Is this the reason Mercedes have confidence to lure Max Verstappen away from Red Bull?

Jamie Woodhouse
Red Bull's Max Verstappen at the 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

As Max Verstappen to Mercedes speculation continues to bubble away, the reveal from technical director James Allison that there is a “very similar” feeling to 2014 about their 2026 engine, may prove significant.

The winds of change will sweep through Formula 1 again come 2026, at which point new chassis and power unit regulations will be introduced, bringing with it the potential for change in the pecking order. For Mercedes, it represents opportunity.

Mercedes power unit confidence enough to snare Max Verstappen?

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

With Verstappen at the wheel for Red Bull, Mercedes has been largely locked out of the victory scene since this ground effect F1 era began in 2022, scoring just the one win via George Russell at the Brazilian Grand Prix that year, but the eight-time Constructors’ champions may find an opening back to the F1 summit come 2026.

The last time that the engine regulations changed in 2014, Mercedes came firing out of the blocks with the undisputed best PU out there, sparking their run of eight Constructors’ titles on the trot, with Allison now revealing that “very similar” feelings exist for this latest PU challenge.

Red Bull will become a power unit manufacturer in their own right for the first time in 2026, working alongside Ford, but could the Mercedes version tempt Verstappen to swap allegiances?

Team principal Toto Wolff has made no secret of the fact that he wants Verstappen, as Mercedes’ seven-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton prepares to depart for Ferrari.

In a progress update on the Mercedes F1 2026 PU, Allison told Sky Sports F1: “I wasn’t in the team in the run-up to 2014 when the new generation of power units were being concocted and the enormous push to make them a reality was taking place.

“But those of us in the team who were, tell me that the feeling is very similar.

“There is a massive shove going on in HPP [Mercedes High Performance Powertrains] to make a success of that because it will set the course of anyone who’s lucky enough to have that in the back of their car for some seasons to come.

“We’re lucky that we will be on the receiving end of all the good investment they are making on our joint behalf.”

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While Verstappen, under contract at Red Bull until the end of 2028, has spoke of seeing no current reason to leave the team, he has stopped short of making an absolute declaration of commitment, fuelling the talk that Mercedes could tempt him away for 2026.

And Mercedes are prepared to play the waiting game on finalising their 2025 line-up, even if it means potentially missing out on a driver like Carlos Sainz, the 2024 Australian Grand Prix winner who Hamilton will replace at Ferrari.

Told by media, including PlanetF1.com’s Thomas Maher, that Sainz seems to be closing in on a move to Sauber, to become Audi, and asked how that influences Mercedes’ plans, Wolff said: “Carlos has his place in Formula 1, has been a Ferrari race winner in the last two years and someone with huge experience.

“I think what I said is we need to prepare to compromise in certain decisions and to wait long, how the situation pans out over the summer and into autumn.

“With George we have a great driver that is with us. Fantastic. And then let’s see who is going to be his team-mate. But we don’t need to take this decision now.”

Mercedes junior Kimi Antonelli, currently contesting his maiden Formula 2 campaign, is regarded as a leading contender to fill the Mercedes vacancy and is the driver who Hamilton has said he would name as his replacement.

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