Getty Images

Horner: No performance escape clause in Verstappen’s F1 contract

1 Comment

Red Bull Formula 1 chief Christian Horner has denied there is a performance clause in Max Verstappen’s contract that could allow him to leave the team at the end of the season.

Verstappen is currently on a difficult run of form that has seen him suffer five retirements in the past seven races, leaving him seventh in the F1 drivers’ championship with less than half the points of teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

Speculation quietly emerged in the paddock over the Austrian Grand Prix weekend that Verstappen could consider leaving Red Bull for 2018 via a performance escape clause in his contract.

Sebastian Vettel was able to get out of his contract for 2015 in order to join Ferrari due to a performance clause that Red Bull failed to meet, but Horner said there would be no repeat of this for next year.

“No. Both the drivers we’ve already confirmed for next year,” Horner told NBCSN.

“There will be no changes in our driver line-up for 2018.”

When directly asked if Verstappen had an escape clause in his contract, Horner said: “No. Contracts are very straightforward.”

Verstappen’s DNFs have been a mix of on-track incidents and technical issues, but Horner does not feel that his aggressive driving style is the cause.

“It’s nothing to do with the way he drives the cars, that’s for sure,” Horner said.

“He’s just had rotten luck the last few races. It will turn, hopefully this weekend. And when it does, he’s driving so well, hopefully he’ll get a good result.”

Lewis Hamilton aims to match Michael Schumacher’s F1 win record

Lewis Hamilton Schumacher record
Mark Sutton - Pool/Getty Images
Leave a comment

SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton has set many Formula One marks over the years, but few are as significant as the Michael Schumacher record he can match Sunday at the Russian Grand Prix.

Victory for Hamilton at the Sochi Olympic Park would see him draw level with Schumacher at 91 career victories, more than any other driver in the 70-year history of F1.

It also would increase Hamilton’s commanding 55-point lead over teammate Valtteri Bottas in the championship standings, putting him closer to a seventh world championship, matching another Schumacher record.

YOU’RE INVITED: Bubba Wallace hopes to see Lewis Hamilton at Daytona

History is on the side of Hamilton, who won Sept. 13 at Mugello. He’s won four of the six Russian races so far, and all six were won by Mercedes drivers. His closest challenger is likely to be Bottas, who beat Hamilton in the 2017 edition of the Russian Grand Prix.

Elsewhere in the championship hunt, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen’s season has gone up in smoke since his Aug. 9 victory at Silverstone. An overheating engine forced the Dutch driver out of the Sept. 6 race at Monza and then a similar problem struck just before the start at Mugello. Verstappen was far slower off the line than the cars around him and was struck by Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo.

That leaves Verstappen 80 points off Hamilton in the standings and a 25-point deficit to Bottas.

If Hamilton does win to tie Schumachher at Sochi, more fans will see it in person than any other race in a 2020 season mostly run before empty grandstands because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Organizers say the race weekend is sold out but haven’t given final ticket sales figures.

Race promoter Alexei Titov previously told Russian state TV that the stands would be at 50 percent of their capacity, which equates to around 30,000 spectators.

That’s far more than the previous season high of 3,000 fans for the most recent race, the Tuscan Grand Prix at the Mugello circuit.

Unlike at the last two races in Italy, there will be a full entertainment program on offer for fans with concerts featuring some of Russia’s most popular musicians.

Russian organizers say they’re taking precautions to keep fans safe and will have medical staff posted at checkpoints around the venue, and that spectators will have their temperature measured on entry.