Red Bull identify two Max Verstappen replacements with Horner ready to break bank

Max Verstappen's future at Red Bull is uncertain amid turmoil at the team

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has reportedly devised a contingency plan to recruit two drivers if Max Verstappen decides to leave the team for Mercedes in 2025.

The 50-year-old remains in his role as the team’s boss after being cleared by Red Bull GmBH following an investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

Over the course of the last week, Horner has also had to deal with a fallout with Jos Verstappen, the father of three-time world champion Max, and speculation suggesting special advisor Helmut Marko would be suspended from the team, which were later denied.

Verstappen‘s surprise declaration that he would leave the team in the event of Marko, 81, being sacked has pointed to a divide between key figures in the team. While Horner has spoken in glowing terms about Verstappen, the Dutchman has been seemingly reluctant to back his under-pressure boss in public.

Max Verstappen of Red Bull in the Paddock ahead of 2024 Saudi Arabian GP | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Max Verstappen of Red Bull in the Paddock ahead of 2024 Saudi Arabian GP | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Reports suggest that it is now increasingly clear that if Horner were to remain head of the team, Verstappen’s departure is more likely than not. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has made no attempt to hide his admiration for Verstappen and would jump at the chance to hire him as Lewis Hamilton‘s replacement.

Horner eyes two drivers

In the event of Verstappen’s departure, Horner is reportedly planning to bring in Alex Albon of Williams and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri into the team, with Sergio Perez, 33, expected to join Verstappen in heading for the exit when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Both Albon and Piastri have a contract with their respective teams for 2025. However, according to F1 Insider, Red Bull have not been put off by that and they are ready to put “significant sums” on the table in order to secure the two drivers.

Even faced with the prospect of losing the best driver on the grid, Horner‘s position has been strengthened by the support from Red Bull‘s Thai majority shareholder, Chaleo Yoovidhya. What’s more, Horner is convinced that Verstappen is not essential to winning races and championships, and is of the opinion that the Dutchman has simply been given the fastest car for the last two seasons.

Alex Albon prepares to drive during a Red Bull in a demo run in 2020 | Bryn Lennon / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Albon’s Thai origins, like those of the Yoovidhya family, could play a role in sealing his return. He came up through the Red Bull academy and drove for the team for 26 races between the 2019 and 2020 seasons before he was replaced by Perez.

Piastri is also represented by Mark Webber, who is still a popular figure at the Milton Keynes factory, and could be tempted by the prospect of filling Verstappen’s shoes with Lando Norris established as the No.1 driver at McLaren. Horner is an admirer of the Australian’s ability and previously revealed he tried to sign him before Alpine snapped him up as their reserve driver.

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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