Horner: “no clauses related to Honda” in Verstappen contract

2020 Eifel Grand Prix

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Christian Horner has denied that there is a break clause related to Honda’s departure from Formula One in Max Verstappen’s three-year contract to the team, after speculation that he could become a free agent if the team had no power unit supplier.

Honda announced on Monday that their F1 programme would end after 2021, leaving the Red Bull and AlphaTauri teams without a power unit supply from 2022 onwards.

Max Verstappen, who re-signed with Red Bull until the end of 2023 earlier this year, was rumoured to have a break clause in his contract relating to the team’s power unit supply, which could be activated if Honda’s departure forces them to return to Renault engines.

However, writing in his column for the team’s website, Horner said neither Verstappen nor team mate Alex Albon has any clauses directly related to Honda in their contracts.

“People keep asking whether Honda’s departure would mean a change in our driver line-up or result in Max leaving the team,” he wrote. “I can tell you, that despite contracts being private there are no clauses related to Honda in Max or Alex’s contracts, so it does not change anything.

“I had a good conversation with Max before the announcement and he is just as motivated, upbeat and trusts the team.”

Horner admitted sourcing a new engine supplier presents a challenge for the team but said Honda’s announcement had given them time to make preparations, “I would be lying if I said it is an easy task for a team to integrate a new power unit and ensure that the communication is there straight away, but the initial work with Toro Rosso helped and as a team we are adaptable and pride ourselves in the depth of knowledge and experience we have to drive success.

“Now the situation is clear and we have time, which we are grateful to Honda for, we must find a competitive power unit solution for 2022 and beyond.”

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2020 Eifel Grand Prix

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Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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28 comments on “Horner: “no clauses related to Honda” in Verstappen contract”

  1. No related clauses to Honda. However, clauses related to the car’s capability in performance could be all over his contract as an exit clause? At this point, I might not even bother about thinking anymore. Various sources say he has an exit clause, while Horner says he does not. Didn’t in drive to survive in 2019, Horner said that if Max was not 3rd by the summer break, then he could have been a “free agent”?

    1. However, where would he go anyway? There’s no seat available at Mercedes or Ferrari etc, so clause(s) or not I see Max at RBR at least through 2022.

      1. That’s what I keep thinking: this is a 1-team formula, only mercedes has a chance of winning the titles, apart from that verstappen is in the best place possible, and honestly even if he could go to ferrari, it’d be a suicide move, it already was years back considering red bull was always organisationally superior to ferrari, they just had engine (power) issues.

    2. If the slurce is dutch television, then i wouldnt trust the information by default :)

    3. Probably a clause about a “works supply of engines” or something is in there. No need to explicitly mention Honda there off course.

      1. @bascb

        True. There’s no need to exclusively have ‘Honda’ mentioned in the contract… after all .. it’s not like Honda was any sort of competitive advantage. I’m sure Max’s team of representatives were smart enough to find an exit clause in the contract if Red Bull weren’t competitive enough, regardless of the engine supplier.

        1. Yes, I think that is quite likely @todfod. Besides, will RB even want to keep him there if he clearly wants to go elsewhere? If anything they would just try to force him to sit out a season (or part of a season)

      2. This will sound ridiculous, but if his clause is related to where he is at the driver’s championship. Just like what Horner said in Drive to Survive, then that is a little bit… weird or crazy for a clause..

    4. Horners statements have -historically- zero truth value. Might as well interview a three year old…

  2. Its gonna be funny when Max ditches Horner after all the ass kissing he has done

    1. Horner is used to it. Already been through this when Seb left.

      1. Yeah like if you guys were team principals you wouldn’t do everything in your power to keep Max.

        The reality is Max will only leave when he no longer sees potential for growth at RBR (as it will be at any team he’s on in the future), and/or if he has a better offer in what would have to be a better car. Right now there is no better car available for him, and at the same time he has great faith in his team to grow. As he should. They’re great.

        If I’m Max right now I’m thinking ‘I wasn’t looking to win (titles) with Honda this year anyway, we’ll see what the new Honda engine brings next year, a year where Merc will most likely dominate again, hopefully by less, and meanwhile I can do my thing, learn, earn, have fun, grow, 3 wins minimum next year seem unreasonable? More is gravy. Then see how things shake out during and after 2022 has revealed where everyone stands. I’ll be the most desired one with only a year left on my contract at that point, and the best team will seek me out as much as I will seek them.’

