F1 rumours: Max Verstappen ‘in a corner’ as Christian Horner plots cunning Red Bull power grab

Oliver Harden
A close-up shot of Max Verstappen with prominent Red Bull and Mercedes logos alongside him

Red Bull or Mercedes? Verstappen's F1 future is reportedly in a delicate phase

Max Verstappen is reportedly stuck “in a corner” amid rumours of a move to Mercedes for F1 2025, with any commitment to Red Bull likely to signal the green light for a cunning Christian Horner power grab.

Despite holding a contract until the end of the 2028 season, Verstappen’s future has been plunged into doubt over recent weeks amid the current off-track saga engulfing the Red Bull team.

Max Verstappen in ‘dangerous’ position amid Mercedes rumours

Verstappen has been heavily linked with a move to Mercedes for 2025 as a replacement for Lewis Hamilton, who announced earlier this year that he will join Ferrari on a multi-year contract from 2025.

While multiple reports from Italy last week claimed Carlos Sainz, the driver Hamilton will replace at Ferrari, is on the verge of agreeing a deal to join Mercedes, others have speculated that Toto Wolff is still pushing hard to secure Verstappen’s signature for 2025.

A report by German publication Auto Motor und Sport on Tuesday shed further light on the current state of “two worlds” at Red Bull, where the team’s on-track dominance is masking a “tug of war over the reorganisation of the company behind the scenes” following the death of Dietrich Mateschitz in October 2022.

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While long-serving team principal Horner “sees himself as the new general” and, with the support of Red Bull’s Thai majority owners behind him, is keen to marginalise the Austrian elements of the company “as much as possible”, Verstappen is among those within the team – along with design guru Adrian Newey – fearful that a so-called power struggle could tear Red Bull apart.

After his father Jos sensationally called for Horner to resign from his position after the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix – accusing the team boss of “playing the victim when he is the one causing the problems” – Verstappen has frequently made it clear over recent weeks that his future is inextricably linked to that of long-serving Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko.

PlanetF1.com reported last month that Verstappen’s contract is believed to contain a clause – potentially inserted into his deal without the knowledge of Horner and other senior members of Red Bull’s parent company – allowing him to walk away from the team if Marko leaves.

And a new report by the respected F1 reporter Michael Schmidt for AMuS has revealed just how delicately Verstappen’s future hangs in the balance, with the three-time World Champion “in a corner” when it comes to his negotiating position.

It is claimed that Verstappen could make a “quick decision” to join Mercedes for 2025, but the team’s current lack of competitiveness means directly replacing Hamilton is not a particularly attractive option.

Instead, Verstappen could instead elect to remain with Red Bull and let Sainz to partner George Russell for 2025 before making the move to Mercedes when F1’s new regulation changes are implemented in 2026.

That, however, has been described as “dangerous” as it would potentially give Horner a “free hand to implement his plan immediately and kill off the Austrian faction” within Red Bull, suspending Marko when Verstappen has no alternative options left available to him.

Schimdt adds that it would be “legally difficult” for Verstappen to contest Marko’s dismissal in 2025, with the 26-year-old likely to have accepted the new regime at Red Bull for almost a year by the time next season begins if Horner acts in the coming weeks.

Allowing Sainz to join Mercedes may also make it “difficult to get rid of him” if he excels alongside Russell in 2025, even with a likely one-plus-one-year contract.

Speaking at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix last month, Wolff admitted he would “love” to sign a driver of Verstappen’s calibre to replace Hamilton – but confessed that Mercedes’ current lack of competitiveness would be a major hurdle in the team’s hopes of landing the 26-year-old.

He said: “I’d love to have him, but first we need to sort out our car.

“First, we owe it to George and Lewis to improve the car and give them equipment that is good before dreaming about the future next year.

“Like I said before, a driver will always try to be in the fastest possible car. That gives you the best chances of winning races and championships and this is where Max is at the moment.

“Jos and Max and Raymond [Vermeulen, Verstappen’s manager] are also people who are very straight, sometimes uncomfortably straight, and I think that’s something they will make up their mind [on].

“But I think fundamentally a racing driver is calibrated to be in the best car.”

“Let’s word it like this: I think this is a decision that Max needs to take but there is no team up and down the grid that wouldn’t do handstands to have him in the car.”

Verstappen has won 47 of the last 70 races stretching back to the start of his maiden title-winning season in 2021.

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