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Max Verstappen, it can be revealed, has an astonishing break clause in his contract that allows him to walk out of Red Bull if his ally Dr Helmut Marko leaves the team. Mail Sport understands that neither Verstappen nor his father, Jos, who wants Horner gone, was involved in the talks ahead of this Saturday’s second round of the season in Saudi Arabia. Verstappen is signed up to Red Bull until 2028, earning at least £50million per annum. Verstappen Snr was seen in discussion with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff here in Bahrain last week, and they met for dinner at the five-star Four Seasons hotel in Manama where they were both staying. It may have been a meeting of friends, as Verstappen Snr told me, but it is hard to believe it was not intended as a shot across Horner’s bows. Verstappen Snr will not be in Saudi Arabia because he is competing in a rally in Belgium, and may miss a few other races in the early part of the season. For the atmosphere was certainly combustible in the Bahraini paddock, with Verstappen Snr having a blazing row with Horner in the team hospitality area. He then told Mail Sport that the team would ‘explode’ if Horner did not quit.

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