Is Verstappen eyeing exit because of Red Bull’s own 2026 engine?

Amid swirling speculations about Max Verstappen’s future with Red Bull, the Formula 1 star has clarified his stance – particularly in light of raging new rumours linking his potential departure to apprehensions over the team’s engine strategy for the 2026 season rather than any internal strife with team management.

Contracts for premier drivers like Verstappen, along with Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc, are rumored to incorporate specific conditions for an exit, including what’s been dubbed the ‘Marko clause’—a provision potentially allowing Verstappen an out should Dr. Helmut Marko leave the team. Despite the apparent internal discord within Red Bull, particularly between the Austrian faction and the Horner-Thai group, further stirred by comments from Verstappen’s father, Jos, the champion driver appeared poised amidst the Melbourne turmoil.

Fueling these rumors is the nervous anticipation surrounding Red Bull’s new powertrain venture with Ford, especially as Honda, the power behind Verstappen’s championship victories, will switch and align with Aston Martin come 2026, coinciding with the introduction of radically new engine regulations.

Last year, Christian Horner voiced concerns over the forthcoming 2026 regulations, revealing preliminary simulations indicated that drivers might need to throttle back mid-straight to conserve electrical energy—a strategy that could radically alter the racing, particularly if only Red Bull drivers are inhibited in that way.

“I suppose he (Horner) is worried that his engine program is not working and maybe he wants to kill the regulations because of that,” Mercedes’ Toto Wolff commented then, highlighting the stakes involved in adapting to the new rules.

Amidst this backdrop and the still-unfolding 2024 Red Bull saga, Wolff has not been shy in expressing his interest in bringing Verstappen over to Mercedes. Johnny Herbert has even hinted, “I’ve heard they are getting quite close with the deal with Mercedes,” suggesting a potential gargantuan shift in the F1 landscape.

Yet, when confronted with queries about his concerns regarding Red Bull Powertrains’ progress with the 2026 engine, despite Ford’s involvement, Verstappen downplayed the speculation. “If I had to worry about every speculation, I would also have to worry about whether I will still be alive tomorrow,” he remarked, emphasizing a forward-looking, grounded approach to the rumors.

Continuing, Verstappen reassured, “I talk to Christian and the people who work in the power unit department and there is no reason to panic, we are not in 2026 yet.”

“Yes, we are competing with established engine manufacturers and it will not be easy to beat them, but there are a lot of very good people working on our project,” Verstappen concluded, signaling his trust in the talent and commitment driving Red Bull’s future engine development efforts.

—GMM

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