Lewis Hamilton quizzed on potential Max Verstappen exit at Red Bull

Thomas Maher
Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, 2024 Bahrain Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton has shared his thoughts on the possibility of Max Verstappen replacing him at Mercedes.

Lewis Hamilton believes Max Verstappen is on the list of possible replacements for him at Mercedes when he heads off to Ferrari next year.

Hamilton will leave a vacant seat at Mercedes when he joins Ferrari next year, with three-time F1 World Champion Max Verstappen emerging as a potential candidate as the turmoil at Red Bull continues following the ending of the investigation by Red Bull GmbH into team boss Christian Horner.

Lewis Hamilton: My Ferrari switch shows anything is possible

While Verstappen is on a long-term deal with Red Bull that sees him at Milton Keynes until the end of 2028, the Dutch driver’s future suddenly appears much more in question following the dramatic off-track events at the season opener in Bahrain.

With father Jos calling for Christian Horner to be removed from his job as team boss, there is division within the ranks that hasn’t been seen before – and Max himself has said it “would be weird” if he was on the opposite side to his father.

Mercedes’ team boss Toto Wolff has cheekily stoked the fire by saying “anything is possible” when it comes to signing of Verstappen to replace Hamilton, should the Dutch driver opt to sever ties with Red Bull, while Lewis Hamilton said he’s sure his 2021 title rival is on the wishlist for Wolff.

“I think my moves have shown that anything’s possible,” Hamilton told media ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, when asked about possibly being succeeded by Verstappen.

“It’s going to be a really interesting next six months or so.

“I don’t have an extra scoop…  I know that I’m sure Max is on the list. But I’m pretty sure he’s tied up.

“[But] I couldn’t see why he would leave a car that’s that good.”

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While Red Bull kept their eye on the ball to deliver a devastating 1-2 in Bahrain despite the off-track dramas, Hamilton said he has no doubts the distractions will be having an effect on the staff at Red Bull.

“From my experience, having gone through something similar back in the day when I was at McLaren in the sense our leader was in question, they were going through a difficult time, and it affected everybody,” he said.

“So whether or not it is there, I’ve been in experience when I remember when we were losing Ron [Dennis, former McLaren team boss], for example, and the things that Ron was going through, and the steps that we had to take – it affected all of us.

“A leader is super important. Because they set the tone, they make sure the team sticks to the core values of what the sport is about, and integrity.

“Whilst there are loads of people further down the trough who are just as important, that leader is key to the destination that you’re working towards.”

As for Verstappen senior’s comments, Hamilton weighed in on what he thought of the position that the Verstappen camp calling for Horner’s head puts Max in.

“I don’t know the details of it,” he said.

“So I don’t know what he’s basing his foundations off. But, at the end of the day, he’s not a part of the team – he’s a parent and that’s just an opinion. But it’s definitely not helpful.”

With Mercedes and Red Bull having been at each others throats in 2021 in what was a hugely dramatic title fight, Hamilton said he’s not surprised that, even after all that, Verstappen and Mercedes could link up together.

“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised, no, because he’s a great driver,” he said.

“Even back then, I don’t think Max, in that moment [in Abu Dhabi ’21], he did what he had to do – it’s nothing on him, it was the sport that led us down.

“That wasn’t his fault. Me in his position, I would have done exactly the same thing. So there’s no issues there.

“If you run a team, you want to have the best driver, and you want to be the team that’s got a driver that brings in the eyeballs, brings in the sponsorship, and he is one of those.

“So I understand it, but it wouldn’t make sense, I would say, for him, but it would be interesting to see.”

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