Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has said he believes Mercedes will try to poach Max Verstappen if Sir Lewis Hamilton decides to leave the Silver Arrows or retire from Formula One altogether at the end of 2021.
“I’m sure that should Lewis decide to stop then Max will naturally be the driver at the top of Mercedes’ list,” Horner said this week.
“They also have George Russell and other drivers available to them.
“The reality is that yes, of course – as there has always been – an element of performance-related clauses to Max’s contract. But as with all these things, it’s not about forcing a driver that doesn’t want to be there.
“It’s more about relationships than contracts and you only pull a contract out of the drawer when you have a problem, in my experience,” he added.
Continuing, the Red Bull team principal described their relationship with Verstappen as “very strong” and said he is confident that the performance clause in the Dutch ace’s contract won’t come into play.
“The relationship with Max is very strong, he believes in the project, in what we are doing, and he sees the investment Red Bull are making.
“I’m confident we won’t need to refer to any contractual clauses. It will be down to us to deliver a competitive car.
As for their chances of fighting Mercedes for the Championship this upcoming season, Horner said Red Bull is “gathering momentum” as they demonstrated at the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
“We demonstrated at Abu Dhabi that Mercedes are beatable on a track they had been unbeaten at for the past six or seven years.
“We just need to be able to do that across the season. We are gathering momentum. Nobody has a crystal ball so we just need to do the best job we can,” Horner concluded.