Wolff rules out Max: Russell, Ocon first in line

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen and George Russell

Max Verstappen and George Russell

Toto Wolff isn’t opening the door to Max Verstappen, saying when Mercedes change drivers in the future it will be “George Russell and Esteban Ocon” who step up.

Verstappen has a contract with Red Bull that runs until the end of 2023, the Dutchman having put pen to paper on an extension back in January.

However, months later his future has been thrown into doubt with Honda’s announcement that it is quitting Formula 1 at the end of next season.

Red Bull’s options for a new engine partner are limited as Mercedes has already said no, leaving them with Ferrari or Renault of the current engine manufacturers.

There are rumours doing the rounds that Honda won’t drop them entirely, instead Red Bull will run a rebadged Honda power unit for 2022.

That, though, has done little to quash rumours that Verstappen could follow Honda out of the door.

One team he won’t be heading to is Mercedes.

Wolff has made it clear that if either Lewis Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas don’t continue with the team, it is Russell or Ocon who will be called up.

“Max is clearly committed to Red Bull and is loyal to the team,” the Mercedes motorsport boss explained to Motorsport-Magazin.com.

“I am very happy with my two drivers.

“If there is a generational change in the future, then George Russell and Esteban Ocon are in the starting blocks.”

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There are contradictory comments over whether Verstappen has an engine performance clause in his contract.

While team boss Christian Horner has denied this, saying Verstappen won’t be walking out the door along with Honda, Helmut Marko says there is such a clause.

“Max has a competitive engine in the contract,” Marko admitted to Auto Motor und Sport. “But that’s also our premise.

“Without an engine with which we can win the World Championship, the project is not interesting for us.”

Verstappen, though, has made it clear that he has no intension of jumping ship.

Asked by RTL’s Kai Ebel if Ferrari would be an option, he replied: “At the moment, no, bit it is always difficult to say what will happen in the next years.

“I am satisfied at Red Bull. I would like to continue there for a few more years.”

As for a move to Mercedes, that’s the “same answer like for Ferrari.

“At the moment they are the best but I feel good at Red Bull.

“Maybe in a few more years there will be other opportunities but I am not concentrated at that yet.”

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