Max Verstappen could be free to join Mercedes or another rival team in 2022 if Red Bull are unable to provide the Dutch ace with a strong package this upcoming season, Dr Helmut Marko has confirmed.
It has long been speculated that a so-called “performance clause” in Verstappen’s Red Bull contract could allow him to leave the Milton Keynes-based racing outfit prior to his deal expiring at the end of the 2023 season.
And, with Dr Marko confirming the existence of such a clause, and Sir Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas only signing one-year deals, there is a good chance Verstappen will race with the Silver Arrows next year.
“Yes, there is a performance clause,” Dr Marko, a senior Red Bull advisor, replied when questioned about the clause by F1 Insider this week.
“I don’t want to go into details, but it more or less says that Max can compete for race wins and the World Championship on his own merits.
“If he can do that, his contract is extended. If not, he would be free [to join another F1 team].”
The Austrian didn’t specify how exactly this clause could be triggered and how close Red Bull needs to be to the front-running team in 2021 to prevent Verstappen from leaving at the end of the season.
The same publication reported that, for Red Bull to prevent Verstappen from activating the clause, their 2021 challenger must be within 0.3 seconds of the fastest car.
Dr Marko said he believes Red Bull can “fulfil the clause” and thus guarantee the Dutch ace’s services at the team for the following season.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff previously ruled out a Hamilton-Verstappen driver line-up, but it has been speculated that the Brit would likely retire at the end of this upcoming season if he breaks Michael Schumacher’s record by winning his eighth title.
So, a Verstappen-Bottas or Verstappen-Russell driver line-up at Mercedes may well be on the cards for 2022.