By Alan Baldwin
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – Dutch driver Max Verstappen has signed a contract extension keeping him at Red Bull through the 2020 season, the Formula One team said on Friday.
The 20-year-old is a hot property in the sport after becoming the youngest ever race winner, in Spain last year at the age of 18. He also won in Malaysia earlier this month, a day after his birthday.
The son of former racer Jos has been linked to both Mercedes and Ferrari in media speculation but Red Bull were determined to lock in a youngster widely seen as a future world champion.
Team principal Christian Horner emphasized his importance to the future of the team in a statement at the U.S. Grand Prix.
“He is pure racer, with an undeniable talent at the wheel and a rare instinct for what it takes to compete consistently at this level,” said Horner.
“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.”
Red Bull’s other driver is 28-year-old Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who has also been frequently linked in the past to Ferrari.
Both Verstappen and Ricciardo, also a race winner this season, already had contracts for 2018 but the focus will now be on the Australian’s next move.
Verstappen’s deal, effectively a one-year extension since his original contract was set to expire at the end of 2019, means that the top three teams are set to have their star drivers signed up for the next three years.
Ferrari have four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel under contract until 2020 while Lewis Hamilton is expected to agree a similar deal with Mercedes.
The triple world champion’s current deal expires at the end of 2018.
Verstappen, who made his Formula One debut with Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso at the age of 17 in 2015, said the Austrian energy drink company had always shown their faith in him.
“They have always backed me and my ambition and I know we share that ambition,” he said.
“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.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Pritha Sarkar)