Max Verstappen signs new Red Bull contract to the end of 2020
Max Verstappen has signed a new contract with Red Bull to remain with the team until the end of 2020.
The 20-year-old is the youngest-ever winner in F1 having debuted in the sport at the age of 17 in 2015.
Both Ferrari and Mercedes, who only gave Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas one-year contract extensions for 2018 earlier this summer in the apparent expectation that Verstappen would become available, were thought to be keen on signing a driver considered to be F1's superstar-in-waiting.
However, in a move that caught the paddock by near-total surprise, Verstappen has opted to commit the next three years of his career to Red Bull despite the ongoing uncertainty about the team's engine supply future.
As Verstappen's previous deal ran until 2019, his new contract effectively amounts to a one-year extension - but on what is likely to be on a vastly increased salary.
"Red Bull has always shown their faith and belief in me with actions," Verstappen said.
"They have always backed me and my ambition and I know we share that ambition. I'm very happy to commit further to Red Bull Racing and I'm looking forward to working together to enjoy more success in the years to come."
Red Bull have struggled to keep pace with Ferrari and Mercedes this term but are currently enjoying a late-season revival. Verstappen's contract extension also spares the team from a nightmare scenario in which both the Dutchman and team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, whose contract expires at the end of next season, would leave in the near future.
"Every team would be trying to sign Max Verstappen, because of his age, speed and the upside potential," said Sky F1's Martin Brundle.
"You've got to remember that Lewis [Hamilton] is 32 years old now, Fernando [Alonso] is 36. Max is so young and has so much potential so for Red Bull to lose him would be crazy.
"I'm sure they've had to dip their hands a long way into their pockets and they'll be telling him what's happening with their engines for the future, what's happening with Aston Martin, and the development of the car. They would have made him a series of promises fro the performance of that car."
Verstappen's retention represents a major coup for Red Bull and a welcome fillip following months of speculation about their driver line-up and future engine plans.
"We gave him his first chance in Formula 1 and now we want to be, together with Max, the youngest world champion. We saw his potential, he is still developing, he believes in the team and we extended the contract until 2020," said Red Bull team advisor Helmut Marko.
It's understood Renault, Red Bull's current power providers, have informed the team they will cease to be their suppliers at the end of next season. But Marko revealed that Verstappen had been reassured by the plans outlined to him.
"Of course we discussed everything with Max. He knows what our plans are, he knows what are alternatives are, and this convinced him to extend the contract," he said.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner added: "We are delighted that Max has agreed to extend his contract with Red Bull Racing.
"We had a phenomenal start together in Spain last year and Max has only pushed on from there. It was a great moment for the whole team to see him put the frustrations of this season behind him in taking that fantastic victory in Malaysia last month.
"Max is right to be hungry for success and we are looking forward to extending that journey with him in our hunt for Formula One World Championships. As we now look to the long term with Max he is in the best place in the sport to build a team around him to deliver our shared ambition."