Max Verstappen confident of Red Bull success despite Honda's decision to quit Formula 1

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Max Verstappen with Honda technical director Toyoharu Tanabe at pre-season testing in February
Max Verstappen with Honda technical director Toyoharu Tanabe at pre-season testing in February

Max Verstappen says Honda’s decision to quit Formula 1 does not affect his belief that Red Bull can challenge Mercedes before the end of next year.

The Japanese company announced last week that they would quit F1 after the 2021 season, leaving Red Bull needing to find a new engine for 2022.

Verstappen last winter signed a new contract with Red Bull through 2023.

"We are still driving with them for one and a half more years," said the 23-year-old Dutchman.

“It doesn’t [affect my confidence] at the moment."

Honda have pledged to push on with a new engine for next year, even though they have decided to stop.

Cost-saving restrictions introduced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic mean F1 teams have to use the same cars next season, although aerodynamic changes are unlimited.

Red Bull entered this season optimistic they could challenge Mercedes, but the world champions have taken a major step ahead and have dominated.

Max Verstappen
In 10 races in 2020, Max Verstappen has won once, come second four times, third twice and failed to finish on the other three occasions

Asked about Honda’s decision, Verstappen said: “You could feel it coming. It’s a shame, but understandable from their side. But they are not going to back off now.”

Although Honda’s decision came long after he committed the next four years of his career to Red Bull, Verstappen said he was aware it was a possibility because the company had signed only a one-year extension with Red Bull late last year.

“It came after I signed the deal but they never committed a lot longer,” Verstappen said. “So you could expect something like this.

“You are never sure. That’s the same for teams. You sign a deal but who knows what is happening in five years’ time? The whole situation in the world is not helping.

"I just focus on this season and next season. What happens after that is so far that it doesn’t make sense to think about that.”

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said this week that Verstappen’s contract did not contain an “engine-related” clause that would allow him to leave earlier.

That was in response to claims that Honda’s departure could mean Verstappen was contractually a free agent at the end of 2021.

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