Verstappen locks in to Red Bull until 2020 with new F1 contract

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Max Verstappen will remain with Red Bull Racing for at least the next three Formula 1 seasons after agreeing an extension to his current contract, announced on Friday.

Verstappen, 20, was fast-tracked into F1 as a 17-year-old back in 2015 with Red Bull’s B-team, Toro Rosso, before moving up to its front-running operation at last year’s Spanish Grand Prix.

Verstappen was victorious on debut for Red Bull, becoming the youngest grand prix winner in F1 history in the process, and has followed this up with a second win for the team in Malaysia at the start of this month.

Known to be out of contract at the end of next year, speculation was already rife about Verstappen’s future given his ability and potential, only for Red Bull to end it early by surprising the F1 paddock with an announcement ahead of practice for the United States Grand Prix.

“Red Bull has always shown their faith and belief in me with actions; inviting me in to the young driver programme as a 16-year-old, then giving me my start in Formula 1 when I was just 17, and then the opportunity to race with Red Bull Racing where I had such a dream start with this team,” Verstappen said.

“They have always backed me and my ambition and I know we share that ambition. Their support, from the guys and girls in the factory through to the crew in the garage, no matter what plays out on the race track, has always been 100 per cent.

“We’ve also had some fun times! I’m very happy to commit further to Red Bull Racing and I’m looking forward to working together to enjoy more success in the years to come.”

“We are delighted that Max has agreed to extend his contract with Red Bull Racing. We had a phenomenal start together in Spain last year and Max has only pushed on from there,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said.

“It was a great moment for the whole team to see him put the frustrations of this season behind him in taking that fantastic victory in Malaysia last month.

“He is pure racer, with an undeniable talent at the wheel and a rare instinct for what it takes to compete consistently at this level.

“Coupled with a committed work ethic and a mature approach to learning his craft that belies his years, Max is right to be hungry for success and we are looking forward to extending that journey with him in our hunt for Formula 1 World Championships.

“As we now look to the long term with Max he is in the best place in the sport to build a team around him to deliver our shared ambition.”

Verstappen’s confirmation makes him only the second driver to have an F1 deal in place beyond the end of next season, the other being Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

As expected, FIA denies granting Colton Herta a Super License to race in F1

Colton Herta Super License
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The governing body for Formula One on Friday said IndyCar star Colton Herta will not be granted the Super License that the American needs to join the F1 grid next season.

“The FIA confirms that an enquiry was made via the appropriate channels that led to the FIA confirming that the driver Colton Herta does not have the required number of points to be granted an FIA Super Licence,” the FIA said in a statement.

The FIA decision was not a surprise.

Red Bull was interested in the 22-year-old Californian and considering giving Herta a seat at AlphaTauri, its junior team. AlphaTauri has already said that Pierre Gasly will return next season and Yuki Tsunoda received a contract extension earlier this week.

However, AlphaTauri has acknowledged it would release Gasly, who is apparently wanted at Alpine, but only if it had a compelling driver such as Herta to put in the car. F1 has not had an American on the grid since Alexander Rossi in 2015, but Herta did not particularly want the FIA to make an exception to the licensing system to get him a seat.

At issue is how the FIA rates IndyCar, a series it does not govern. The points it awards to IndyCar drivers rank somewhere between F2 and F3, the two junior feeder series into F1.

IndyCar drivers have criticized the system in defense of Herta and the intense, close racing of their own highly competitive series. Herta has won seven IndyCar races, is the youngest winner in series history and has four starts in the Indianapolis 500. He qualified on the front row in 2021 and finished a career-best eighth in 2020.

Rossi, who has spent the last four seasons as Herta’s teammate at Andretti Autosport, lashed out this week because “I’m so sick and tired of this back and forth” regarding the licensing.

“The whole premise of it was to keep people from buying their way into F1 and allowing talent to be the motivating factor,” Rossi wrote on social media. “That’s great. We all agree Colton has the talent and capability to be in F1. That’s also great and he should get that opportunity if it’s offered to him. Period.

“Motorsport still remains as the most high profile sport in the world where money can outweigh talent. What is disappointing and in my opinion, the fundamental problem, is that the sporting element so often took a backseat to the business side that here had to be a method put in place in order for certain teams to stop taking drivers solely based on their financial backing.”

Rossi added those decisions “whether out of greed or necessity, is what cost Colton the opportunity to make the decision for himself as to if he wanted to alter career paths and race in F1. Not points on a license.”

The system favors drivers who compete in FIA-sanctioned series. For example, Linus Lundqvist earned his Super License by winning the Indy Lights championship.

Lundqvist’s required points come via the 15 he earned for the Lights title, 10 points for finishing third in Lights last year and his 2020 victory in the FIA-governed Formula Regional Americas Championship, which earned him 18 points.

That gave the 23-year-old Swede a total of 43 points, three more than needed for the license.

Herta, meanwhile, ended the IndyCar season with 32 points. He can still earn a Super License by picking up one point for any free practice sessions he runs this year; McLaren holds his F1 rights and could put him in a car. Herta could also potentially run in an FIA-sanctioned winter series to pick up some points.

Michael Andretti, who has petitioned the FIA to expand its grid to add two cars for him to launch a team, said he never bothered to explore potential replacements for Herta on the IndyCar team because he was confident the Super License request would be rejected.

Andretti has been met by severe resistance from existing F1 teams and even F1 itself in his hope to add an 11th team. Andretti could still get on the grid by purchasing an existing team and he’d like to build his program around Herta, who is under contract in IndyCar to Andretti through 2023.