Verstappen denies worrying about Red Bull’s 2026 engine

Fri, 22 March 2024, 09:00

Mar.22 (GMM) Max Verstappen has denied speculation that rumours about his Red Bull exit could be more about the all-new 2026 engine rules than the Christian Horner saga.

The F1 contracts of top stars like Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc are all believed to contain certain ‘exit clauses’ – like the rumoured ‘Marko clause’ that would allow Max to escape Red Bull in the event Dr Helmut Marko departs.

But while the Austrian and Horner-Thai factions at Red Bull are clearly warring at present, powered in part by fiery comments made by Max’s father Jos, the triple world champion sounded calm about the turmoil in Melbourne.

That would tie into rising rumours that Verstappen may be eying the exit door not because of Horner, but because of his nervousness about Red Bull’s new powertains project in collaboration with Ford.

Honda, having powered all of Verstappen’s titles to date, is switching to Aston Martin for 2026, when the all-new and radical engine regulations will debut.

Last year, Horner sounded the alarm about the 2026 rules, admitting that early simulations at Red Bull showed that drivers will have to get off the throttle mid-straight in order to conserve electrical energy.

“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 said at the time.

Now, amid the Horner scandal and Red Bull power struggle, Wolff is openly wooing Verstappen to Mercedes. Former F1 driver Johnny Herbert told the Sun newspaper earlier this week: “I’ve heard they are getting quite close with the deal with Mercedes.”

So is Verstappen contemplating a move to Mercedes not to escape the Red Bull turmoil, but because he believes the German giant will repeat its earlier feat of acing the start of the most recent engine rules revolution a decade ago?

Verstappen was asked in Melbourne if he is worried about speculation that Red Bull Powertrains, despite Ford’s involvement, is struggling with its 2026 engine?

“If I had to worry about every speculation, I would also have to worry about whether I will still be alive tomorrow,” he is quoted as answering by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

“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,” the Dutchman insisted.

“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.”

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