Red Bull appear to have finally provided Max Verstappen with a car capable of fighting for the Championship, but if this doesn’t prove to be the case, he may well decide to join Mercedes, 1996 F1 World Champion Damon Hill has said.
Team principal Christian Horner previously said he believes Verstappen will be high on Mercedes’ list should they decide to sign a new driver – and Hill believes the Dutch ace could also be interested in a move to the Silver Arrows.
“Yes, and I think Mercedes will be high on Max’s list as well,” Hill said in an interview with Autocar.
“He’s been very loyal to Red Bull, but if they can’t provide the competitiveness he needs… Time is ticking.
“He was the youngest F1 winner back in 2016, but he hasn’t been able to fight for a Championship yet. That will be in his mind.”
In February, Red Bull senior advisor Dr Helmut Marko confirmed the existence of a so-called “performance clause” in Verstappen’s contract which could allow him to leave the team at the end of 2021 if they fail to provide him with a competitive car, despite his existing deal running until the end of 2023.
So, he could potentially be free to join Mercedes at the end of the year, and with both of the Silver Arrows’ drivers being on one-year deals, there could be space for the Dutch ace at the team.
In the same interview, Hill commented on Lewis Hamilton’s future in Formula One and said it is “risky” for him to assume that he’s indispensable.
“Everybody has this in the back of their mind: ‘When will I have to stop racing, and will I know when is the right time to stop?’” Hill said.
“Keeping your options open is the right thing to do. The question is whether he’ll be in a stronger negotiating position later this year, and on past track record you’d say he probably will be.
“But we saw what happened with Michael [Schumacher] at Ferrari where you think ‘they’ll wait for me.’ The trouble is Mercedes won’t and can’t.
“That’s the trap, and I’d be wary of it. Assuming you are indispensable is risky.”