Max Verstappen to Mercedes ‘pretty close to a done deal’, claims ex-F1 driver

Oliver Harden
Max Verstappen looks into the distance with a prominent Mercedes logo alongside him

Could Max Verstappen really replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes?

Former F1 driver Johnny Herbert has claimed that Max Verstappen’s sensational move from Red Bull to Mercedes is “pretty close to a done deal.”

Verstappen and Red Bull stand as F1’s dominant force currently, storming to three consecutive World Drivers’ Championships since 2021.

Max Verstappen ‘pretty close’ to joining Mercedes, says Johnny Herbert

The 26-year-old has won 46 of the last 68 races stretching back to the start of his maiden title-winning season, with Verstappen opening his account for 2024 with consecutive victories from pole position in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Victory at this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne would see Verstappen match his own record of 10 straight wins, just six months after surpassing Red Bull icon Sebastian Vettel’s 2013 tally of nine.

Despite holding a contract until the end of the 2028 season, Verstappen’s future has been thrown into doubt in light of the recent saga involving team principal Christian Horner with the Dutchman linked with Mercedes as a potential replacement for Lewis Hamilton, who announced last month that he will race for Ferrari in 2025.

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Verstappen’s father Jos called for Horner to leave his position after the Bahrain GP, accusing the long-serving team boss of “playing the victim when he is the one causing the problems” after an investigation into Horner’s conduct was dismissed.

Amid concerns that Verstappen could leave Red Bull to succeed Hamilton at Mercedes, Horner argued a week later in Saudi Arabia that “nobody is bigger than the team.”

Herbert has joined the calls for Horner to resign, claiming the team “could rip apart quite easily” if “the Christian Horner show” does not come to an end soon.

The three-time grands prix winner also warned Horner “might force their main star out of the team” if he tries to “arrogantly stay put” – and predicted that F1 design legend Adrian Newey could follow Verstappen out of Red Bull if the team principal remains in situ.

Herbert, who spent more than a decade as a Sky F1 pundit before parting company with the broadcaster at the end of 2022, has now claimed to have heard that Verstappen’s switch to Mercedes is on the brink of completion, per BetIdeas.

He said: “I hear it is pretty close to a done deal, brokered between Max and Mercedes.

“Is it a power play by the Verstappen team? Possibly.

“I don’t think it is the best scenario for Max. Mercedes have struggled for the last three years and still haven’t got a good car.

“The whole shenanigans are ripping Red Bull apart, as Jos Verstappen has said. It is ripping the team apart to the extent they might well lose their biggest asset.

“And that is not Christian Horner. That is Max Verstappen. He is the one who is binding everything together to allow the team to achieve what they have done over the past couple of years.”

Herbert believes there is a “very strong chance” that Verstappen and Newey will be reunited at Mercedes if they leave Red Bull, claiming the future of long-serving Red Bull adviser Helmut Marko will have a direct impact on Verstappen’s plans.

PlanetF1.com reported on Tuesday (bottom) that Verstappen’s contract contains a clause allowing him to leave if Marko departs, and was potentially even included in his deal without Horner’s knowledge.

Herbert explained: “Adrian Newey will be very important. If the rumours are true, there is a chance that Adrian would go with him. I think there is a very strong chance of that happening.

“Going with Max to Mercedes for another challenge would be beneficial to F1 and very beneficial for the team. But they will need Adrian to be able to turn it around at Mercedes.

“Lewis has left because he doesn’t feel the team can provide him with a car to win his eighth world title. That makes sense.

“For Max to go there would not be a logical choice.

“If you really want to continue winning World Championships, then Max should stay at Red Bull. But for that to happen, harmony has to return.

“The crux will be whether Helmut Marko stays. If Helmut leaves then Max will too.”

Read next: Red Bull latest: Peace talks, Christian Horner support and Verstappen’s secret contract clause