Despite all the misery Horner knows for sure: ‘Verstappen stays with Red Bull’

Max Verstappen plays another supporting role this season behind the almost unbeatable Mercedes. Two downturns in a row have killed his championship aspirations and there is not much at stake for his racing stable Red Bull.

The Formula One season is only halfway through, but the cards are already shaken. Red Bull Racing will finish second in the championship for constructors, miles behind Mercedes. But thanks to a form crisis at rival Ferrari, the gap to number three is also immense. Like Verstappen, Red Bull is the best of the rest.

Lewis Hamilton pulverizes F1 records and will almost certainly prolong his world title. Verstappen is almost certain of the third place in the World Cup. If its okay, he could get a step higher. Passing over Mercedes rider Valtteri Bottas would be a top achievement, but the chances of doing so are small. After all, Verstappens RB16 is – again – not fast and not reliable enough.

The 22-year-old Dutchman failed to finish two grand prixs in a row due to a faltering Hondamotor. โ€œIm just finished with it. What a messโ€, said Verstappen after the exit in Tuscan Mugello. And later a little more diplomatic: โ€œI have to accept it. We talked, and Honda solved the problems. They say.โ€

Every race a cup final
The

fact that Verstappens teammate Alex Albon came third across the line in Tuscany softens the pain somewhat, but it is indeed a crisis in the team. Team boss Christian Horner is already screening with his famous creed. โ€œFrom now on, we approach every race as a cup finals.โ€

The Brit has been using that hobbyhorse for years, usually in the second half of the season when his team has finally steamed up after another bad start of the season.

Horner barely has hope for a speedy recovery. In the Russian Grand Prix, Red Bull has a moderate track record, he realizes. โ€œWe have never been on this stage and Mercedes has always won here. For us, this is going to be a challenging weekend. This circuit is not the same for us.โ€

โ€œ Weve had a frustrating line of races. I hope we survive Russia a little,โ€ says Horner. After Sochi, the cards are better. โ€œThen there will be a few circuits that will be better for us.โ€

Horner refers to the Nรผrburgring, Portimao and Imola. Day successes are the target there.

Coincidences or not, immediately after the two Italian breakdowns of Verstappen, the sounds of an escape clause in his contract became stronger again. The nine-time Grand Prix winner could leave under certain conditions, but according to Horner, that is not the case.

โ€œ The details of contracts are secret. Of course there is always food for speculation, but I am 100% sure that Max will be in a Red Bull car next year.โ€

Remarkable is that Horner only exits in 2021, and in 2022 the F1 regulations and the cars change drastically. Verstappen is under contract until the end of 2023 and it is certain that Horner, now that the title fight is a running course, is focusing on the long term.

And Horner, the longest-seated team boss in Formula One, leaves no misunderstanding about his ambitions. โ€œI want to get back to the top with this team. Mercedes has had the empire alone for far too long. Everyone yearns for a real fight between Verstappen and Hamilton.โ€

Coronatijd makes future uncertain

Relevant detail is that Red Bull Racings commitment with engine supplier Honda expires next year. โ€œI hope, of course, that they continue. Everything is focused on that,โ€ says Verstappen about it.

The Japanese breed on contract extension and would even consider taking over the stable, which would actually create a Honda factory team. However, the coronapandemic and the resulting economic malaise make everything uncertain.

Hondas Formula One Chief Toyoharu Tanabe is avoiding questions about the uncertain future of the alliance Red Bull-Honda. โ€œThe contract runs until the end of 2021. I am not going to say anything about it. Im not a person involved. I am only responsible for the technique and for what happens on the track.โ€

On Verstappens recent deceptions in Italy Tanabe is also vague and short of dust. โ€œIts annoying that Max has been stranded twice in a row. After the race in Mugello we took a lot of time to find out what had happened. I dont go into detail, but it was complicated. There were many factors that caused the problem. We work very hard to perform better.โ€

Tanabe calls it a unique occurrence. โ€œIts the first time this has happened to us. This never happened with Alpha Tauri and Toro Rosso. We found the problem and took measures. It wont happen again.โ€