Red Bull believe Verstappen is ‘top of Mercedes’ list’ if Hamilton leaves

2022 F1 season

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Red Bull expect Mercedes to make a swoop for Max Verstappen if Lewis Hamilton decides not to drive for them again in 2022.

Hamilton signed a one-year extension to his current Mercedes contract earlier this year and may decide not to return for the 2022 F1 season.

“I’m sure that should Lewis decide to stop then Max would naturally be the driver at the top of the list,” said Horner. “But they also have George Russell, they’ve also got other drivers obviously available to them on.”

While Verstappen is contracted to Red Bull until the end of 2023, team principal Christian Horner admitted there are clauses under which he could leave early if the team’s performance falls short of a certain level.

“All drivers have safeguards within performance and the reality is that yes, of course, as there has always been, there is an element of performance related to Max’s contract,” said Horner. “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 to force a driver that doesn’t want to be there… it’s more about relationships than contracts, and you only pull a contract out of a drawer when you’ve got a problem, in my experience.”

Red Bull confirmed today it will continue to use power units designed by Honda after the Japanese manufacturer leaves the sport at the end of this season. It will take over production and maintenance of the units in a new facility at its Milton Keynes base. Horner hopes this decision will help the team hold on to its star driver.

“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 it’s very much with this recent commitment on the power train. He believes in the people within the team and working within the team.

“And I’m confident that we won’t need to refer to any contractual clauses. I think 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 the same, identical situation.”

New technical regulations for 2022 will also offer Red Bull the opportunity to close the gap to Mercedes, Horner added.

“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.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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52 comments on “Red Bull believe Verstappen is ‘top of Mercedes’ list’ if Hamilton leaves”

  1. Yeah, off course they would have him at the top of the list.

    1. Yeah, that’s not exactly a stretch of Red Bull’s imagination. How would he not be?

      1. I think google is making up news just like Christian H. Red Bull should concentrate on improving and building a faster car than always playing 4th best. They are competing with each other after all

      2. Guys, they are being asked questions and answering them. Media doesn’t post the questions so it just looks like they are just making statements, which people continue to fall for…

        Do people even know how the internet works?

        1. Of course we know; the internet is a series of tubes

  2. They’re not both in an ‘identical situation’ though, Max can l jump ship (theoretically), Red Bull will still be Red Bull.

    1. @bernasaurus Sure but that’s not what he’s talking about though right? He was referring specifically to them both being on the same page wrt their desires to deliver a Championship car and their confidence to do so. Of course Max can jump ship any time no matter the contract. It’s just a matter of whether by a clause if RBR performed that poorly which is hard to imagine, or by desire in which case he’d have to buy himself out, or presumably his new team would. But where would he go? Everyone knows there’s nowhere else for him for now in terms of available ride and competitiveness, so Horner is not exactly going to point that out and look threatening or like he’s giving an ultimatum. It’s not that kind of a relationship there. I think it is plain as day that RBR are doing everything they possibly can to keep Max by making a competitive car, which is what they are always striving to do anyway. And by all accounts Max seems extremely happy where he is, knowing that if he can’t be at Mercedes there’s no better place to be.

  3. It would be better (for us) if team Mercedes is a HAM and (vs.) VER. Whatever is the outcome, having either HAM champion or VER as champion, it will for sure a better spectacle than the current Mercedes duo is delivering. When we had ROS, at least he made HAM life a little more difficult. I can be wrong, but given the amount of experience HAM has compared to VER, I do not think it will be an easy life for VER, but VER is not a rookie anymore. The mistakes and lack of patience he had shown on the first 2 years are pretty much gone. He is a much more mature driver, and we can see that on the race track. Only one thing…he just need to stop winning over the radio like a cry baby. If would be awesome if he is more like RAI over the radio.

    1. Only one thing…he just need to stop winning over the radio like a cry baby

      winning? That would be interesting to ask from a driver ;)
      whining

      But i guess you are pointing at Lewis.. the one that goes on and on when things get difficult.

