Max Verstappen to Mercedes move ‘really complex’ as Toto Wolff plays waiting game

Thomas Maher
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, with the Mercedes logo.

Max Verstappen has been linked with a switch to the Mercedes F1 team.

Max Verstappen’s possible big decision to leave Red Bull for another team won’t be an easy one, according to Martin Brundle.

Verstappen has been linked with a potential move to Mercedes, as the Dutch driver has been reluctant to firmly commit his long-term future to the Red Bull team despite having a contract until 2028.

Max Verstappen rumours addressed by Martin Brundle

Verstappen’s uncertainty with Red Bull stems back to the fallout from the company’s internal investigation into allegations over the behaviour of Christian Horner as team boss, an investigation that was dismissed by Red Bull GmbH.

With Horner holding onto his job and the support of the Austrian and Thai shareholders, it led Verstappen’s father Jos to call for Horner’s job or risk “tearing the team apart”.

With Mercedes having an open cockpit in light of Lewis Hamilton’s departure for Ferrari, team boss Toto Wolff identified Verstappen as the top target to sign in his place, with the possibility of a sensational Verstappen switch seemingly more realistic than might have been imagined 12 months ago.

A key factor in Verstappen’s thinking could be the power units. With Red Bull losing Honda power at the end of 2025, and becoming a power unit manufacturer in its own right as Red Bull Powertrains comes online, the uncertainty of the company nailing the regulations first-time makes Red Bull slightly more risky than the proven development of Mercedes’ power units.

With a contract signed at Red Bull until 2028, if Verstappen wants to extricate himself, it will likely come down to triggering a personnel or performance-based exit clause and the timing of such a trigger.

After all, Red Bull’s competitiveness is such that Verstappen seems assured of titles this year and in 2025, but there’s no guarantee of the Mercedes seat still being available by the time the new regulations come into play.

Verstappen seemed to close the door on Mercedes when he spoke to media in Miami, saying that he is happy with his current earnings and he won’t be moving to a team to race over minor placings, but is yet to firmly shut the door on all speculation regarding a move elsewhere.

Speaking to Sky F1, former F1 racer turned broadcaster Martin Brundle questioned what might be on Verstappen’s mind as he weighs up the pros and cons of a career-defining team switch.

“It’s a bigger picture than that and it’s really complex,” he said.

“Max said it – making a decision to move, you’ve got to have a crystal ball and understand how power units are going to be, the aero team, and so many other factors.

“I do wonder if Team Verstappen has got an exit card they can play at some point if they’re unsure about what happens in the future.

“But the 2025 cars will be largely these cars, and I don’t think he’d want to be running away from potentially yet another championship next year.”

With chief technical officer Adrian Newey, the catalyst behind so many successful Red Bull designs, confirming his departure from the Milton Keynes-based squad by mid-2025, Brundle said the exit will have an effect on Red Bull in some form – but might it be enough to convince Verstappen his future is better secured elsewhere?

“I’m sure Max and his management team would have been informed all the way through there,” Brundle said.

“Red Bull says that Adrian nearly stopped last year and it’s been on the cards for a while. So they’re well structured for the chassis, the aero, and the powertrain going into the future.

“They say they’re absolutely sorted going forward but losing a genius like Adrian is never good news.

“I’m sure that, in any design process, Adrian would knock a few things in along the way and have a brilliant idea or two at least.

“The other thing I think Adrian will be extremely good at is, if he wants something moved on the powertrain – a pump or the exhaust or whatever because he needs it for the aerodynamics – he’ll dig in and fight hard. It’s that sort of thing that sets him apart. ”

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Toto Wolff: Mercedes want to take our time to see Max Verstappen’s thinking

Speaking over the Miami GP weekend, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said that, if he was Max Verstappen, he wouldn’t be leaving Red Bull for 2025 but the Dutch driver is the commanding force in the driver market.

“I think for all of the teams he is,” Wolff said.

“As I said before, if I was him, I wouldn’t leave, at least for 2025. But it’s all in his (hands). He’s the leading driver.

“He’s the top guy at the moment and that’s why he needs to make those decisions. And there may not be any decision to take. Maybe everything continues like it is but that is also guidance for us.”

As for the rumours that he and Mercedes management were set to meet with the Verstappen camp post-Miami, Wolff confirmed no such meeting would happen on Monday, as suggested, but didn’t deny that such a meeting couldn’t happen.

“There’s always plenty of meetings,” he said.

“I can’t really say about the second driver. I think we’ve talked about the possibilities. I want to be fair to these guys and not make it look like we are playing chess with humans, because we are not doing that.

“I think we want to take our time and see where Max’s thinking goes and, at the same time, monitor the other drivers. Carlos [Sainz] was very strong again and that’s why we’re a little bit in an observation mode at the moment.”

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