Red Bull respond amid talk 2026 weakness ‘scaring’ Max Verstappen towards Mercedes

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen looks on from the Red Bull garage with a prominent Mercedes logo alongside him

Could Max Verstappen swap Red Bull for Mercedes?

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has moved to clarify the Red Bull Powertrains situation after a claim that 2026 work being behind schedule was pushing Max Verstappen to consider joining Mercedes.

That suggestion was brought up by RacingNews365’s Ruud Dimmers and racer Tom Coronel, who had heard in the paddock that Red Bull-Ford are not making the progress they had hoped for with their power unit designed to the new 2026 regulations.

Christian Horner assures Red Bull PU ‘hitting the targets’

The speculation that Verstappen could sensationally swap Red Bull for Mercedes already has been bubbling away for several months, due to the off-track unrest within the team earlier this year and the threat that senior advisor Helmut Marko could quit. understands a clause exists in Verstappen’s contract that would allow him to leave if Marko does.

Dimmers and Coronel had then speculated that struggles with the first Red Bull power unit for 2026 were providing further ammunition for Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff’s pursuit of Verstappen, having made F1’s current dominant force the top target to replace the departing Lewis Hamilton for 2025.

“In 2026 there will be completely new engines and there are rumours that the new RBPT engine is not that good and will not last very long on the test bench,” said Dimmers.

“That does worry me and is of course one of the reasons why Toto Wolff is angling increasingly emphatically for Max.

“The question is whether Max will settle for one less [successful] 2025 season at Mercedes. But last time new engines came along, the Mercedes engine was just a second and a half a lap faster. Even Williams came second with that engine!

“Mercedes is of course a car brand with an awful lot of knowledge, they are working day and night on hybrid technology. For the cars they have, for the sports cars they have. And Red Bull Powertrains doesn’t have that. That’s just a lot less in that. That is my fear and I think also the fear of certain others.”

Coronel added: “Not certain others, say just the Verstappen camp. They find that a bit scary anyway.

“So they are also just going to look further and especially after the month that has been going on. Now they have a crowbar between the door to just go shopping anyway. That’s what’s going on.” recommends

F1 2026: Confirmed teams and power unit suppliers for F1’s huge regulation changes

F1 2026 driver line-up: Lewis Hamilton and five other drivers already confirmed for 2026

However, it seems such speculation and worries over the state of the Red Bull-Ford PU are not necessary, as Horner has given a progress update to confirm that they are not behind schedule at all.

The creation of this power unit for the overhauled 2026 regulations is a huge leap for the Austrian outfit, who has never before been a PU manufacturer in their own right, though Horner says the team at Milton Keynes are “rising to that challenge” and very much “hitting the targets.”

“With the engine, we’re on an aggressive curve being a brand new power unit manufacturer. But the team is really rising to that challenge,” Horner told

“Our facilities are complete, both from a test and development point of view with dynos and rig rooms, etc, and manufacturing capability.

“But two years in the engine world is a very small period of time. We’re on a steep learning curve, but we’re on that curve and where we would expect to be on that curve at this point in time.

“We are hitting the targets that we’re setting ourselves. Now, how those targets stack up to our competitors is always difficult to know. But the effort that’s going in behind the scenes is huge, because it is literally a race against the clock to the start of 2026.”

Red Bull is currently engaged in a highly-successful engine partnership with Honda, having claimed two Constructors’ and three Drivers’ titles together so far.

Honda will link up with Aston Martin from 2026 as Red Bull start their own power unit journey alongside Ford.

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