Max Verstappen has signed a new contract with Red Bull, keeping him at the team until 2023.
The 22-year-old’s deal was due to expire this year, and he had been earmarked as a leading candidate to replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes if the six-time world champion, also out of contract at the end of the season, joins Ferrari in 2021.
But Verstappen, an eight-time grand prix winner, has now committed his long-term future to Red Bull.
The Dutchman’s decision to continue his relationship with the former world champions comes less than a month after Charles Leclerc signed a five-year contract extension with Ferrari. The two drivers, both 22, are viewed as Formula One’s two great stars of the next decade.
“I want to win with Red Bull and our goal is of course to fight for a world championship together,” said Verstappen, who joined the team as a teenager in 2016.
“Red Bull believed in me and gave me the opportunity to start in Formula One which I have always been very grateful for.
“Honda coming onboard and the progress we have made over the last 12 months gives me even more motivation and the belief that we can win together.
“I respect the way Red Bull and Honda work together and from all sides everyone is doing what they can to succeed.”
With Verstappen and Leclerc committing their long-term futures to Red Bull and Ferrari respectively, Mercedes have now been left without the option of signing one of the sport’s megastars should Hamilton desert them.
The Briton, who turned 35 on Tuesday, met with Ferrari chairman John Elkann on two occasions last year, and the Italian giants are interested in signing him. Hamilton has admitted his future at Mercedes is uncertain, with team principal Toto Wolff also weighing up his options.
For Red Bull, Verstappen’s contract extension marks something of a coup. The Dutchman was arguably the pound-for-pound driver of 2019, often out-performing his inconsistent machinery.
He won on three occasions and finished above both Ferrari drivers, Leclerc and his team-mate Sebastian Vettel, in the championship.
“With the challenge of the 2021 regulation changes on the horizon continuity in as many areas as possible is key,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.
“Max has proven what an asset he is to the team, he truly believes in the partnership we have forged with our engine supplier Honda, and we are delighted to have extended our relationship with him.”