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'Red Bull fear Mercedes swoop' for Verstappen as management confirms exit clause

'Red Bull fear Mercedes swoop' for Verstappen as management confirms exit clause

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'Red Bull fear Mercedes swoop' for Verstappen as management confirms exit clause

'Red Bull fear Mercedes swoop' for Verstappen as management confirms exit clause

Max Verstappen's management has reaffirmed the presence of performance-based clauses in the Dutchman's Red Bull contract, amid reports that the team fear a swoop from Mercedes if he is freed to discuss terms elsewhere.

Spanish newspaper Marca claimed on Friday that Verstappen would be free to negotiate an early release if he does not win a grand prix before the summer break this season. Other reports have claimed that Red Bull must finish in the top three to guarantee keeping hold of Verstappen.

Now into his fifth season in F1, at the age of 22, Verstappen has just five grand prix wins to his name, a paltry return when compared to the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel at similar stages of their careers, while the Dutchman is yet to truly compete for a championship.

Mercedes stuck by Valtteri Bottas amid a winless 2018 and have talked up Esteban Ocon's talents as he eyes a return to the grid, but Verstappen's availability could turn the Silver Arrows' heads.

Indeed Mercedes have twice tried to sign the Dutchman in the past: competing with Red Bull for his signature as a junior in 2014 and then in 2017, before he signed his current Red Bull deal, which runs to 2020.

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According to Auto Motor und Sport, Dr Helmut Marko – who has made little secret of Verstappen's get-out clauses – fears that Mercedes could move for Verstappen and team him with five-time world champion Hamilton.

And Verstappen's manager Raymond Vermuelen fuelled the rumours further as he too confirmed that Verstappen could be the hottest free agent on the 2020 market should certain terms be met.

"We confirm that there is a performance clause in the contract," Vermeulen told Formule 1. "But we will not make any further statements about its content. Red Bull and Verstappen know exactly what the agreements entail."

Although confirming the clause exists, Vermuelen hinted that it may not be enacted by Verstappen's side should it become active.

"We want to become world champion with Red Bull," Vermeulen said. "We started with Red Bull in 2015 with the plan to become the youngest world champion ever and we want to continue to follow that plan.

"We are not only concerned about next year, but also the years afterwards.

"What will happen to Red Bull and what will happen to Honda? All elements are important."

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