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Max Verstappen to Mercedes: Toto Wolff cranks up charm offensive with Japanese GP verdict

Mercedes boss Wolff is keen to sign the three-time world champion to replace Lewis Hamilton.


Toto Wolff once again lavished praise on Max Verstappen after watching the Red Bull driver take the checkered flag at the Formula 1 2024 Japanese Grand Prix, with the Mercedes boss doing little to hide his interest in hiring him for next season.

Wolff will lose Lewis Hamilton to Ferrari in 2025 after the 39-year-old decided to trigger a break clause in his contract February, causing a scramble in the driver market.

And while the likes of Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso were initially linked, the Austrian supremo is making it his personal mission to snatch Verstappen from Red Bull.

The Dutchman, 26, may be in the quickest car that has seen him land three world championship titles back to back, but unrest within the team has led Verstappen to question his long-term future with the team.

Race winner Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium after the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Race winner Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium after the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Wolff did not explicitly confirm his interest in Verstappen on this occasion, although this is well-documented from his previous comments this season. Instead, he chose to give him a ‘spectacular’ review for his pole, win and fastest lap combination – and predicted he would be continue to be unbeatable this year.

“No one will catch up with Max this year,” Wolff said after the race to the German language press. “His car is spectacular and he drives spectacularly well, it’s just a matter of who will be the best of the rest.”

Trouble at home for Mercedes

Wolff may be looking to next year already after watching yet another race weekend crumble in front of their very eyes. Mercedes looked quick in FP3 but could only qualify seventh and ninth respectively.

Russell passed his teammate Hamilton under team orders, and the latter aired his frustration with Mercedes‘ strategy during the race, falling from his grid position of seventh, as he registered another poor finish – and Wolff insisted there would be a full investigation.

“We had a bad first stint and have to analyse why that was the case. But the second and third stints were really good. That’s the positive thing we’re taking with us,” Wolff said.

“For us, it’s currently about carrying out a live test. We’re behind, and now we’ve gone in a different direction.

“But we understand the car much better and have now collected much more data that shows us the right direction. Even if the result doesn’t reflect that. But I am more optimistic because our experiments worked – even if this is not reflected in the qualifying result or the race result.”

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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