Max Verstappen stays committed to 'second family' Red Bull amid off-track turmoil

F1 world champion says he intends to fulfill his contract, which runs until 2028, despite accusations surrounding team principal Christian Horner

Max Verstappen alongside Red Bull team principal Christian Horner during media day for the Australian Grand Prix. Getty Images
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Max Verstappen has said he is committed to seeing out his Red Bull contract and insisted he is still happy at the team after weeks of off-track turmoil surrounding the Formula One champions.

Verstappen, the reigning and three-time world champion, is signed until 2028 but suggested at the last race in Saudi Arabia he would consider leaving if Red Bull parted company with long-time mentor Helmut Marko in a power struggle threatening to envelop the team.

It followed his father Jos claiming earlier this month that Red Bull faced being "torn apart" if team principal Christian Horner remained in his position.

Horner was accused of inappropriate conduct involving a woman colleague but he was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing ahead of the season-opener in Bahrain.

Asked at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne if he would honour his contract, Verstappen replied: "Of course, that is why I signed the contract in the first place. For sure, with the deal in place, that is my intention, to be here until the end.

"It would be a great story for me to see it out until the end because it would mean I've been part of one family and one team. I always felt comfortable (in Red Bull) because for me it is like a second family, it's good."

Verstappen's career has been overseen by Marko, 80, and the 26-year-old Dutchman reiterated that it was important to keep in place a team that has enjoyed so much success.

"I feel we all want the same, we all want to perform on the track, that's what we want to focus on as a team," he said. "In general, when you have a successful team, when you have a good group of central people, it is important to keep them together and happy and in the same roles."

His veiled threat to leave Red Bull piqued the interest of Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, who needs a replacement next season when Lewis Hamilton departs for Ferrari.

"It's always nice to hear that," said Verstappen, who added that he did not know what would happen after 2028. "I don't know after 2028 what happens, if I am going to continue, sign a new deal, I don't know."

Verstappen dominated the first two grands prix of the season, in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, to put him on a nine-race win streak. Should he cross the finish line first in Australia, he will equal his own record of winning 10 races in a row.

Sergio Perez, who finished runner-up to his teammate in the opening two races, said he hoped Verstappen remained, with the team in "a very strong position".

"To achieve that it takes a lot of years," he said. "Everyone in the team is working well together now, the whole engineering team is united. You can see that on the track and how efficient we have been in the last years.

"So I don't see any reason to change it and it will obviously be a blow if Max were to leave."

Sainz 'positive' about Ferrari return

Red Bull's leading challenge so far this season has come from Ferrari, with Carlos Sainz completing the podium in Bahrain before Charles Leclerc finished third in Saudi Arabia.

Sainz was forced to miss the race in Jeddah, where teenage reserve driver Oliver Bearman came seventh, after undergoing surgery for appendicitis two weeks ago.

Sainz, who is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season to be replaced by Hamilton, said he was improving by the day, having spent the last fortnight in recovery rather than training.

"Every day I'm feeling a lot better, the first week was tough. That was when you see things a bit darker," he said ahead of Sunday's Australian Grand Prix.

"But in the second week the recovery sped up a lot and I started to feel confident I can jump in the car tomorrow and do well. I'll see how I feel, I'm feeling positive about it."

While Sainz has been given the all-clear from doctors and is keen to race, it is not clear how his body will react to the demands of Formula One.

"I'll let you know tomorrow when I get back in the car and the G-forces throw me around a bit," he said, referring to first practice in Melbourne on Friday.

"But I feel ready. I've done as much as possible to recover and you cannot imagine the effort and logistics that I have done to be fit for this race.

"I'm very happy with the progress I've made and now, as I said, it's time to jump in the car and see how I feel."

Updated: March 21, 2024, 9:22 AM