Max Verstappen dropped a heavy hint that he is running out of patience with Red Bull after another enforced retirement in Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix.
The 19-year-old Dutchman suggested he is considering his future and is ready to leave following his sixth retirement in 12 races.
“This should not happen with a top team,” he said. “It is unbelievable…”
Asked how many more retirements it would take to persuade him to re-consider his future, he said “not too many.”
Verstappen has been consistently linked with a switch to Ferrari, but remains under contract with Red Bull until 2019.
He started fifth in Sunday’s race, but was forced into retirement with a loss of power on lap eight.
He parked the car in front of thousands of Dutch fans – 80,000 arrived to create a massed ‘orange army’ in a crowd of 125,000 – at Eau Rouge.
“I can’t believe it,” said the son of former Benetton driver Jos Verstappen.
His Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo finished third behind victorious Briton Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and championship leader Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari.
“It is very disappointing. There are so many fans here and they pay a lot of money for very expensive tickets and then the race finishes for me after eight laps.
“This cannot and should not happen with a top team – to finish like this.”
The Dutch teenager is widely regarded as the outstanding young talent in the sport after winning the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix on his debut with Red Bull after a dazzling earlier spell with sister team Toro Rosso.
Lewis Hamilton completed his 200th Grand Prix in victorious style on Sunday when he claimed a much-needed win for Mercedes to trim Sebastian Vettel’s championship lead to seven points.
It was the three-time world champion’s third Belgian victory and the 58th of his career, lifting him back into serious contention for the title.
Another victory in next Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix could give him the lead for the first time this year.
Four-time champion Vettel came home second ahead of Australian Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull, Finn Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari and his compatriot Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes.
Nico Hulkenberg finished sixth for Renault ahead of Romain Grosjean of Haas, Felipe Massa of Williams, Esteban Ocon of Force India with in 10th place, Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso.
Hamilton put in an inspiring performance for his 58th career win on his 200th start.
The 32-year-old Briton had to survive some concerted attacks from Vettel’s Ferrari before emerging triumphant for the fifth time this season.
With Vettel breathing down his neck late in the race – the gap reduced to 1.2 seconds on the final lap – Hamilton stayed composed to seal a seventh win for Mercedes.
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 27, 2017
Sebastian Vettel had a solid weekend in Spa, finishing on the podium for an eighth time this season and even clocked the fastest lap of 1:46:577 on lap 41.
Hamilton’s 1:46.603 on lap 35 proved the second-fastest, with Ricciardo’s 1:47.549 on lap 44 coming in third.
— DHL_Motorsports (@DHL_Motorsports) August 27, 2017
Max Verstappen’s hopes of silverware in front of his home crowd were dashed when he was forced to retire on lap 8 with engine problems.
The Dutchman is enduring a hugely frustrating campaign to date, with six retirements in 12 races.
— Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) August 27, 2017
Felipe Massa produced a devastating display to jump eight places and finish 8th.
Starting from P16, the Brazilian overtook the two Force India cars to finish in the points.
The Williams driver has had a solid season, and his result in Spa is sure to bring confidence for the rest of the season.
Three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton will start his 200th Grand Prix in Belgium this weekend, seeking to match German legend Michael Schumacher’s record of 68 pole positions.
With the summer break out of the way, the British driver will be chasing his fifth win of the season as he bids to claw back points on title-race leader, four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari.
Back in Europe after spending F1’s now-traditional European summer break in the Caribbean, Hamilton, who gave up third for his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in Hungary, lies 14 points behind Vettel.
Hamilton won at Spa in 2015, but was beaten by team-mate and 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg last year and has had mixed results at the famous old sprawling and high-speed circuit.
In 2008, when he won his first title, he was relegated from first to third for cutting a chicane, and he has suffered in other incidents including a collision with Rosberg, that left him with a puncture, in 2014.
Seeking his third Belgian win, Hamilton will be the pre-race favourite to win again, but knows that Ferrari have regained the momentum in the title race following their dominant one-two finish led by Vettel in Hungary.
Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff has already warned his squad not to take anything for granted.
“Assumptions are dangerous,” he said. “We have seen too many times already this season that the form book can be rewritten from one weekend to the next.
“So we will be making no assumptions.”
The race may also be affected — as often in the past — by the capricious micro-climate of the region, which can mean parts of the track are under water in rainfall while others remain dry.
That, for Max Verstappen, may be a bonus as he bids to put a mixed season to date back on the road.
“I just love the track and it’ll be nice seeing so many orange fans in the stands,” said Red Bull’s Belgium-born Dutch driver.
“Spa is my favourite track — you have to get everything right, but when you get a good lap, it’s very rewarding.”
That could also be said of Ferrari’s second driver Kimi Raikkonen, a four-time Spa winner, who has been confirmed on the team’s roster next year.
“It will not be easy for us, as Mercedes has the horsepower, but we will do what we can and who knows? Let’s see what happens.”
A big crowd is expected to camp out and herald Formula One’s “return to work” from the beach at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix where Stoffel Vandoorne will hope to mark his retention by McLaren with a strong showing in front of his home fans.