Max Verstappen has pulled off a catalogue of extraordinary achievements in his fledgling career.
The Dutchman took out the Malaysian Grand Prix in stunning fashion on the weekend to become the youngest multiple Formula One race winner in history.
His drive was virtually flawless after executing a brilliant manoeuvre to overtake championship leader Lewis Hamilton on the fourth lap at the Sepang International Circuit.
Verstappen – who celebrated his 20th birthday on Saturday – led the race from then on to help Red Bull secure their first double podium finish of 2017 with Daniel Ricciardo in third.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel placed fourth before seeing his car wrecked during the warm-down lap on a day that could have a fascinating effect on the remainder of this season and beyond.
For all the excitement surrounding whether Hamilton or Vettel will clinch the world title, it’s easy to forget about the scores of potential driver changes for next year.
Verstappen has long been expected to leave Red Bull for one of the heavyweights at some stage, though perhaps not quite so soon after joining them as a teenager in 2016.
Team Principal Christian Horner faces a serious challenge to keep hold of his emerging star, not least because of his momentous victory in Malaysia.
“We have some things to prove to Max that we are still the best team for him,” Horner said, per the Evening Standard.
“We gave him his big break and he took it by winning his first race with us and now he has this brilliant win.”
Jo Verstappen – father of Max and former Benetton driver – is thought to be keen on his son moving to one of the two strongest and wealthiest teams in the sport.
MERCEDES OR FERRARI?
Ferrari represents an opportunity to be part of a racing icon, whereas Mercedes offers the lure of four successive world championships and funding from the affluent Daimler-Benz company.
Both teams have a strong case to present and are sure to back up their interest with a generous financial offering for Verstappen.
The former Toro Rosso driver is understood to be earning £5 million annually at Red Bull – an amount Mercedes and Ferrari are willing to increase fourfold.
With the price of his contract set to start at an eye-watering £20 million-a-year, Verstappen would almost certainly become one of the highest-paid drivers of all-time if such a deal transpires.
Regardless of whether his future lies, the most sought-after driver in the world looks set to spark a massive bidding war once the final five races of the season are completed.
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