Max Verstappen to Mercedes verdict reached as Bottas addresses ‘burned bridges’

Max Verstappen has been linked with a switch to Mercedes as internal fighting at Red Bull goes on

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Valtteri Bottas believes Max Verstappen’s ties with Red Bull are not strong enough to prevent him joining Mercedes for the 2025 Formula 1 season, although the Kick Sauber driver has questioned the three-time world champion’s motives for linking up with his former employers.

Bottas won 10 races for the Silver Arrows in his four seasons with the team between 2017 and 2020, having replaced Nico Rosberg as Lewis Hamilton’s team-mate after his shock retirement. He proved to be the ideal team-mate as Mercedes continued their dominance at the top of the sport, sealing the constructors’ championship in all four seasons he spent with the team.

Mercedes now face an even more daunting task of replacing Hamilton for 2025 as he prepares to join Ferrari, with Verstappen understood to be Toto Wolff’s top target for the seat. The Dutchman’s uncertain future at Red Bull has only fuelled speculation he could make a sensational switch between the two rival teams.

Valtteri Bottas enters the paddock for the first day of 2024 F1 pre-season testing in Bahrain | Kick Sauber F1 Team

When quizzed about the possibility of the move materialising, Bottas has no doubt Verstappen would be welcomed if he left for the Brackley outfit, dismissing concerns that there could be too much bad blood between the two.

“I don’t think so because in the end, it’s racing, it’s tough competition. But that’s that’s Formula One, that’s normal,” Bottas told the press in Australia. “There’s always rivalries, but in the end, I don’t think he’s burned any bridges anywhere.

“And I think any team would like him. I personally wouldn’t see why he would like to leave Red Bull, because it is clearly the fastest car on the grid, but I don’t know that all the details.”

Bottas aware of F1 peril

Ahead of Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix, Bottas has received a hero’s welcome Down Under after moving there with his partner, Australian cyclist Tiffany Cromwell. The Finn’s bold new look for the season saw him dye his hair peroxide blonde and grow a mullet, which has become an iconic look in the country.

But not everything is going to plan for the former Mercedes driver, who is not guaranteed a seat on the F1 grid beyond his contract with Sauber, which expires in 2025.

The team are due for another rebrand when Audi complete their takeover in time for the 2026 season, and their impending arrival has triggered reports that Nico Hulkenberg, Carlos Sainz and Theo Pourchaire could be in for a seat, with Bottas potentially on his way out.

His anonymous start to the season hasn’t helped, finishing behind his team-mate Zhou Guanyu in the season opener in Bahrain before posting a dismal 17th-place finish in Saudi Arabia. And the 34-year-old is acutely aware that he needs to start producing results to salvage his F1 future.

“In Formula One, there’s always the danger [that you can be replaced],” Bottas added. “That’s why you need to try and be one step ahead. That’s what my management is working on in the background.”

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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