      1. :-)
        Thanks for the correction

    2. Hamilton is as much (if not more) of a cry baby on the radio than Verstappen. It would be easier to root for them if we didn’t hear radio comms.

  4. Nah, we have Russell for the future. By Horner’s admission, it appears that Red Bull are the ones who have more to lose than Verstappen. He can go to another team, although easily said than done, while Red Bull could still remain the failure they have been since 2014. Red Bull under massive pressure to provide the necessary resources for Verstappen.

    I also wonder if there is a clause citing that Verstappen has to dominate his teammate in order to keep him, which could explain the problem the team had with Gasly and Albon. Albon and Gasly are not super flipping slow. Perez will give us a better reference and better representative information.

    1. Wait, do I understand you correctly and are you suggesting that Max has a clause in his contract that makes Red Bull purposely slow down teammates by half a second or more?

      1. Yea, I just threw that out for a thought. But in all seriousness I don’t expect such clause. Although who knows what goes behind close doors right?

      2. @aiii

        The conspiracy theories are really something…

        1. @aapje
          Agreed, tho they are not as crazy as the ones about Lewis.

          1. Footage of Rosberg sabotaging Lewis’ car:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrkms8M5pms

      3. @aiii It’s not about purposefully making the other car slow. it’s about not paying attention to what that other driver needs to help him drive the car and new parts always going on Verstappen’s car.

        Also things like using the #2 car during the race as a testbed for Verstappen’s race strategy.

  5. I think it would make sense for Merc to make a swoop for Verstappen in any situation. Hamilton may be the best driver now, and he may be the best driver by the end of the year, but Verstappen has 12 years on him, and is not far off his level (many would argue he’s reached that level).

    I could see Mercedes with a completely fresh lineup next year with Verstappen and Russell. Hamilton will in all likelihood be an 8-time champ by the end of the year, but with those 2 drivers Mercedes will have a lineup that could dominate the rest of the decade. It’s an opportunity they can’t pass up.

    1. Not sure whether Mercedes is attractive enough for Max post 2021 though. Better watch the cards being shuffled first when the new rules apply. Not at all convinced Mercedes will keep their edge

  6. Red bull will still be very attractive to any top driver if Verstapppen leaves..

    1. @joac21 I bet Red Bull is worried at the thought that all they have are Perez and Gasly, but I guess the idea is to poach Leclerc if Verstappen goes to Mercedes.

  7. Horner now has another Merc worry. Not only could they take their anointed driver, Merc may want to steal the Red Bull engines too. Another sleepless season in the RBR garage for Christian – with only his political charades on slow news days to help him rest.

  8. Wolff has since the re-signing of Hamilton just come out with how they have to think about their future line-up, so of course Red Bull is suspecting that means Verstappen. Mercedes would be crazy not to get him sooner rather than later as that would basically remove the threat from Red Bull.

  9. So basically Verstappens chances of being a WDC next year at least will be dictated by Hamilton, that’s an interesting position to be in.
    It will be interesting to see how things work out politically within RB from 2022 on when they lose Honda support and maybe start to struggle to maintain their position as the best of the rest.

    1. @johnrkh Pretty sure it has been implied by now LH will be at Mercedes through 2023, so this is really just a story of Max being on their list, and why wouldn’t he be on everyone’s?

      As has already been documented, there seems to be little fear within all of F1 of any one pu being down very much compared to the others, so there will be no ‘politics’ when they ‘lose Honda support’ and ‘maybe start to struggle’ since there will be the freeze and as well RBR have invested in their powertrain division. No reason to expect these imagined politics and struggles of yours. But I guess you can hope.

      1. Thanks for that @robbie I always appreciate a good joke, no politics in F1 :))

        1. @johnrkh Lol could have sworn you were talking specifically about politics within RB after Honda’s departure and the implications of that surrounding Max. At least that’s what I was responding to anyway.

          1. @robbie Well I was sort of referring to the RB response re engine equalisation if they start to lose ground to Mercedes.
            But there is the issue of Verstappen who is in a hurry to become a WDC. Only two years left on his contract? Not that it means a lot to a multi national corporation if they decide they want him.

