Max Verstappen to Mercedes: Toto Wolff twists knife into Red Bull over major F1 move

Max Verstappen is rumoured to be on Mercedes' list to replace the departing Lewis Hamilton

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Toto Wolff has insisted Mercedes will not rush Max Verstappen into deciding whether to to join the team next year, as he suggested Red Bull’s internal turmoil could force him to leave them behind.

The Mercedes supremo has lined up a sensational move for Verstappen to fill the void soon to be left by Lewis Hamilton, as the seven-time champion prepares to bid farewell at the end of 2024 before linking up with Ferrari.

Verstappen’s dad Jos Verstappen was spotted holding talks with Wolff at the Bahrain Grand Prix earlier this year, and Wolff has refused to deny his interest in recruiting the 26-year-old, who has opened the door to a potential switch.

When asked by Sky Sports F1 if he is planning to approach Verstappen about driving for the team next year, Wolff replied, joking: “[As] if I would know! Well, at the end [of the day], Max is in quickest car and this is what the drivers always have to look at.

“He’s at a fantastic place in his career and it will be decision that is up to him to say ‘Is it an environment I would like to change and if yes where do I want to go’.”

Max Verstappen of Red Bull ahead of 2024 Australian Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Max Verstappen of Red Bull ahead of 2024 Australian Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Such a move would have been difficult to imagine given Red Bull’s domination of the sport, having won 21 of 22 races last season. Once again, it looks as if they are poised to lead from the front this season after back-to-back 1-2 finishes in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

But while the Dutchman has said publicly he is happy with Red Bull, it is believed the three-time world champion is considering his options following the ongoing saga between team principal Christian Horner, Helmut Marko and his father.

Mercedes will give Verstappen time

Wolff believes the internal power struggle at the Austrian team could force Verstappen to reconsider his future – and he stated there will be no pressure from the Silver Arrows to force him to decide.

“I think the trigger for him… maybe he is thinking about other options,” Wolff added. “They have some wobbles going through that team [Red Bull] and I think we have got to give him time to think how he wants to sort out his future, without giving him a push from our side.”

Red Bull boss Horner, who has faced intense scrutiny over his position over the last two months, has consistently denied speculation Verstappen could leave. However, the Briton conceded that the team would not keep “any individual” – including Verstappen – against their will.

Mercedes have done little to prove they have a car which is capable of competing for titles, with George Russell’s P5 in Bahrain their best result of the year. That would surely have to be a requirement to convince Verstappen to leave behind Red Bull, with whom he has a contract until 2028.

But the idea of driving alongside Russell, who has gone from strength to strength since arriving at the team in 2021, may prove to be an enticing factor in any decision.

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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