Red Bull’s reliability problems a big concern due to Max Verstappen’s contract clause

Max Verstappen commits future to Red Bull signing £200m deal

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The reliability issues which have thus far plagued Max Verstappen’s title defence could have wider ramifications for Red Bull. Verstappen, 24, was embroiled in a thrilling title battle with Charles Leclerc at the Bahrain Grand Prix when a fuel pump issue forced him out of the race late on.

He bounced back to win in Saudi Arabia, following another thrilling duel with his Ferrari rival, but then endured more frustration in Australia on Sunday. Running second, the Dutchman had to pull over saying over team radio he “smelt weird fluid” and after jumping out of the car, quickly urged marshals to extinguish a small fire.

With two DNFs to his name, Verstappen is languishing in sixth in the drivers’ standings on just 25 points, already 64 behind leader Leclerc. Despite the new campaign representing the longest ever in F1 with 23 races, the reigning champion will know he can ill afford to fall back any further given the pace set so far by the Scuderia.

Back in March, Verstappen committed his long-term future to Red Bull, signing a multi-million pound contract to keep him with Christian Horner’s team until the end of 2028. After putting pen to paper, he said: “I love this team and last year was simply incredible, our goal since we came together in 2016 was to win the championship and we have done that, so now it’s about keeping the number one on the car long-term.”

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However, prior to the race in Melbourne team advisor Helmut Marko did reveal some intriguing detail about the contract, saying there was an escape clause for Verstappen if he deems the car he’s supplied to be uncompetitive. This notion would have appeared unthinkable prior to 2022, but Verstappen made no effort to hide his anger when his vehicle gave up on him both in Bahrain and then Down Under.

While rivals Mercedes have struggled for pace, it is reliability that has undermined him and team-mate Sergio Perez so far. In a brand new era for F1, with new technical regulations forcing all teams to make major adaptations to their cars, there is no guarantee that Red Bull can address their issues in the immediate future.

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Having tasted a world title win and brought a new dimension into the sport with his aggressive brand of driving, Verstappen will have little intention on settling for mediocrity.

So the pressure will be on Horner and co ahead of the next race in Imola in a fortnight’s time. Verstappen’s two DNFs in this campaign have equalled his total for the whole of 2021, both of which were caused by collisions with Lewis Hamilton. Any further problems, and suddenly his long-term future with Red Bull may not look quite so secure.

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