George Russell joins Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes
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Max Verstappen has committed his long-term future to Red Bull with a new reported deal set to take him up to his 30th birthday, which could in turn play into the hands of George Russell at Mercedes. Verstappen is on a high after clinching his first world title in dramatic circumstances last year.
Red Bull already cashed in on Verstappen’s World Championship with a mammoth £369million sponsorship deal with Oracle.
And they’ve now reportedly rewarded Verstappen with a huge new contract worth £40m-a-year, putting him on par with Lewis Hamilton.
His previous deal was set to expire in 2023, with some suggestions of an exit clause in his contract if Red Bull failed to deliver a championship-winning car.
With that title now won, Verstappen appears content with potentially spending the rest of his career with Red Bull.
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That may come as a blow to Mercedes, who have long been linked with a sensational move to steal Verstappen away from Red Bull.
Toto Wolff and Jos Verstappen held a good relationship in the paddock with the pair often spotted together.
That all appeared to change last summer after the British Grand Prix, where Verstappen crashed into the wall after a collision with Lewis Hamilton.
Tensions flared between the two teams after that, with Red Bull angry at the way Mercedes celebrated Hamilton’s race win.
Mercedes’ supposed interest in Verstappen was linked with the Dutchman potentially coming in as Hamilton’s replacement.
At 37 years of age and with just two years left on his contract, Hamilton may not have many years left in the sport and Mercedes will want to bring in a ready-made replacement.
But with Verstappen now likely off the table, Mercedes will have to look elsewhere and that’s where Russell comes in.
Mercedes have extreme confidence in Russell with the young Brit tipped to give Hamilton a run for his money in his debut season.
And he will be aiming to make the seat his own after Valtteri Bottas failed to compete with Hamilton on a regular basis.
Mercedes’ original plan may have been to eventually prise Verstappen away from Red Bull.
But Verstappen’s new contract may inadvertently act as the motivation Russell needs to ultimately become the man to take the mantle from Hamilton once he retires.
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