Honda’s departure from Formula 1 at the end of 2021 could be the trigger Max Verstappen needed to seal his big break outside of the Red Bull camp.
The news leaves Red Bull without an engine supplier from 2022. With Mercedes unlikely to help their nearest rivals, the relationship with Renault sour and Ferrari looking like a last resort, it’s hard to see which direction Red Bul can go, and how they can remain in the title battle in the years to come.
Verstappen has been struck by poor reliability as of late with back-to-back issues in Monza and Mugello with the defective power unit likely to have ended his push for the world championship this season.
It’s understood that Verstappen’s contract includes a performance clause on Honda’s side where if the engine provider can’t offer Verstappen a winning car, he is free to walk.
Earlier this year, speaking to Autobild, Helmut Marko confirmed talk surrounding Verstappen’s contractual exit-clause saying, “There are some exit clauses. But as long as we have a competitive engine, he [Verstappen] has to drive with us.”
The Honda announcement has jump-started the Silly Season speculation in a similar fashion to a driver announcing their retirement.
Now in October, around six months before the start of the 2021 season, inter-team negotiations will already be in the works.
With Hamilton yet to sign a new deal with Mercedes, and the eventual contract likely to be another three-year stint, could Verstappen be in for that all mighty Mercedes seat in 2022?
The biggest factor in the Dutchman’s decision making is what plans Red Bull have for the long term. The team has already said they are committed to F1 until 2025 at the earliest, but reviving the Renault partnership would prove to be a waste of time for a future World Champion.