it's just a binary performance measurement."
"You can't force a driver that doesn't want to be there," Horner added. "It's more about relationships than contracts. You only pull a contract out of a drawer when you've got a problem. I think the relationship with Max is very strong.
"He believes in the project, he believes in what we're doing. He sees the investment that Red Bull are making and he believes in the people within the team and working within the team. I'm confident that we won't need to refer to any contractual clauses. I think that it will ultimately be down to us to deliver a competitive car, that's what he wants, that's what we want."
Lewis Hamilton’s new contract was confirmed last week as he penned a new one-year deal with Mercedes. However only a one-year deal is likely to mean lots of rumours about who could get a Mercedes seat in 2022 will swirl.
Horner believes that Verstappen would be Mercedes’ number one choice if Hamilton steps away at the end of the 2021 campaign, but pointed to the fact that next year will be a new start for everyone with the new regulations coming into play.
"I'm sure if Lewis decides to stop, then Max would naturally be the driver at the top of Mercedes' list," Horner admits. "But they also have access to George Russell and other drivers.
"It's all about relationships and us forming a competitive car. There's no guarantees for 2022, it's a complete clean sheet of paper."
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