Honda’s exit from Formula 1 means Max Verstappen may be tempted to ditch Red Bull and seek a move to Mercedes to fulfil his World Championship dream.
That’s a theory put forward by Dutch racer Tom Coronel, who says Verstappen’s “only focus” will be to find the right package that gives him the best chance of capturing the title.
Plans to do that with Red Bull have potentially taken a huge knock after news that Honda are pulling out of F1 at the end of next year in order to prioritise their “environmental initiatives”.
It leaves Red Bull and AlphaTauri seeking an engine supplier for 2022 with only three existing manufacturers remaining – Mercedes and Ferrari, who may not want to help a direct rival, and Renault. The most obvious choice would be Renault, but they and Red Bull endured a fraught relationship before going their separate ways at the end of 2018.
Coronel, 48, a veteran of over 1,000 races, primarily in touring cars and sportscars, believes Red Bull must act decisively if they are to retain Verstappen’s services when F1 enters its new era of regulations in 2022.
“It’s very simple, if Red Bull want to keep Max then they have to come up with a seriously good plan,” Coronel told the Dutch version of Motorsport.com.
“Max will always go with the best package, a package that can make him World Champion. That is really the only focus for the Verstappens.
“That focus is not at all on earning money or on taking care of one’s own name. No, the focus of the Verstappens is only one thing – becoming World Champion.”
The obvious place for Verstappen to head, if he decides leaving Red Bull is the way forward, would be Mercedes – potentially creating the mouthwatering prospect of the Dutchman teaming up alongside Lewis Hamilton, if the reigning World Champion remains in situ.
“At the moment they [Red Bull] don’t have the best package and building something with another engine supplier takes time,” added Coronel. “We all know what the best package is at the moment.
“Can he go there [to Mercedes]? That’s not up to me. What I do know is Max is still one of the two hot prospects in F1.
“Everyone knows only two men can be World Champion now, Hamilton and Max. So as a team boss, do you dare to put them side-by-side in the team?”
As for Red Bull’s engine situation, Coronel thinks they may need to bury the hatchet with Renault.
“Mercedes don’t need Red Bull at all, they already have a winning team,” he added.
“Renault didn’t win races on their own, so they needed a different team to win.
“A reunion with Renault is therefore quite obvious. I think [Cyril] Abiteboul will be laughing.”