Horner: Verstappen Mercedes' first choice if Hamilton quits

Red Bull believes Max Verstappen would be “at the top of the list” for Mercedes if Lewis Hamilton quits after 2021, confirming the Dutchman’s Formula 1 contract includes a performance clause.

Horner: Verstappen Mercedes' first choice if Hamilton quits

Mercedes announced last week that seven-time world champion Hamilton had signed a new one-year contract to remain at the team for 2021, leading to speculation about his future beyond the end of the season.

Should Hamilton decide to step away from F1 at the end of the year, it has been suggested that Verstappen could be an option for Mercedes to replace the Briton.

Although Verstappen’s Red Bull contract runs to the end of the 2023 season, it has been common in the past for drivers to have performance-related clauses in their contract. One example came in 2014 when Sebastian Vettel triggered an exit clause at Red Bull to join Ferrari for 2015.

Red Bull has previously hinted that Verstappen’s contract may include such a clause, but it was confirmed by team principal Christian Horner on Monday during a select media roundtable.

“All drivers have safeguards within performance, and the reality is that as there has always been,” Horner said.

“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 any way, it’s just a binary performance at a certain measurement in time.

“As with all these things, though, to force a driver that doesn’t want to be there, it’s more about relationships than contracts. You only pull a contract out of a drawer when you’ve got a problem, in my experience.

“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 is making, very much with the recent commitment on the powertrain, he believes in the people within the team, 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. He needs that, we need that.

“So in that respect, we’re both in an identical situation.”

Read Also:

Asked if he was at all worried that Mercedes could make an approach for Verstappen if Hamilton were to leave, Horner said it was logical he would be at the top of its shortlist.

“I'm sure that should Lewis decide to stop then Max would have naturally be the driver at the top of the list,” Horner said.

“But they also have George Russell. They’ve also got other drivers obviously available to them. And I think again, as I say, it's all down to relationships and us forming a competitive car.

“There’s no guarantees for 2022. It's a complete clean sheet of paper. If there’s going to be a significant mix up of the order, one would assume it's going to be with that big regulation change.”

Verstappen signed a new long-term agreement with Red Bull at the start of 2020, committing to the squad for the following four seasons.

After becoming the youngest race winner in F1 history on debut for Red Bull in 2016, Verstappen has scored a further nine wins for the squad, and finished third in the drivers’ championship for each of the past two seasons.

Mercedes has yet to confirm any of its driver plans beyond 2021. Both Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas are out of contract at the end of the season, while junior driver George Russell will also be a free agent once his Williams deal expires.

shares
comments

Related video

McLaren explains lack of Mercedes branding

Previous article

McLaren explains lack of Mercedes branding

Next article

The core faults Ferrari must fix in 2021

The core faults Ferrari must fix in 2021
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Author Luke Smith
How Brabham’s one-hit wonder was boxed into a corner Prime

How Brabham’s one-hit wonder was boxed into a corner

The Brabham BT46B raced once, won once, then vanished – or did it? STUART CODLING reveals the story of the car which was never actually banned…

Formula 1
May 11, 2021
The changes Barcelona needs to provide a modern-day F1 spectacle Prime

The changes Barcelona needs to provide a modern-day F1 spectacle

Formula 1’s visits to Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya over recent years have been met with familiar criticisms despite tweaks here and there to the track to improve racing. With the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix largely going the same way, proper solutions need to be followed to achieve F1’s wider targets

Formula 1
May 10, 2021
Spanish Grand Prix Driver Ratings Prime

Spanish Grand Prix Driver Ratings

Often described as Formula 1's laboratory, the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona gave the clearest demonstration yet of the pecking order in 2021. And it's the key discrepancies from that order which illuminate who is excelling, and who needs to hit the reset button.

Formula 1
May 10, 2021
How Red Bull's deja vu set Hamilton on the winning path in Spain Prime

How Red Bull's deja vu set Hamilton on the winning path in Spain

An aggressive first corner move from Max Verstappen appeared to have set the Red Bull driver on course for victory in the Spanish Grand Prix. But canny strategy from Mercedes - combined with the absence of Red Bull's number two from the lead group - allowed Lewis Hamilton to pull off a demoralising reversal

Formula 1
May 10, 2021
The Barcelona practice times that prove Red Bull has hidden pace Prime

The Barcelona practice times that prove Red Bull has hidden pace

Lewis Hamilton led the way in Friday practice for the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix, but there was one major encouraging sign for Red Bull. However, making good on that gain will require Max Verstappen to avoid repeating a mistake that left him well down the FP2 order...

Formula 1
May 7, 2021
Why McLaren doesn’t doubt Ricciardo can escape his ‘dark’ place Prime

Why McLaren doesn’t doubt Ricciardo can escape his ‘dark’ place

Three points finishes from as many starts represents a decent opening innings on paper, but Daniel Ricciardo has endured a tough start to his McLaren career - only magnified his teammate's excellent form. Yet both he and the team have good reason to expect a turnaround soon.

Formula 1
May 6, 2021
What needs to “change” for Red Bull is ending Verstappen’s errors Prime

What needs to “change” for Red Bull is ending Verstappen’s errors

OPINION: Going up against the dominant force of Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton was always going to demand the best from Red Bull and Max Verstappen. But after making a couple more errors during the Portuguese Grand Prix, the Dutch driver showed there's a small gap he still needs to close in the 2021 Formula 1 title fight.

Formula 1
May 5, 2021
The "subtle" Red Bull upgrades that kept it in the Portugal F1 mix Prime

The "subtle" Red Bull upgrades that kept it in the Portugal F1 mix

Red Bull's Portuguese Grand Prix fortunes were decidedly second best to Mercedes', but the result skews the potential that the team had at Portimao. With a new set of updates, the team looks good going forward into the rest of 2021's spicy F1 competition

Formula 1
May 3, 2021