Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has dismissed the speculation around Max Verstappen’s future and is “totally confident” the Dutch driver will stay at the team next season.

Rumours around Verstappen’s Red Bull future have been triggered in recent weeks, with reports linking the five-time Formula 1 Grand Prix winner as a strong interest for Mercedes, while both sides have played down any talks.

Verstappen, who signed a Red Bull contract extension in 2017 which ties him to the team until the end of the 2020 season, has accepted he must remain mature and patient at the start of the new Red Bull-Honda partnership while he hopes the team can deliver a package capable of fighting for race wins and world titles.

Red Bull chief Horner has also moved to shoot down rumours on Verstappen’s future given his current F1 contract at the team and is optimistic about his squad’s future with the 21-year-old.

“Don’t always believe it,” Horner said about the Verstappen contract gossip. “Max has got a contract, and it’s very clear what that position is, I’m totally confident he will be here next year.”

Horner is pleased by the recent progress Red Bull has made, as Honda introduced its first power unit upgrade of the year at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, and is hopeful of further success at tracks which will play tot the strengths of the team’s package.

“I think we have closed the gap since the beginning of the year,” Horner said. “In Melbourne we had a strong race, I think Max was pushing Lewis for the majority of that Grand Prix. Bahrain was a tough race for us, but I think it actually exposed some things that we’ve managed to improve on since then.

“Then China was a stronger race, and then again here [Azerbaijan], even more so at a track that doesn’t historically play to our strengths. I think we’re looking forward to heading back to Europe now. A few circuits coming up that hopefully should suit us.”

Last year Red Bull were confident of retaining its driver line-up of Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo for 2019 only to lose the Australian driver to Renault as he sought a new direction targeting the Formula 1 world title.

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