F1: Red Bull's Verstappen gets in shape for new season
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Sky F1 pundit and former Formula One driver Martin Brundle believes Max Verstappen will have no choice but to leave Red Bull if they can’t deliver him a championship-winning car this season.
The Dutch driver topped the timing sheets during pre-season testing in Bahrain earlier this month, while Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton struggled in the W12.
It now means Red Bull go into the first race of the season on Sunday as favourites.
Verstappen, who is just 23 years old, incredibly heads into his seventh season in Formula One, hoping he has the car that could beat Hamilton to the title after finishing third in the drivers’ standings last time out, behind both Mercedes drivers.
Partnered alongside Mexican Sergio Perez, who got his maiden win last season out in the Racing Point at the Sakhir Grand Prix, Red Bull look like strong candidates, but will it be enough to stop the seven-time champions Mercedes this season?
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“He is obviously very comfortable [at Red Bull]. They give him the freedom and latitude that he wants, and I’m sure they pay him the money that he wanted,” explained Brundle.
“I think it’s a place that suits him, and his personality and his style.”
Earlier in the year Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admitted Verstappen was on his radar, as a clear standout talent within the F1 paddock.
And with Lewis Hamilton opting for just a one-year contract, Wolff was quick to dismiss any rumours about a potential move for the Dutchman.
“Max is certainly an outstanding young driver that will be on everybody’s radar in the future,” the Austrian said.
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“But we are not flirting outside before we have a clear understanding with our two drivers.”
Verstappen is contracted until 2023, but Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko confirmed there is a performance clause in his contract that could allow him to leave the team at the end of this season.
And with Red Bull looking to better their second place finish last time out in the constructors’ standings, Verstappen will play a key role in making that happen.
“He seems very loyal, that’s something that Toto [Wolff] said to me, Toto always says he’s very impressed with Max’s loyality (sic), but he means loyalty of course. Toto’s English is a million percent better than my German, but it always makes me smile when he says it,” continued Brundle.
“I am sure Max would love to now win the championship with Red Bull if he can.
“If he thinks they, and Honda or Red Bull interpretation of the Honda engine going forward, is not going to cut it, and the performance this year, I think the cut off point is August, and he can leave, I think he will leave.
“He’s got to really. What’s this, his seventh season in Formula One? And he’s not really had a sniff of a championship, and he’s world championship material as we all know, so that would be my take.
“He will be sitting there, hoping Red Bull is the solution going forward.”
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