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F1: Christian Horner holds talks with Max Verstappen camp as Red Bull exit clause for champion emerges

F1: Christian Horner holds talks with Max Verstappen camp as Red Bull exit clause for champion emerges

Christian Horner has held clear-the-air talks with Max Verstappen's team in a bid to broker a peace deal ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Verstappen will address the media in Jeddah on Wednesday, following an extraordinary start to the 2024 season which has taken the attention away from Red Bull's on-track dominance.

Relations have been strained between Horner and Verstappen's camp, with a feisty exchange with the driver's father, Jos, filmed at Red Bull's hospitality suite at last weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix.

Verstappen Sr was also filmed holding talks with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, raising the possibility of a shock move for Verstappen to Mercedes.

Fast start: Bahrain winner Verstappen with team principal Horner on Saturday (Getty Images)
Fast start: Bahrain winner Verstappen with team principal Horner on Saturday (Getty Images)

Horner had sit-down talks with Verstappen's agent, Raymond Vermeulen, in Dubai on Monday, following a rollercoaster weekend. Those talks are said to have gone well and an uneasy peace appears to have broken out for the time being. In addition, Verstappen Sr will not be in Saudi this weekend.

Horner received a very public backing from Red Bull co-owner Chalerm Yoovidhya last weekend, and his job is deemed safe after he was cleared of any wrongdoing towards a colleague following an investigation by an external lawyer. It is believed Oliver Mintzlaff, who oversees Red Bull's sport operation, is travelling to Jeddah to offer Horner his backing, despite the pair's own strained relationship.

Reports also emerged in the Dutch media on Monday that Verstappen, who is tied to Red Bull until the end of 2028 on a deal worth £50million a year, has a release clause that could see him walk away as early as the end of this season.

The clause supposedly states he can quit should Red Bull's influential motorsport consultant Helmut Marko, who himself has a deal until 2026, leave the team.

Despite his unease at how the fall-out from the Horner investigation has gone, leaked WhatsApp messages and the row involving his father, Verstappen has no immediate intention to quit the team he has driven for since 2016.

Meanwhile, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem is being investigated for allegedly influencing the race result at last year's Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, according to BBC Sport. A whistleblower has claimed that Ben Sulayem intervened to overturn a penalty against Fernando Alonso. The FIA said: "The matter is being discussed internally."