AUSTIN -- After confirming the extension of Max Verstappen's contract, Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko says it was imperative for the team to tie at least one of its drivers down beyond 2018
Verstappen will be at Red Bull for another two seasons, ending speculation of a switch to the likes of Ferrari or Mercedes in the next few years. Previously, the Dutchman had what was believed to be a 1+1 deal -- a solid contract for 2018 but a less certain option for 2019, which is likely to have included clauses which could have allowed the Dutchman to escape the agreement early in certain situations.
That could have left Verstappen on the market for 2019, which would have presented a major headache for Red Bull with Daniel Ricciardo's current deal also expiring at the end of next year. Ricciardo is stalling on a decision on his future until he has seen the strength of the team's 2018 car, which is also likely to make him the key figure in next season's driver market, with likely openings at Mercedes and Ferrari in 2019.
When asked if the deal is proof Red Bull fears losing Ricciardo, Marko told Sky Sports: "No. We started with Max in Formula One. He had his first victory, and now we want to achieve the championship title as the youngest ever Formula One driver.
"Yes, both drivers, Max and Ricciardo, could have been free after '18 so we tried to secure at least one driver, because Max asked if we could make a deal to 2020. Ricciardo was putting himself on the market. So now we are talking with him."
Marko then said that Verstappen asking for a new deal himself "shows how much he trusts us."
Verstappen confirmed as much in his post-FP2 TV media sessions.
"I believe in the team and also they gave me the chance to start in Formula One and I felt good in the team," Verstappen said. "Of course we had our ups and downs this year but as you can see they've been working very hard to get better and again today it showed that we are very competitive and I really enjoy it here with the team and I think that's also really important and that's why I decided to extend.
"I was running already until 2019 but I had a good feeling with the team. Of course, we know it's been a challenging year for us but we definitely improved a lot especially towards the end of the season now I think we are really competitive even with the top speed losses that we still have, I think we built a great car and I trust the guys, I believe in the guys and they believe in me. I think our working relationship is also really good, that's really the sign to extend."