Toto Wolff reveals Mercedes can be ‘real alternative’ for Max Verstappen switch

Thomas Maher
Toto Wolff and Max Verstappen.

Toto Wolff and Max Verstappen.

Toto Wolff believes Mercedes could become an ‘alternative’ for Max Verstappen, as the Dutch driver has made his position clear to Red Bull.

While Verstappen is under contract with Red Bull until the end of 2028, the three-time F1 World Champion has made it clear that if Helmut Marko leaves Red Bull, he’ll likely follow.

Toto Wolff: Anything is possible on this crazy merry-go-round

The situation at Red Bull was sparked off by the parent company’s investigation, and subsequent dismissal, into Christian Horner following allegations of his behaviour as team boss.

With Red Bull GmbH carrying out investigations into the source of media leaks, including that of an anonymous email containing alleged evidence from the investigation, the team’s motorsport consultant Helmut Marko revealed that he couldn’t rule himself out of being suspended by the company.

Marko then left the paddock in Saudi Arabia before returning the next day accompanied by Red Bull CEO Oliver Mintzlaff, before revealing that he is willing to see out his current contract with the company.

Max Verstappen, in very pointed comments, made his position known that, should Marko not be involved with Red Bull, his own continued involvement with Red Bull would be in doubt.

The unease within the ranks at Red Bull has resulted in speculation and rumour that Mercedes could be able to capitalise on the uncertainty to pounce on Verstappen for the seat left vacant by Lewis Hamilton for 2025, particularly if Verstappen does indeed have Marko-related clauses in his contract that would allow him to cut and run.

Mercedes’ team boss Toto Wolff was spotted speaking with Jos Verstappen, Max’s father, in the Bahrain paddock, and has weighed in on the ongoing furore at Red Bull in an interview with Austria’s OE24.

Asked about whether he’d like to have Verstappen as one of his drivers, Wolff said: “Every team would love to take Max because he is the strongest driver, that’s logical!

“But [a] driver will always try to be in the strongest car. That’s why we have to do our homework beforehand so that the car performs. So Mercedes could become a real alternative for Max.”

Another rumour regarding Red Bull, which PlanetF1.com understands to be false, is that legendary car designer Adrian Newey is particularly unhappy with the ongoing situation.

But does Wolff believe it could be possible for Verstappen and Newey both to arrive at Brackley if the situation evolves further?

“Anything is always possible in this crazy merry-go-round, I wouldn’t rule anything out,” Wolff said.

“But we have an excellent technical team with whom I feel comfortable and one hundred percent correctly positioned, even if the lap times don’t reflect that at the moment.”

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Given that Verstappen’s loyalty is to Marko and his involvement with the team he races with, would Wolff be open to the remarkable situation of having his compatriot join the ranks at Mercedes?

“It’s all about Max and his prospects,” he said.

“I don’t know enough about the dynamic between the two of them to be able to judge how important Marko really is for Max.”

Wolff also downplayed his conversation with Verstappen senior in Bahrain as he said he was merely congratulating Max’s father, and said that he and the Dutchman have had a “good relationship” for many years.

But, with a vacant seat left unfilled for 2025 and a considerable budget to spend with Hamilton departing, are the stars aligning for a swoop for Verstappen?

“In every career, there are moments when you want to try something new or should try something new,” Wolff said.

“That’s why I don’t have any bad feelings about Lewis. The only thing that surprised me was the timing, because the season hadn’t started yet.

“But as it turns out now, it could be a good fit: Unlike us, Ferrari and McLaren have finalised their contracts so early that they have more free seats in the coming years.”

If Verstappen was to give up on a likely title-contending Red Bull in 2025, it might only be short-term pain given the regulations change coming for 2026 – including the power unit rules change that will mean Red Bull running their own in-house power units for the first time.

Given 2026 is potentially the point at which the current formbook could be torn up, would it make sense for Verstappen to move across to Mercedes for next year and get settled in ahead of that season?

“There will actually be completely new regulations from 2026, especially in terms of the engine,” Wolff said.

“That gives us the opportunity to hopefully do as well as we did in 2014. If you can be there early as a driver, that’s obviously an advantage.”

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