21-year-old Max Verstappen is a Formula 1 world champion-in-waiting, his popularity in The Netherlands and beyond forcing the revival of the Dutch Grand Prix, which is set to return next year to the Zandvoort circuit, near Amsterdam.
But, all that national pride and hype he’s delivered on in being the driver of his generation is yet to get Verstappen into a car capable of winning the world drivers’ championship.
Verstappen joined Toro Rosso as a 17-year-old and took his maiden win upon switching to Red Bull Racing for Spain 2016. He’s since claimed two wins in each of the last two campaigns for a total of five.
… for a 5.88 per cent strike rate across his 85 race starts so far including Azerbaijan last weekend, compared to 32.61 per cent for Lewis Hamilton.
For now, the Dutchman is contracted to Red Bull Racing through to the end of 2020 and on a massive annual salary, said to be upwards of $25 million US dollars with the Honda project the focus…
…and the team sure the Japanese manufacturer is on the right path from its development with Toro Rosso last year.
SOUNDBITE (English) MAX VERSTAPPEN,
F1 DRIVER, RED BULL RACING:
“Yeah, so with the new partner, with Honda, yeah we are expecting a lot. We are all very positive, but I think it also needs to take a little bit of time. It can not be like from race one it can be perfect.”
But Verstappen won’t wait forever, with four F1 World Championships his goal, forcing pressure on Red Bull and Honda to succeed.
And it would only take an offer from F1’s top squads, like Mercedes as has been rumoured, to change things, and a performance clause in Verstappen’s favour to make an early exit possible.
For now, though, Red Bull’s motorsport consultant Dr Helmut Marko isn’t worried about a Dutch driver exit, as the team continues to close the gap to the frontrunners.
“I’m relaxed, the performance clause in Max’s contract should be safe, and he feels comfortable with us,” he said.