Formula 1

Max Verstappen and Christian Horner put on united front at Australian GP in absence of Jos

Max Verstappen and Christian Horner put on united front at Australian GP in absence of Jos

Max Verstappen (right) and Christian Horner are all smiles at Albert Park – Getty Images/Future Publishing

Max Verstappen struck a far more conciliatory tone regarding his future at Red Bull as he put on a united front with team principal Christian Horner in Australia on Thursday compared with Saudi Arabia a fortnight ago.

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s race, where the Dutchman will seek to tie his own record for consecutive race wins, Verstappen insisted he was “happy at the team” adding it would be “a great story” for him to see out his Red Bull contract, which runs until 2028.

The three-time world champion was not absolutely on his best behaviour. He did admit that it was flattering to hear that Mercedes would like to sign him, adding that he “respected” Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff. But, overall, it felt as if the threat of him walking out of his Red Bull contract had receded rather than increased in the intervening weeks.

The fact that his father, Jos Verstappen, is not in Melbourne may be helping in that regard.

Verstappen Snr has had a major falling out with Red Bull team principal Horner, calling for the Englishman to resign in the wake of Red Bull GmbH’s internal investigation into the allegations of controlling behaviour levelled at him by a female employee.

Jos Verstappen was expected to be in Melbourne at one stage but has chosen to stay away.

Horner, who has been cleared of wrongdoing, spent a long time on Thursday talking to Verstappen’s manager, Raymond Vermeulen, outside Red Bull’s paddock home. He also had a long chat with Verstappen, who was noticeably less aggressive than he had been in Jeddah when holding his traditional pre-race media session.

Horner in conversation with Verstappen’s manager, Raymond Vermeulen (right) – Getty Images/Peter Fox

Two weeks ago, off the back of Jos’s comments about Horner needing to go before the team “exploded”, Verstappen said his father was “not a liar” adding that he, Jos and Red Bull’s motorsport advisor Helmut Marko would “always be a team”. The strong implication was that he would follow either one of them away from Red Bull if it came down to a straight choice.

Marko was on particularly thin ice at that point, with Red Bull GmbH close to suspending him for reasons which have not been made public. There was speculation that could potentially trigger an escape clause in Verstappen’s contract.

Marko, though, ended that weekend still in place. And with the 80-year-old due to be in the Melbourne paddock from Friday, it now feels as if everyone at Red Bull is trying to put on a united front.

Verstappen said he had every intention of seeing out his Red Bull contract. “That is why I signed the deal in the first place,” he insisted. “I am happy within the team. It is very important that we try to keep the key players in the team for a longer period of time because that is where the performance is.

“The deal is in place, and it is my intention to be here in the end. That would be a great story for me to see it out until the end because it means I have been part of one family and one team.”

He added: “It [Red Bull] is a second family and you can’t choose family. I would like the chat to be about the great car that we have but hopefully that will come slowly.”

The Red Bull team is a well-oiled machine – Getty Images/Future Publishing

Verstappen will be seeking to tie his own record of 10 consecutive race wins when the lights go out in Albert Park this weekend. And he insisted the noise around the team at the moment made no difference to his focus, smiling when asked about Wolff’s comment in Jeddah that every team on the grid would “do handstands” to sign him.

“I can understand [why he said that]!” Verstappen said. “It doesn’t have any impact on me or what I would do. It is always nice to hear that. Toto and I have had our moments [differences] but that is normal between two teams battling for the championship. But the respect has always been there. But from my side it doesn’t change anything. I don’t know what happens after 2028. If I will stay in F1, or continue or sign a new deal.”

One possible reason mooted for a move away from Red Bull is the fact that they will be building their own powertrains from 2026, a new departure for the team. Verstappen insisted he was not worried by speculation that they might be behind the curve compared with established manufacturers Ferrari or Mercedes.

“If I had to speculate about everything, I might be worried if I am still alive tomorrow,” he said. “I don’t worry about it too much, I am in close contact with Christian about that. Everyone is working flat out so there is no need to panic about that as well. It is not 2026 [yet] and we know it is a big task and we don’t take that lightly. With so many established engine manufacturers we know it will not be easy to beat them but we are excited about it and time will tell where we are going to be.”

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