Verstappen, Vettel, Alonso fire up 2020 'silly season' (Update)
UPDATE (GMM) Toto Wolff is not ruling out making a move for Max Verstappen for 2020.
|Verstappen watches the Mercedes and wishes he was in it.|
The big buzz in the Austrian GP paddock is that Verstappen might be able to escape from his Red Bull contract thanks to a performance clause.
Dr Helmut Marko as well as Verstappen's management have confirmed the existence of the clause, but the 21-year-old Dutch driver is not giving details.
"Why would I?" he said on Saturday.
Wolff, the Mercedes boss, admitted recently that he often talks with Verstappen's father Jos, but only on a friendship basis.
When asked about the latest rumors, Wolff said at the Red Bull Ring: "I haven't spoken to Max.
"I'd like to do it like we've done it in the past, first evaluating our current lineup and talking to them before really entering a proper discussion with anybody else."
Ferrari's Mattia Binotto counted himself out of the speculation, insisting the Maranello team's 2020 lineup is "fixed".
But Lewis Hamilton says he wouldn't mind having Verstappen as his new Mercedes teammate.
"I think the team's pretty happy with Valtteri and me, and I don't know if Max is definitely interested in opportunities," said the five time world champion.
"I'll drive against whoever."
|Did Vettel shave that hideous beard in Austria for an interview with Red Bull?|
06/29/19 (GMM) The driver 'silly season' is really shifting into high gear in the paddock in Austria.
The big news is that a performance or results clause in Max Verstappen's Red Bull contract is in play, amid rumors he is eyeing a switch to Mercedes.
"I confirm that there is a performance clause, but we make no further statement," the Dutchman's manager Raymond Vermeulen told the Dutch publication Formule 1.
"Red Bull knows exactly what the agreements entail."
It is believed the clause is in effect until the summer break, and says that unless Verstappen is in the top three points positions by then, he is free to leave.
Dr Helmut Marko, the Red Bull driver manager, also confirmed the existence of the clause. It is rumored it might also stipulate a race win for Verstappen by the summer break in order to secure his services for 2020.
Verstappen, 21, says he is happy at Red Bull but doesn't want to wait until he is "35 or 40" before retiring as a world champion.
Manager Vermeulen said: "We want to become world champion with Red Bull. We feel very comfortable but we want to win.
"We started with them in 2015 with the plan to become the youngest champion ever.
"We are not only concerned about next year, but also the years after that. What will happen to Red Bull and what will happen to Honda? All the elements are important," Vermeulen added.
Marko is clearly now putting pressure on Honda to provide a more powerful engine for Verstappen.
"What we lack is power," he told Krone newspaper in Austria. "Honda is in the process of fixing that.
"Our next development should come in Spa and Monza, then we should be closer to Mercedes. But it takes time."
If Verstappen does leave Red Bull, the equally sensational rumor is that Sebastian Vettel could replace him.
"Seb has often been seen with his old friends at Red Bull lately," a source said.
And Corriere dello Sport claims that if Vettel leaves Ferrari, the Maranello team could reunite with Fernando Alonso.