Max Verstappen sends clear message to Christian Horner and wades in on FIA row

Max Verstappen makes subtle dig at Lewis Hamilton

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Max Verstappen has warned Christian Horner and Red Bull the team ‘cannot afford retirements’ as his title battle against team-mate Sergio Perez resumes at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix this weekend. The reigning champion stressed the team needs to be ‘on it every single weekend’ and warned the championship picture can ‘change quickly’.

The Dutchman, who has dropped costly points this season due to reliability issues, was also asked how formidable a title rival Perez was after the Mexican’s win at Monaco.

Verstappen said: “Well I guess we will find out over time. We are still so early in the season, so many things can happen. After Melbourne, I was 46, 47 points down and now you’re in the lead again.

“After Melbourne, I really wasn’t talking about the championship fight so it can change so quickly, you need to be on it every single weekend. You cannot afford retirements anymore, so we will find out.”

The Dutchman also criticised rumours that F1 is looking into a salary cap in Friday morning’s press conference. Verstappen’s current Red Bull contract is valued at around £42million ($53m) but could be cut if new plans come into place.

However, Verstappen slammed the idea, claiming drivers are the only ones who put their ‘lives at risk’ for the sport. He said it would not be fair for the sport’s bosses to make more money while drivers are capped.

He said: “It’s still all a bit vague as well, right? I think no one really knows where it’s going to go.

“But from my side, it’s completely wrong, because I think at the moment, F1 is becoming more and more popular, and everyone is making more and more money, including the teams and FOM. Everyone is benefiting.

“So why would the drivers with their IP rights and everything be capped, [the people] who actually bring the show and put their lives at risk? Because we do, eventually. So for me, it’s completely wrong.”

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Verstappen also warned a salary cap could filter down to junior categories, which could limit the opportunities for younger drivers.

He explained: “In all the junior categories, if you see how many of those drivers have a sponsor, or a backer, who eventually will have a certain percentage of their income in potentially F1 or whatever, I think it’s going to limit that a lot, because they will never get their return on money. And if you get a cap it will hurt all the junior categories as well. And I don’t think you would want that.”

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