Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko has admitted his side were worried that Formula 1 rivals Mercedes would have targeted Max Verstappen had Lewis Hamilton decided to leave.

Earlier this week, Verstappen signed a new multi-year contract to commit his future to Red Bull until the end of the 2023 season, putting an end to speculation suggesting could leave the Milton Keynes squad for either Mercedes or Ferrari.

Speaking to Auto Motor und Sport, Marko revealed Red Bull was keen to tie Verstappen down to a new deal amid fears he could emerge as Mercedes’ number one target to replace Hamilton, who has been increasingly linked with a sensational switch to Ferrari in recent months.

“We had a hard time guessing what the exact story was between Ferrari and Hamilton,” Marko said.

“But it was clear that Mercedes must act if Hamilton goes to Ferrari in 2021. And Max would have been the first driver they'd aim for.

“That was a very important step for us. Now we can look to the future with more confidence.”

Verstappen spoke of his belief in the Red Bull-Honda project, adding the team’s clear goal is to fight for the world title in 2020.

“Honda coming onboard and the progress we have made over the last 12 months gives me even more motivation and the belief that we can win together,” the Dutchman said.

“I respect the way Red Bull and Honda work together and from all sides everyone is doing what they can to succeed. I want to win with Red Bull and our goal is of course to fight for a world championship together.”

Verstappen’s deal has somewhat sedated what was tipped to be a busy driver market for 2021, with Hamilton also expected to remain at Mercedes.

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