LONDON (Reuters) – Max Verstappen has committed to staying with Red Bull until the end of 2023 to trust the former world champion's Formula 1 title potential and his Honda partnership.
Red Bulls Max Verstappen during a press conference ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. REUTERS / Hamad I Mohammed / File Photo
The announcement on Tuesday secures two of the three best teams with young driver talents in the long term. Ferrari announced in December that Charles Leclerc will stay until 2024.
“I am very happy to have extended my partnership with the team. Red Bull believed in me and gave me the opportunity to start Formula 1, which I was always very grateful for, ”said the 22-year-old Verstappen in a statement.
“Over the years I have come closer to the team and in addition to everyone's passion and performance on the track, it's really fun to work with such a great group of people.
“Honda is coming on board and the progress we have made over the past 12 months gives me even more motivation and the belief that we can win together. I want to win with Red Bull and of course our goal is to fight for a world championship together. "
Red Bull finished third last year in the first season of a new partnership with Honda, which proved an instant success after the Japanese manufacturer's failed relationship with McLaren.
Verstappen was the best behind the Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
The rumor mill will now focus more on six-time world champion Hamilton, who will be leaving the contract at the end of this year, and on the future of Leclerc's four-time team-mate Sebastian Vettel.
Verstappen won three races in 2019, now has eight F1 victories and is considered a queue champion.
The Dutchman, who became the youngest racing winner in the history of the sport in 2016, had been linked to both Ferrari and Mercedes in paddle speculation.
However, he may have compromised his Ferrari chances when he accused the Italian team of cheating on his engine last season – comments that were poorly received in Maranello.
Mercedes, who also had Bottas out of the contract at the end of 2020, is waiting for Hamilton – who turned 35 on Tuesday and had discussions with Ferrari chairman John Elkann – to decide on his next move.
Formula 1 heralds a new era in 2021, in which the rules will change fundamentally and the hope of the owners of Liberty Media is based on more equal opportunities.
"When it comes to the challenge of the 2021 regulation, the continuity of the horizon is crucial in as many areas as possible," commented team manager Christian Horner.
"Max has proven what a win he is for the team. He firmly believes in the partnership we have had with our engine supplier Honda and we look forward to extending our relationship with him."
Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Edited by Alison Williams and Pritha Sarkar