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Red Bull Racing's driver Max Verstappen gestures in the paddock ahead of the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit on Thursday. Image Credit: AFP

Suzuka, Japan: Triple world champion Max Verstappen reiterated on Thursday that he could walk away from Formula One when his Red Bull contract expires in 2028, but insisted he was “very happy” at the team.

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The Dutchman won the first two grands prix of the season but he has endured weeks of off-track turbulence at all-conquering Red Bull.

He suggested in Saudi Arabia last month that he would consider leaving if the team parted company with long-term mentor Helmut Marko.

Red Bull being torn apart

It followed his father Jos claiming that Red Bull faced being “torn apart” if team boss Christian Horner remained in his position.

Asked ahead of Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix if he would still be with the team next year, Verstappen said: “I’m very happy where I’m at, and we want to keep it that way.”

But the 26-year-old was less certain when talking about his post-Red Bull future.

“I have a contract with Red Bull until ‘28 — after that, I first want to see if I even want to continue,” he said.

“That’s for me the most important — it’s not so much about where. These kind of things I don’t really think about at the moment.”

Failing to finish for first time in two years

Verstappen arrives in Japan after failing to finish a race for the first time in two years at the Australian Grand Prix a fortnight ago.

He retired in Melbourne after a brake issue caused smoke to billow from his car, with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz taking the chequered flag.

Verstappen said he had no concerns about his car at Suzuka, where he has won for the last two years and clinched his second world title in 2022.

“If you look at Melbourne performance-wise, I think we were quick,” he said.

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Mechanics push Max Verstappen's Red Bull car ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix on Thursday. Image Credit: AFP

“We didn’t finish the race so that’s not ideal, but our car likes the high-speed corners so, hopefully, we can show that again this weekend.”

Verstappen was in formidable form in Suzuka last year, finishing fastest in all three practice sessions and taking pole position.

Intimidating track

He cruised home in the race, finishing almost 20 seconds clear of second-placed Lando Norris of McLaren.

Verstappen said the Japanese circuit was “definitely one of my favourites”.

“It’s quite intimidating the first time you drive around the track,” he said.

“Even in the wet, because it’s so narrow, if you make a small mistake you can go off in the grass or the gravel. It just adds a bit more to it.”