        Presumably that will be Mercedes, or staying at RBR. To me, unquestionably he’s at RBR next year, goes without saying, and being contracted, and as well eager, he’ll be stoked to be in Newey’s 2022 car and see where it sits amongst the grid, you know…while he’s there anyway…in a car most would die for the opportunity to drive and work with, and which he would not want to hand the opportunity to someone else. From which then Max will have all significant options open to him, as the top teams will be leaving room for him if he loses faith in RBR, other teams knowing his contract is to 2023, assuming Max/a team hasn’t already made a pro-active move by then. Push come to shove all it takes is a ‘Perez-deal’ anyway, if at some point the need arises.

        1. @robbie I wouldn’t, but then I know myself well enough to know Max and I wouldn’t manage three days in a boss-subordinate relationship (in either direction). This does not appear to be a problem for Christian and therefore, there would be some point to trying to keep Max.

      2. Well said. Seb moves to Ferrari, and despite raikonnen driving for him, showed everyone how useless he is.

        Vestrappen next in line. Vettel 2.0 waiting to be exposed.

        1. Haha, good joke. If there is one guy that can adapt to different characteristics of a car and drive around the cars flaws, its Max.

      3. @knightameer

        See was getting smashed by Ricciardo.. I don’t think they missed him much. Max on the other hand has been over half a second a lap faster than anybody in that second seat.

  3. I doubt there is a clause, and even if there were I doubt he’d admit it exists. Even if Verstappen does leave – which is probably very likely now, an Albon/Gasly & Kvyat/Tsunoda lineup wouldn’t be bad for RB/AT. That’s if Red Bull don’t walk too.

    1. @rocketpanda Where is it you think he will go if he leaves? RBR have stated their commitment to stay.

      1. Hopefully not alonso\ricciardo moves that end up sticking one of the top 3 current drivers in the midfield, sometimes drivers make hard decisions to understand, especially ricciardo, alonso was a bit unlucky with the team swaps.

      2. When have RB statements had any value/truth? I see them walk out as easy as walking through a door. Never ever trust Horner with anything he says to the media. Could be the most straight talker in private, but publicly…

  4. “I can tell you, that despite contracts being private there are no clauses related to Honda in Max or Alex’s contracts, so it does not change anything” while on another site it’s “The contracts between the driver and the team are private, but there is definitely no engine-related clause in Max’s contract.”
    – Somewhat weird that there can be differences between different sites in how they quote what people have said.
    Here’s a link to where I first read about Horner’s take on this specific matter:
    https://www.motorsport.com/f1/news/verstappen-honda-exit-clause-red-bull/4886837/
    Irrespective of which specific wording he used, he’s got a point. Why would any contract have a clause related to a PU-supplier anyway? How would a clause this explicit even be possible in the first place?

    1. I got it: The wording here is from his column while the one on Motorsport.com is from what he said on Red Bull-owned ServusTV so this explains the difference as they aren’t from the same occasion. I should’ve realized before posting.

    2. @jerejj there could be clauses which relate to certain commercial agreements between the driver and that supplier if that supplier had a technical or commercial partnership between them and the team (e.g. if Honda was paying a certain proportion of Max’s salary or performance bonuses in return for rights to use Max for advertising).

    3. Horner is typically very precise in his wording. His wording does not completely rule out the possibility.

      Without knowing the typical contents and way F1 driver contracts are written, I would assume that there is a big list of specific events that give rise to a right to terminate.

      These reasons would include:
      – Departure of key personnel (e.g. Christian, Adrian, Deitrich, Helmut)
      – Change of ownership
      – Loss of major sponsors
      – Significant technical changes

      Obviously what I wrote is not exhaustive and in limited detail. These events could potentially have a detrimental impact on the team’s competitiveness. It would also be completely separate from performance based clauses.

      Even if this clause was in the contract, and even if “change of engine supplier” is considered a significant technical change, Christian could still be truthful (albeit economical with the truth) by stating that “no clause relating to Honda exists” because the clause doesn’t mention Honda by name, and more generally refers to a number of things (not just losing your current engine supplier).

    4. Except they never tell the truth. Just think of ‘Gasly will be here all season’

  5. If/when RB move back to the Renault unit they’ll at the very least be on par with the Honda unit, possibly slightly better off power wise. I would think the name on the PU would be of little concern to M Verstappen as long as it’s capable of delivering the goods. Also RB still have arguably the best designer currently in F1.

  6. Bring back Bugatti engines!

  7. Build your own engine. You are a completely useless team as the souls in your car belongs to someone else.

    No wonder Redbull drink stinks too.

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