          2. @johnrkh Since they were the ones who pushed for this, and obviously there was unanimous agreement so they all wanted it, I highly doubt, no matter what happens, RBR will look back in a few years and think, gee we’d have been way better off just being a customer of Renault’s. There’s never any sure fire guarantees with this kind of stuff, but I can almost guarantee you their chances of winning Championships would not have increased by going back to Renault, but they have by taking a huge step towards a full in-house operation pu included. Let the chips fall where they may. I’m stoked for RBR’s growth which will be good for all of F1, not to mention it’s a great sign of commitment to the future.

            I’m sure Max is in a ‘hurry’ to win a WDC, but it doesn’t seem like for now he is impatient. We all know Mercedes are dominant and that it is up to everyone else to compete, and for now Max is on the team that has shown it can do that better than anyone else.

            I think pretty much the whole world expects LH to be at Mercedes for the next three years anyway, but sure, if by some slim chance this is his last season, then of course if I’m TW I’m going to go for a GR/MV pairing. What Max would want to do I have no idea, and I’m sure for now it isn’t even a thought in his mind. I’m sure, for all the information he’d have at this moment, all he’s thinking about is some very interesting potential right where he is with his family at RBR, knowing the Mercedes family has no doors open even if he was dismayed where he is and tempted. I think rather he is likely utterly stoked at what has transpired for RBR with the engine freeze thus keeping them from customer status, and with the Powertrain facility and staff and all that represents for their future.

            But yeah, contracts only go so far if a driver decides he no longer wants to drive for a team, as CH has implied. Or in the case of Perez if a team decides to go with someone else. Breaking contracts usually amounts to who has to pay which party how much to buy them out of said contract.

          3. @robbie

            What Max would want to do I have no idea, and I’m sure for now it isn’t even a thought in his mind. I’m sure, for all the information he’d have at this moment, all he’s thinking about is some very interesting potential right where he is with his family at RBR,

            Two jokes in one day you’re on a roll Robbie keep it up :))

          4. @johnrkh Glad you’re amused lol, but really there’s nothing else for him to be thinking about right now when he’s not likely on Mercedes’ radar unless LH leaves after this season, which he likely won’t be. Really doubt Max is dwelling on something over which he has no control. We’ve all been told LH and Mercedes will continue their contract talks ‘earlier’ than they left the recent one year extension they’ve announced as there are finer details to hammer out. Not sure why that information would have Max’s mind wandering.

  10. I wonder if they hired Perez because the other driver’s performance (or the team’s constructor’s points) factor into Verstappen’s exit clause.

    1. Interesting point @aesto. Certainly Albon’s poor performances last season didn’t cost Red Bull any prize money, since they were comfortably second in the WCC and nowhere near Mercedes. But I think Red Bull made the point that there were some races where Mercedes were able to use one of their cars to cover Verstappen allowing the other one to get away easily. Imola strikes me as one of the races that could have gone differently had there been two Red Bulls pressuring Mercedes in the early part of the race.

  11. Max is the best driver on the grid in my opinion he’d be the top of everyone’s shopping list.

  12. This might have been the case a few years ago, but why would they need Verstappen when they have Russell available?

    1. Because they think Verstappen mature behaviour isn’t fake. I think his is fake.

      1. Mature behavior like breaking his front wing in Styria when panicking about Bottas closing in (and in doing so easily giving away the place to Bottas)? Like putting his car in the wall in Hungary even before the race began? Like the way he threw the team under the bus when he couldn’t figure out a working setup for Monza and/or work out the correct engine settings (dealing with RB incited engine modes ban)? And again when he failed to work out the kinks in the engine settings for Tuscany? Like crashing into Stroll in Portimao when he felt Stroll should just get out of his way? Like wasting an easy win in Turkey and Sakhir?

