‘I’d love to have him’: Toto Wolff reacts to Max Verstappen unrest at Red Bull

Verstappen’s Red Bull future is in the spotlight amid the in-fighting at Formula One’s dominant franchise

Philip Duncan
Saturday 09 March 2024 21:06 GMT
Christian Horner and Max Verstappen’s father have ‘heated’ exchange at Bahrain GP

Toto Wolff has revealed for the first time that he would love to have Max Verstappen at Mercedes – as Red Bull boss Christian Horner admitted no individual is bigger than the team.

Verstappen’s Red Bull future is in the spotlight amid the in-fighting at Formula One’s dominant franchise.

The Dutchman, who won Saturday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to land his second win of the season – and his ninth in a row – opened the door to sensationally quitting Red Bull if motorsport adviser Helmut Marko is forced out.

It emerged this weekend that Marko could be suspended as a result of Red Bull’s inquiry into Horner, although the 80-year-old Austrian said prior to Saturday’s race that he expects to carry on.

However, the unrest at Red Bull has put Mercedes – seeking a replacement for Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton in 2025 – on red alert.

And when asked following Saturday’s race in Jeddah if it would be good for Formula One for Verstappen to switch teams, Wolff replied: “I would love to have him.

“But first we need to sort out our car. We owe it to our current drivers to improve the car and give them equipment that is good before dreaming about the future next year.”

Wolff was then asked if Verstappen, whose deal runs until 2028, was now top of his wishlist.

“Let’s word it like this,” he replied. “It is a decision that Max needs to take and there is no team up and down the grid who wouldn’t do handstands to have him in their car.”

Verstappen has won 19 of the last 20 F1 races and is overwhelming favourite to land a fourth consecutive world championship.

Mercedes have tasted just one victory since the end of 2021, and George Russell and Hamilton finished only sixth and ninth respectively on Saturday.

Max Verstappen won Saturday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix (Darko Bandic/AP) (AP)

Responding to Wolff’s comments, Horner said: “I am sure every team in the paddock would love to have Max but, as Toto also said, the best drivers want to be in the best cars.

“We are a team. Max has achieved his 56th win and his 100th podium today – all of which have been in Red Bull Racing cars.

“But you cannot force someone to be somewhere because of a piece of paper. If somebody doesn’t want to be at the team I am not going to force anyone against their will to be here.

“Max has been here since he was 18 and I have no doubt of his commitment and his passion, but no individual is bigger than the team.”

Earlier, Red Bull’s group CEO Oliver Mintzlaff said Verstappen will not be leaving.

Asked by the PA news agency prior to Saturday’s race if the Dutch driver will remain with the team, Mintzlaff said: “Of course. He has a contract.

“Max is a great driver and hopefully we will win tonight. I am here just for racing. That’s it.”

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