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.”
Ryan Norman will return to Andretti Autosport for their third season together in 2019 after scoring his first win and first pole with that organization in 2018.
“I’m really excited to finally make it official that I’ll be returning to Andretti Autosport for my third season competing in Indy Lights,” said Norman in a press release. “We’ve built a solid foundation over the past two years and I’m ready to fight for wins, podiums and ultimately the championship, with such a great group of people who have become like a family to me.”
Norman finished 2018 fourth in the championship, earning his first career win in race 15 of the 17-race schedule at Gateway Motorsports Park in August.
Norman’s first pole came in the finale at Portland International Raceway in September, but he crashed on the first lap and finished last (8th).
“We’re very happy that Ryan is rejoining us for his third season of Indy Lights,” said Andretti Autosport President, JF Thormann. “We were pleased with his performance this past season, and his potential as a driver began to really shine after his win at Gateway. He’s right on track with his progression plan put together by his engineering team, and we feel strongly that he has what it takes to be a contender for the 2019 championship.”
Norman will essentially replace teammates Patricio O’Ward and Colton Herta, who will race for Rookie of the Year honors in IndyCar next season. O’Ward finished first in the Indy Lights standings last year; Herta finished second.
Norman’s 2019 campaign will begin on the streets of St. Petersburgh, Florida March 9, 2019. That will be the first of a double-header with Race 2 running the following day.