Jacques Villenueve calls foul on Toto Wolff’s Max Verstappen interest with ulterior motive suggested

Jamie Woodhouse
Toto Wolff, Max Verstappen, 2024 Australian Grand Prix.

Toto Wolff continues to publicly court Max Verstappen

Toto Wolff does not really want Max Verstappen at Mercedes, but is just trying to “annoy” Red Bull, believes 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve.

While Verstappen and Red Bull – the driver and team pairing which established itself as Formula 1’s dominant force – seemed arguably the most certain partnership to continue long-term anywhere on the grid, that theory has been seriously tested in recent weeks.

Toto Wolff out to ‘annoy’ Red Bull with Max Verstappen talk?

At a point where tensions off track at Red Bull seemed to be reaching boiling point, Verstappen cast doubt over his own future with the team.

However, with those dramas having cooled in recent weeks, the three-time World Champion has said there is no longer a fear at Red Bull that he could leave.

Nonetheless, that has not stopped Mercedes team principal Wolff from making it clear that Verstappen is his number one choice to replace their departing seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton for 2025. But, is Wolff merely trying to rock the boat?

That is the belief of Villeneuve, who from Wolff sees an attempt to “annoy” Red Bull, rather than a pure desire to have Verstappen in the team.

“I can’t imagine Toto Wolff wanting Max,” said Villeneuve as per The Express.

“The only way he would entertain the idea would just be to annoy Red Bull.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

Revealed: The remarkable 36 hour timeline behind Lewis Hamilton’s shock Ferrari move

Lewis Hamilton now finally has a chance to escape the ghosts of Abu Dhabi 2021

Wolff has though admitted that Mercedes do face a potential major stumbling block in any attempts to bring Verstappen to the team, that being the level of car they have been producing.

While Verstappen and Red Bull have risen to the pinnacle of F1 in record-shattering fashion, Mercedes have tasted grand prix victory only once since the conclusion of their epic 2021 title battle with Red Bull.

Wolff is very much aware that Mercedes must up their game to become an enticing alternative for Verstappen, as Villeneuve returned to his point that Wolff is just trying to get under Red Bull’s skin.

“I can’t see him at Mercedes because they lost the championship to Red Bull and Max,” Villeneuve continued.

“It would definitely not be because he really wanted Max. It would be more to do with wanting to get at Red Bull.”

Verstappen is not the only driver on Wolff’s shortlist to replace Hamilton at Mercedes from 2025, with the likes of two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso and Australian Grand Prix winner Carlos Sainz – who Hamilton will replace at Ferrari – among the candidates.

Read next – Adrian Newey reports: A test of Red Bull strength or another show of Aston Martin ambition?