Respected Sky F1 pundit and former F1 driver Martin Brundle has hailed the news of Max Verstappen’s contract extension with Red Bull, claiming it is good news also for the future of Formula 1.
On Tuesday, Red Bull confirmed that their young Dutch star had inked a deal said to be worth $15-million which will see him in blue until the end of 2023.
Commenting and providing his comprehensive analysis on the news, Brundle said, “I think it’s very interesting. We thought it would play out through the year.
“My immediate reaction was good for Max, good for Red Bull and good for Formula 1 all around. It means everybody has got a longer-term view and it takes away quite a lot of short-term threats and nervousness.
“Red Bull have obviously been able to reassure him that they can give him what he wants. They had to be super nervous of keeping Max, that was critical. You had to be concerned that if Max joined Mercedes or Ferrari that Dietrich Mateschitz, the team’s owner, might have looked at the whole thing and thought ‘what’s the point’ if he’s bringing up a talent on like that only for him to jump ship.
“People love continuity inside Formula 1 teams. You build cars around drivers and their driving style. You build marketing programmes around them, you get long-term sponsors on board because you have got a long-term plan. Teams always look further down the road than they let on.
“We also know, of course, that there are often some exit windows on both sides as well through that process. That proviso has to be in place. Performance clauses are always very hard to write, but you might also seek key-personnel assurances.
“For example, if I was re-signing for Red Bull, I might want to know is Christian Horner going to be around? Is Adrian Newey around? Who else is around?
“They have put together a package, financial and technical, and it has convinced Max and his gang to settle in for another four years.”
Verstappen’s confirmation comes hot on the heels of Ferrari signing Charles Leclerc to the team until the end of 2024. Both camps have hedged their bets, picked their captain and the gauntlet has been laid down.
Mercedes have yet to confirm either Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas amid persistent suggestions that the German manufacturer may not be in the sport for the long term as a team. They have ‘owned’ the past half dozen years and have little else to prove in F1.
In other words: why carry on when, eventually and inevitably, the only way is down? Leave on a high rather.
Brundle is also intrigued by what may be happening behind the scenes in Stuttgart, “The Verstappen news does make me think: what’s going on at Mercedes’ short to medium term?
“I really would have expected one of Verstappen or Leclerc to rock up at Mercedes. You’d have to look at it and think that Mercedes have got to be at least the equal-best car for another two or three years with the momentum they’ve got, so why hasn’t one of them signed up there?”
It appears that, at least for the short term, Lewis Hamilton – who turned 35 on the day 22-year-old Verstappen inked his extension – may be running out of options but does not write-off a Ferrari move for the Briton.
Brundle continued, “It leaves Lewis with reduced options, but he’s still holding a lot of aces. And it doesn’t prevent Lewis from going to either of those two teams at all, really. It possibly would at Red Bull, but it doesn’t stop the idea of a Hamilton-Leclerc line-up at Ferrari.
“But it has cut Lewis’ options down, if indeed he hasn’t already signed with Mercedes-Benz longer term. Maybe the music stopped before Christmas, they all sat down and there is some embedded news we haven’t heard yet.
“But these post-2020 deals have certainly happened earlier than I expected. I thought Max would see whether Red Bull could give him a championship-challenging car over the first few races of the year and then take a view.
“So something has crystalised that earlier, which again makes my mind wonder about what is going on elsewhere…”
While the likes of Fernando Alonso departing the sport, Kimi Raikkonen on his swansong, Hamilton approaching 40, and Vettel not far behind – there is a richness of young talent knocking on the door beyond Verstappen and Leclerc.
“With my TV cap on, I quite like a bit of movement amongst the drivers, it’s something to talk about,” observed Brundle. “But we are set fair now. We’ve now got two defined camps at Red Bull and Ferrari for the next four or five seasons.
“With the likes of Lando Norris, George Russell, Carlos Sainz and others on the grid. That’s got ‘golden era’ written all over it,” declared Brundle.