Belfast Telegraph

Verstappen targets world crown after penning new Red Bull deal

High aims: Max Verstappen wants to challenge for title
High aims: Max Verstappen wants to challenge for title

By Philip Duncan

Max Verstappen has signed a new contract with Red Bull until 2023.

The 22-year-old's deal was due to expire this year, and he had been earmarked as a leading candidate to replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes if the six-time world champion, also out of contract at the end of the season, joins Ferrari in 2021.

But Verstappen, an eight-time grand prix winner, has now committed his long-term future to Red Bull.

The Dutchman's decision to continue his relationship with the former world champions comes less than a month after Charles Leclerc signed a five-year contract extension with Ferrari. The two drivers, both 22, are viewed as Formula One's two great stars of the next decade.

"I want to win with Red Bull, and our goal is, of course, to fight for a World Championship together," said Verstappen, who joined the team as a teenager in 2016.

"Red Bull believed in me and gave me the opportunity to start in Formula One which I have always been grateful for.

"Honda coming onboard and the progress we have made over the last 12 months gives me even more motivation and the belief that we can win together.

"I respect the way Red Bull and Honda work together and from all sides everyone is doing what they can to succeed."

With Verstappen and Leclerc committing their futures to Red Bull and Ferrari respectively, Mercedes are left without the option of signing a megastar should Hamilton desert them.

The Briton, 35 yesterday, met with Ferrari chairman John Elkann on two occasions last year. Hamilton has admitted his future at Mercedes is uncertain, with team principal Toto Wolff also weighing up his options.

For Red Bull, Verstappen's extension is something of a coup. The Dutchman was arguably the pound-for-pound driver of 2019, often out-performing his inconsistent machinery.

He won on three occasions and finished above both Ferrari drivers, Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, in the Championship.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said: "Max has proven what an asset he is, he believes in the partnership we have forged with Honda, and we are delighted to have extended our relationship with him."

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