Red Bull boss Christian Horner says that Max Verstappen’s newly signed contract extension was needed in order to put an end to distractions.

Horner explained that continuous speculation this season over Verstappen’s future with the team had become an issue. This weekend’s confirmation that he will stay with the team until at least 2020 will put a stop to the chatter.

“In order to get rid of distractions and speculation it was better to address it,” Horner told Autosport magazine in Austin, Texas.

Earlier in the season, a string of disappointing races and reliability issues with the RB13 saw the Dutch driver hinting that he might be looking for a race seat elsewhere.

But Red Bull’s form has improved dramatically since the summer shutdown. Verstappen claimed his first win of the season in Malaysia and was runner up in Japan. In addition, his team mate Daniel Ricciardo has been on the podium in four of the last five races.

“I think [Max] has seen the depth and strength of the team this year, and how we’ve developed the car,” commented Horner. “He believes in what the team’s doing and he feels very comfortable in the team.”

Horner added that the team was equally comfortable with Verstappen.

“The team wanted to retain him, Max wanted to stay with the team,” Horner continued. “It was a pretty simple extension at the end of the day. [It] just takes out any ambiguity.”

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Verstappen decided to extend his contract despite uncertainty over the team’s engine supply after the end of next season. Renault has said it will be parting ways with Red Bull after 2018, and no replacement has been named.

“He’s aware of the options we have,” Horner said of Verstappen’s view on the engine situation. “He’s comfortable we’ll make the best decisions for the team.

“The team know where we’re at, Max knows where he’s at,” he added. “We can just focus on building the best car we can.”

As for Ricciardo, the Australian said the timing of the Verstappen announcement had been a “real surprise”. Inevitably it means the spotlight about future contracts has now been turned on him.

“It’s not that I’ve said no to anything, it’s just still quite early I think,” he said on Friday. “People talked about contracts and the silly season for next year but it is still quite early.”

But Horner knows he can’t wait too long if he’s to retain Ricciardo’s services alongside Verstappen.

“The priority now is to make sure we retain Daniel as well,” he agreed.

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