Why Red Bull Boss Christian Horner Wants to Extend Max Verstappen’s Contract ‘Another 15 Years’

Ten years may not be enough. Eleven? Twelve? Thirteen …? Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner thinks the team should extend the contract status of F1 champion Max Verstappen by 15 years.

Fifteen?

Considering team adviser Helmut Marko recently anointed the 2021 Formula 1 drivers’ champion as best he worked with, two questions remain:

  • Is a decade-and-a-half deal long enough?
  • At the end, will there still be fireworks?

Red Bull’s Christian Horner wants to open, quickly close contract talks with F1 champ Max Verstappen 

Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen drives into parc ferme after winning the 2021 Formula 1 drivers’ championship during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on Dec. 12, 2021, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates | Dan Istitene – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

Verstappen remains under contract for two more seasons. He could test the “free-agency market” if Horner and Marko fail to sign the 24-year-old to a lengthy contract extension. 

Red Bull’s brass does not appear willing to take that chance.  

Formule1 reported that Marko is preparing to sit down with Verstappen and his manager, Raymond Vermeulen, to begin an “early conversation” about the F1 team’s long-term plans. Hint, they include Vermeulen’s client. 

Marko predicted the talks would go smoothly.  

“… We will discuss a corresponding extension and perhaps also complete it,” Marko told Motorsport-Total.com.  

Horner backs Marko’s objective for locking up Verstappen until 2037. He’s ready. Jokingly, he said he had the “paperwork with me.” 

Horner: ‘When he joined our team (in 2016), he was a boy. Now he’s a man’ 

At the end of the hypothetical 15-year deal, Verstappen would be 39 years old. Assuming he returns, Mercedes foe Lewis Hamilton would be driving in his age 37 season. The seven-time F1 titleholder remains disappointed following his runner-up finish at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Hamilton threatened retirement on Dec. 12 and maintains a social-media boycott.

Insiders remain split on his near-future aspirations. Does he want to enter a much-anticipated rematch with Verstappen or focus on other interests like founding a fashion company? Hamilton’s contract also runs through 2023. Could F1 fans expect to see two more years of the budding rivalry?

First, Mercedes officials need to focus on getting Hamilton back in his seat this year.

Signing Verstappen to an extension remains one of Horner’s priorities.

“After all, for me, relationships are not just about the contract,” he said. “Neither does Max. When he joined our team (in 2016), he was a boy. Now he’s a man. He grew up with our team. The relationship we share, the trust, that’s worth more than any piece of paper.”

What if Mercedes steals Verstappen from Red Bull in 2023? 

It may be far-fetched, but what if Verstappen remains unsigned this year and enters 2023 as a lame-duck driver? What if Red Bull continues missing the mark and Mercedes sweeps in with an offer he couldn’t refuse? It could happen.

As teammates, Hamilton and Verstappen would likely top the infamous McLaren feud between Ayrton Senna and Alian Prost in 1989. But if Hamilton returns in 2022, races for two more seasons, then decides to retire, which is feasible, Mercedes would want one of the best to replace a legend, right?

Could Verstappen be considered?

Bad blood aside, the scenario doesn’t seem like a smooth fit.

In the raw moments following his dramatic last-lap, title-clinching pass of Hamilton, and claiming the checkered flag, Verstappen screamed into the team radio: “Can we continue to do this for another 10 to 15 years?”

From a negotiating standpoint, the sides are starting with friendly dialogue.

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