Max Verstappen's long-term Red Bull contract holds an "escape clause" in the event that they can no longer provide him with a competitive car, team advisor Helmut Marko has claimed.
The 2021 F1 World Champion signed a new deal ahead of the 2022 season that saw him commit his future to Red Bull until 2028.
It is the longest contract of any driver on the grid, eclipsing the contract lengths of both Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) and Lando Norris (McLaren).
Verstappen protected against Red Bull "crash"
Verstappen's new contract guarantees Red Bull six more years of working with the driver they believe to be the best in the world – but only so long as they do not suffer a "crash", says Marko.
The "crash" that Marko has referred to was last suffered by the team back in 2014 when, following four years of dominance, they finished the season 296 points behind Mercedes amid major regulation changes.
That left Sebastian Vettel unable to fight for the title and preceded his move to Ferrari.
Speaking about Verstappen's new contract in an interview with German publication Formel1, Marko said: "If Red Bull experiences a kind of 'crash', just like in 2014, then there is, of course, an escape clause."
While it is not known what form of "escape" the clause would allow Verstappen to perform, its existence will likely be of interest to rival teams in the event that Red Bull one day slide down the pecking order.
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Long-term deal important in 2026 "chess game"
Marko has also explained how Verstappen's long-term contract, albeit with an escape clause, could play its part in convincing the likes of Porsche or Audi to collaborate with Red Bull in the future.
"Max is an important link in the chess game. It is not surprising that manufacturers take this into account," continued Marko, hinting once again that a partnership between one of those manufacturers and Red Bull could be in the offing.
"It was therefore important for Red Bull to be able to say that we have committed the best driver to our team until 2028. If you have someone like Max in the ranks, it has a positive effect on the rest of the team and the team partners.
But for now, there remains no deal done between Red Bull and Porsche, or any other engine supplier for that matter, with the team focused on building their own power units for 2026.
Marko has made clear: "It's all still open. It makes sense that we are the most attractive partner for manufacturers."
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