Horner: No Honda-related exit clause in Verstappen contract

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Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has denied the existence of a Honda-related exit clause in Max Verstappen's contract.

News of Honda's withdrawal from F1 at the end of 2021 immediately sparked a whirlwind of speculation regarding Verstappen's future.

Last week, reports alluded to the existence of a clause in the Dutchman's contract with Red Bull that would allow Verstappen to leave the Milton Keynes-based outfit before the end of 2023 in the event that Honda departed the team.

But Horner has denied the existence of any such agreement between Red Bull and Verstappen, insisting the 23-year-old remains totally committed to his team's future.

"There is no such clause in his contract," Horner told Red Bull's ServusTV on Monday evening.

"The contracts between the driver and the team are private, but there is definitely no engine-related clause in Max's contract.

Race winner Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing celebrates with Toyoharu Tanabe (JPN) Honda Racing F1 Technical Director; Masashi Yamamoto (JPN) Honda Racing F1 Managing Director; and Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal.

"He is competitive. He feels very comfortable in the team and believes strongly in the Honda program. I think he also sees that Honda has brought forward the engine from 2022 to 2021. That is encouraging, of course.

"So we will take another step forward next year. He's excited about this, and he still has a long way to go until 2022."

Honda's departure is nevertheless a blow for Red Bull and leaves the energy drink company scrambling to secure a new engine supplier for 2022 by the end of the year.

A partnership with Mercedes or Ferrari appears very unlikely, mainly for competitive or political reasons, leaving Renault as the most achievable option, if the two former partners can let bygones be bygones following their acrimonious at the end of 2018.

However, commenting on Renault's recent change of management, marked by the arrival at the helm of former Seat boss Luca de Meo, Horner believes a "fresh wind" is now blowing through Renault's corridors.

"We must now start thinking about an engine partner for 2022," he said. "We need clarity by the end of the year.

"Of course, we have to consider all possibilities, all options. But in the end, Mr.[Dietrich] Mateschitz must decide how to proceed. But it is important for us to have enough power to challenge Mercedes in the coming years.

"Of course, I understand why people assume that we will talk to Renault. Since the separation, Renault has changed. The new board brings a lot of fresh wind and some changes. Things are moving forward."

Honda F1 boss Yamamoto-san recently said that the Japanese manufacturer could be open to letting Red Bull take over the development of its engine from 2021.

But Horner appeared skeptical of such a prospect, the complexities of which could prove too costly for Red Bull.

"The cost of getting a new manufacturer on board under the current regulations is simply far too high," he said. "So there will be no new manufacturer until a new engine - possibly 2026 - comes on the market. The costs for development are enormously high.

"The FIA and Liberty have to get a grip on this. They have done a good job on the chassis. Now we need homologated engines and we also need budget caps for the power units."

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