Red Bull: ‘Visit to Honda Factory Convinced Verstappen to Extend His Contract’
Max Verstappen has extended his contract with the Red Bull Racing team for an additional three years. Reportedly, he also managed to push his salary into the range of $25-35 million per year—a massive sum for a driver with only three wins under his belt.
One of the major unknowns in the future of Formula One driver contracts was whether Verstappen would stay with Red Bull, which had a difficult year in 2017. The young driver established himself as a true star of the future in 2016 and had, as most other people, expected Red Bull to be in the fight for the championship this year.
But the RB13 was by some margin only the third best car and its Renault power unit proved woefully unreliable. Among all full-time drivers, Verstappen covered the fewest miles in 2017—less than 70% of the total available distance on the calendar’s 20 circuits.
Understandably, he wasn’t happy about it, and questions were raised as to whether he would remain loyal to the team that won four world championships from 2010 to 2013. Mercedes might have been looking to pick him up, or even perhaps Ferrari, though Charles Leclerc seems more likely to get that seat in the future.
The most important factor to consider was Honda. McLaren split with the Japanese engine manufacturer, which will now supply Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s sister team. Importantly, Renault will stop providing Red Bull with engines at the end of the next season, which means that unless a new supplier enters the sport by then, Red Bull will also need to strike a partnership with Honda—about whose performance potential there have also been many questions.
It seems, however, that a simple visit to the Honda factory convinced Verstappen to extend his contract—alongside the aforementioned large sum of money. “We shared with him our plans for the future, guaranteeing that by 2020 we will have the best people and good options for the engine,” said Dr. Helmut Marko, advisor to the Red Bull Racing team.
“We went to the Honda base in Sakura and the infrastructure is incredible. This convinced him. He took advantage of the situation to get a raise in his money, but on this matter he is far from Vettel and Hamilton. If he can win titles he will approach them, but we have good prize money on top of a low base salary.”