Max Verstappen will remain a Red Bull Racing driver until the end of the 2020 season, ending speculation over the Dutch youngster being headhunted by one of the team’s rival outfits. His contract extension was announced by the Milton Keynes team ahead of Friday’s opening practice session of the United States Grand Prix.
The son of former Grand Prix driver Jos Verstappen, Max was signed to Red Bull’s driving academy halfway through going on to dominate the 2014 FIA Formula 3 Championship. Later that year, he became the youngest driver to ever participate in a Grand Prix when he had an FP1 outing for Scuderia Toro Rosso at the Japanese Grand Prix.
He was promoted to a full-time role with the Red Bull junior squad in 2015 and quickly marked himself as a star of the future with a series of eye-catching performances, most notably with his fearless overtaking moves.
Staying on with Toro Rosso in 2016, he was promoted to the senior Red Bull Racing team early into 2016 after it elected to demote the struggling Daniil Kvyat. On debut for the championship-winning outfit at the Spanish Grand Prix, Verstappen capitalised on the first-lap collision between Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to claim a sensational victory.
Verstappen overcame a torrid run of reliability and bad luck in 2017 to add a second career victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix, and backed that up at the next race in Japan by chasing race-winner Lewis Hamilton over the line.
Verstappen has repeatedly been linked to moves to Mercedes and Ferrari for 2019 – when drivers Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Räikkönen are both off-contract if they are not re-signed – but his contract extension with Red Bull Racing has put paid to that and allowed for the team to be built around him, according to team principal Christian Horner.
“We are delighted that Max has agreed to extend his contract with Red Bull Racing. We had a phenomenal start together in Spain last year and Max has only pushed on from there,” Horner said.
“It was a great moment for the whole team to see him put the frustrations of this season behind him in taking that fantastic victory in Malaysia last month. He is a pure racer, with an undeniable talent at the wheel and a rare instinct for what it takes to compete consistently at this level.
“Coupled with a committed work ethic and a mature approach to learning his craft that belies his years, Max is right to be hungry for success and we are looking forward to extending that journey with him in our hunt for Formula One World Championships. As we now look to the long term with Max he is in the best place in the sport to build a team around him to deliver our shared ambition.”
“Red Bull has always shown their faith and belief in me with actions,” Verstappen added.
“Inviting me in to the young driver programme as a 16-year-old, then giving me my start in Formula 1 when I was just 17, and then the opportunity to race with Red Bull where I had such a dream start with this team. They have always backed me and my ambition and I know we share that ambition.
“Their support, from the guys and girls in the factory through to the crew in the garage, no matter what plays out on the race track, has always been 100 per cent.
“I’m very happy to commit further to Red Bull and I’m looking forward to working together to enjoy more success in the years to come.”
Focus for the 2019 driver market will now switch to Verstappen’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo, whose current contract with the team expires in 2018. The Australian recently hinted his own position with the team is uncertain as he negotiates his future as “a free agent”.
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