        1. Wow, finally somebody who really understands F1.

          1. But you don’t understand the dark secrets of Verstappen’s off-track behaviour…

        2. I am talking about the insult that he said to Stroll in Portugal.

        3. What about the people who are anti-Verstappen all day? What about Mexico 2016 and the infamous incident? What about his insult towards a steward after getting penalized in USA 2017? What about his “throwaway” at China 2018 where he could have won had he not made a series of total mistakes? What about Azerbaijan 2018? What about Brazil 2018? What about Mexico 2019? What about his insult towards Lance Stroll at Portugal 2020? What about his very unpopular comment after Bahrain 2020?

  13. The real question is “Should Max leave for Mercedes?”. In all honesty that could be a mistake. The cars are expected to get closer together in 2022 and everything at the moment is to try and make the engines more equal. If it becomes an aerodynamic factored championship again, are Red Bull actually the better team to be with? The early 2010s would suggest so – they’ve always managed to find that extra couple of tenths in aero.

    He could be in danger of leaving Red Bull just as they hit the front and give his championship winning seat to someone else.

    1. @burden93 LH isn’t leaving Mercedes any time soon and Max isn’t leaving RBR any time soon either.

    2. Taking Red Bull back to glory would mean much more than just going along for the ride in a Merc rocketship.

      Schumacher in the mid-90’s understood that winning championship after championship at Benetton would be meaningless so set himself the crazy goal of bringing a dysfunctional Ferrari team back to glory.

      1. Dean F Re MS, no I don’t think that is how it played out. Much more complicated than that. After MS won two highly controversial WDC’s at illegal Benetton, and while still under contract with them, BE and Max Mosely orchestrated the move of MS and his side of the Benetton garage in an unprecedented move over to Ferrari to end their WDC drought and to create the next chapter post-Senna. Why would MS have thought his WDC’s at Benetton and more of them would be “meaningless?” Rather one is within reason asking why MS would leave a team where he was winning, while still under contract with them, to go to a team that hadn’t won the WDC in 16 years at that time. Answer: because it was orchestrated by BE an MM, not by MS. There was also a lot of animosity between Briatore at Benetton, and BE and Max at the time. But the lure for MS was the contract of the century that included not just mega bucks but a teammate under contract to not compete against him, just as he had become accustomed to having his teammates shut out from his data at Benetton as well.

        But as to taking RBR back to glory that would be awesome of course, but if it were to work out otherwise and he ended up at Mercedes neither he nor most would consider it ‘just going along for the ride’ any more than LH could be accused of the same.

        1. @robbie, The difference being that Hamilton was (and still is) instrumental in building that team up from the midfielders (stready P5 finishers) they were to a championship winning team they have become since.

          1. @f1osaurus Lol no that actually happened when Mercedes, not LH, nailed the 2014 hybrid format. But that’s ok, you keep pounding away at the LH = car developer extraordinaire thing all you want. I’m quite sure, after one season, and then their famous building of the car that has utterly dominated since, that had as little to do with LH as it did NR who had been there for 3 years. Then as they battled it out from the front row I really doubt it was strictly LH not NR that was the ‘instrument’ in building the team. I think they both were pushing each other and the team to stay on top, but really it has been Mercedes that has kept the car dominant far moreso than anything else. Of course that is not to say LH isn’t a great driver, nor that he hasn’t had any input.

            But it is tiresome for you to continually over the last several months try to pit LH vs Max via car developer status, like that is some known quantity that can be measured on a graph, but rather comes across more like that is the only thing you have to cling to as more and more people consider Max to perhaps already be a better driver than LH, even without the experience and the utterly dominant car that LH enjoys.

  14. It is completely normal for a top team to have top drivers on their most wanted list. Sure Ves is on nr 1. But there are others too, depends if you want a guaranteed WC or a maybe one.

  15. @robbie Apart from the fact that they massively improved the car for 2013 already. McLaren and Force India finished P5 and P6 with that same engine. While Williams also did well with it.

    It’s cute how Red Bull propaganda always tries to pretend that it’s “just the engine”, but everyone with some understanding of F1 realizes the engine is worth only a few tenths and the car is much more important.

  16. There’s also another rumor floating deeply about.. Albon to Mercedes AMG F1. Could be very interesting if true.

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