Max Verstappen has exit clause in Red Bull deal amid Christian Horner scandal

Max Verstappen could quite Red Bull over the Christian Horner scandal (Photo: Getty)

Max Verstappen has a break clause in his contract that will allow him to sensationally walkaway from Red Bull – if one condition is met.

The three-time Formula 1 title winner has a deal with Red Bull until 2028, but there is now speculation he could shockingly leave the reigning champions.

This has come about thanks to the scandal surrounding team principal Christian Horner who was accused of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ by a female employee of his team.

Horner was cleared after an investigation, but texts and images supposedly related to the probe was leaked to the media and F1 personnel, casting a dark shadow over the sport.

The 50-year-old, husband of former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, has repeatedly denied the allegations and insists he is leading a united team as they look to move on from the saga.

But following the season opening Bahrain Grand Prix last weekend, which was won by Verstappen, the Dutchman’s father, Jos Verstappen, sensationally called for Horner to be axed.

Verstappen Snr. has even gone so far as to privately suggest that his son could leave Red Bull if Horner remains in charge, with a seat at rivals Mercedes free following Sir Lewis Hamilton’s move to Ferrari.

F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain - Practice

Max Verstappen’s dad Jos has called for Horner to go (Photo: Getty)

Following his first title win in 2021, Max Verstappen penned his long-term deal with Red Bull, which is worth around £50million-a-year, and has previously said he could not envision himself driving for anyone else.

However, according to the Daily Mail, a clause in the 26-year-old’s contract will allow him to leave if Red Bull chief Helmut Marko departs the team.

Marko is the head of Red Bull’s driver development programme, and integral to Verstappen’s rise up the motor racing ladder and ascension to Red Bull team leader.

Christian Horner investigation timeline

How the scandal has unfolded…

Monday 5 February – Red Bull confirm investigation into Horner over ‘controlling behaviour’ allegations

Friday 9 February – Horner grilled by independent lawyer during eight-hour hearing

Thursday 15 February – Horner attends Red Bull’s 2024 car launch and publicly addresses allegations for first time – says he ‘fully denies’ any wrongdoing

Friday 16 February – Fresh allegations emerge in Dutch Newspaper De Telegraaf suggesting Horner sent messages of a ‘suggestive nature’ to a female employee

Wednesday 21 February to Friday 23 February – Horner attends Formula 1 pre-season testing in Bahrain – says: ‘We hope there is a resolution as soon as possible’

Friday 23 February – Sixth series of F1: Drive to Survive releases on Netflix – Horner and wife Geri Halliwell feature in docuseries

Wednesday 28 February – Horner cleared of allegations – Red Bull say: ‘The investigation is complete and the grievance has been dismissed. The complainant has a right of appeal’

Thursday 29 February to Saturday 2 March – Formula 1 season gets underway with the Bahrain Grand Prix

Thursday 29 February – WhatsApp messages and images supposedly between Horner and the complainant were leaked to the media and F1 personnel

Friday 1 March – Horner summoned for showdown talks with F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem

Saturday 2 March – Jos Verstappen, Max’s father, warns Red Bull Racing ‘is in danger of being torn apart’ unless Horner leaves

F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi

Verstappen’s Red Bull future is tied to that of Helmut Marko (Photo: Getty)

The 80-year-old is a close ally of the Verstappens and has a contract with the Austrian team until 2026.

It is said that Verstappen supported Marko when there was an attempt to axe him amidst a power struggle at the team last year – with Horner supposedly behind those attempts.

Marko is a figure of controversy himself due to various comments he has made over the years, including xenophobic remarks made against Red Bull’s other driver Sergio Perez just last season.

Christian Horner investigation – what we know

Meanwhile, Horner held face-to-face talks with Max Verstappen’s representatives on Monday in Dubai in an attempt to clear the air between all parties.

As for where Max Verstappen stands in all of this, the driver has often refused to comment on the scandal, though he did passionately defend his boss after qualifying in Bahrain.

It is said he is believed to be in general support of his father’s stance however.

No doubt he will be asked about the matter in the build-up to this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, though it has been already confirmed that Jos Verstappen won’t be in Jeddah for the next race.

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