Christian Horner launches Lewis Hamilton attack to reignite Mercedes war over Verstappen

The Red Bull boss pulled no punches in discussing Hamilton's impending exit from Mercedes and addressed Verstappen's links with Mercedes

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner aimed another dig at Mercedes after suggesting Lewis Hamilton decided to leave the team because he didn’t believe they would be quick in 2026.

Horner, who has taken a number of swipes as Mercedes boss Toto Wolff over their public pursuit of Max Verstappen, rubbed salt into the wound ahead of Hamilton’s impending departure to Ferrari.

The 39-year-old announced he had signed a multi-year deal with the Scuderia back in February – ending his 12-year association with Mercedes in which he won six drivers’ championship titles.

Horner not only twisted the knife by claiming Hamilton decided to jump ship after reviewing their data ahead of the new 2026 engine regulations, he also spoke of Verstappen’s happiness to stay with the constructors’ champions and snub Mercedes.

Lewis Hamilton will leave Mercedes at the end of 2024 | Mercedes / Sam Bloxham

“Max is an important part of our team. He’s had all of his victories and podiums in Red Bull Racing cars, three World Championships so far and he’s a crucial member of the team. He enjoys being part of the team. He’s got a tremendous group around him and we know what the future looks like,” Horner told the written press at the Red Bull Ring, including Total-Motorsport.com.

“Obviously a lot of noise has been made about him going elsewhere and sometimes one just thinks that’s a distraction tactic that’s just thrown in. You have to question what are the motives behind that?

“The driver that’s created all the movement in the market [Hamilton] had all the information about the engines in 2026 regulations and so on, and chose to leave and left the vacancy at Mercedes, which is why there has now been obviously a little bit of speculation as to who will fill that seat. But it won’t be Max Verstappen.

Horner compares Verstappen to F1 greats

Upon confirming Verstappen would be remaining with the team at least for the 2025 season, Horner gushed over the championship leader’s recent form after winning seven out of 10 races in 2024.

“He’s been absolutely outstanding. I think what you’re seeing is a driver that just continues to evolve and continues to develop. And I think that you’re seeing drives at the calibre that the greats in the sport were capable of delivering – Ayrton Senna, Jim Clark,” Horner added.

“You’ve only got to look through the generations and I think that what we’re seeing with Max are those key moments that defines any outstanding sportsman or woman, and then that’s what he’s delivering.

“We’ve seen it under pressure delivering in recent races, that’s also in combination with the team because obviously the team is under pressure as well. We’ve managed to win three of the last four races and they’ve all been hard-won victories, and Max just continues to surprise us with the levels that he’s able to achieve and hit.”

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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