Christian Horner makes intriguing admission over Max Verstappen to Mercedes talk

Jamie Woodhouse
A split image featuring close ups of a menacing Max Verstappen and a worried Christian Horner

Max Verstappen and Christian Horner.

While Christian Horner does not doubt Max Verstappen is committed to Red Bull amidst Toto Wolff saying he would “love” to have him at Mercedes, Horner said that shock move cannot be ruled out, nor would he force Verstappen to stay.

Despite stressing a desire to focus on the on-track stuff, which has seen Verstappen win the opening two rounds of F1 2024, that has not always been possible as the off-track noise at Red Bull refuses to go away.

Red Bull could not force Max Verstappen to stay

In the latest salvo, Verstappen declared in Saudi Arabia that senior advisor Helmut Marko had to stay if he was to, that following rumours that Marko was facing suspension or could leave of his own accord.

Verstappen has established himself as the dominant force of Formula 1, so it is no surprise that amidst the chaos Mercedes team boss Wolff is lurking, admitting “I’d love to have him” as the 2025 replacement for the Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton.

Horner can understand why, though also pointed out Wolff had said that “the driver will always choose the quickest car”, which is very much the Red Bull.

“I’m sure every team in the paddock would love to have Max,” Horner told reporters after the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

“But as Toto also said, the best drivers always want to be in the best cars.

“But we’re a team. Max has achieved his 56th Grand Prix victory today and his 100th podium, all of which have been in Red Bull Racing cars. And as a team, we perform exceptionally well together.

“And everybody has a role to play in that team. Whether it’s from the designers, the support staff, the operational staff, all the way through all the different 22 departments that make up Red Bull Racing. If everybody isn’t doing their part, you don’t have a performance like this.

“So as a team, we’re performing at an exceptionally high level. And we expect to see that continuing.”

Asked to therefore clarify that he sees no threat of Verstappen leaving, Horner insisted no such guarantee can be made.

Verstappen is contracted to Red Bull until the end of 2028, but Horner said a “piece of paper” would not keep Verstappen around if his head was turned, nor would Red Bull attempt to force him to stay.

“You can never say never,” Horner claimed. “If a driver doesn’t want to be somewhere, then they’ll go somewhere else.

“It’s like anything in life, you can’t force somebody to be somewhere just because of a piece of paper. If somebody didn’t want to be at this team, then we’re not going to force somebody against their will to be here.

“And that applies, whether it’s a machine operator, or a designer, or somebody in one of the support functions, that runs through the business.

“Being involved in a team like this involves commitment and passion and Max has that, we’ve seen that, he’s been here since he was 18 years of age and I have no doubt about his commitment and passion going forward.

“As a team, I can’t see any reason why anybody would want to step out of this team. I think he’s got a great support around him and he’s doing a wonderful job with a great car.” recommends

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Question marks have been raised over the health of the relationship between Horner and Verstappen, considering his father Jos has publicly called for Horner’s exit, while Verstappen has not given the same public support for Horner to stay with the team that he has for Marko.

However, Horner affirmed that his relationship is “absolutely fine with Max”.

Horner added: “He’s working well within the team, there’s no tension, there’s no stress, you can see how relaxed he is around the garage with everybody in the team and that’s translating to his performance on track as well. So we don’t see any issues with Max.”

Verstappen has made the perfect start to his pursuit of a fourth successive World Championship, stretching his grands prix winning streak to nine with victories in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

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