Max Verstappen is arguably the hottest property on the driver market as F1’s standout rising star and another stellar season in 2019 has only further ramped up his value.
Red Bull made substantial gains with new engine suppliers Honda as the year went on and Verstappen picked up three victories on his way to finishing third in the drivers’ standings, though neither he nor Red Bull were ever truly in championship contention.
Just like fellow frontrunners Hamilton and Vettel, Verstappen is out of contract at the end of 2020, putting rival teams Mercedes and Ferrari on red alert.
But Red Bull’s strong end to 2019 has kept Verstappen satisfied, with the Dutchman pleased by Honda’s progress. Honda concluded the year with a power unit that appeared to be on par with Mercedes and not too far behind Ferrari at some of the later rounds, leaving Verstappen and Red Bull’s hierarchy confident about mounting a sustained title push this year.
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Further gains over the winter should thrust Red Bull into a possible three-way championship fight, providing it can avoid a slow start to the season, something which has proved to be its Achilles’ Heel in recent years.
At the end of 2019, Verstappen admitted Red Bull’s start to 2020 will be a factor in making a decision over his F1 future, while Hamilton suggested at the FIA prize giving gala in Paris in December that Verstappen was among a number of his rivals to have directly contacted Mercedes boss Toto Wolff about a possible future opening at the reigning world champions. However, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has repeatedly stressed he expects his star driver to stay at Milton Keynes.
Honda’s long-term commitment to F1 is also set to play a major role. The Japanese manufacturer agreed a new one-year deal to supply both Red Bull and its sister squad Alpha Tauri for 2021, with its performance in 2020 and the progress of the 2021 regulations likely to influence any decision taken at Sakura.