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Max Verstappen refuses to rule out shock Mercedes move: ‘You never know’

Red Bull driver has a contract with the team until 2028 but the current unrest has suddenly made his future less clear

Kieran Jackson
Formula 1 Correspondent
Wednesday 06 March 2024 18:34 GMT
Christian Horner and Max Verstappen’s father have ‘heated’ exchange at Bahrain GP

Max Verstappen refused to rule out the prospect of joining Mercedes in 2025 as the F1 world champion was heavily questioned on his future with Red Bull on Wednesday.

The three-time world champion, who coasted to victory in the opening race of the 2024 season in Bahrain on Saturday, has a contract with Red Bull until 2028, signed two years ago.

However, the current divisions within the team – namely between his father Jos alongside Helmut Marko, and embattled team principal Christian Horner – have raised the prospect of the Dutchman leaving the team.

It has emerged that Verstappen has a release clause in his contract allowing him to leave should Marko depart. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff also had dinner with Jos in Bahrain last week.

Questioned in Saudi Arabia about whether he could ever see himself at Mercedes, Verstappen said: “The thing is nobody would have ever seen that Lewis [Hamilton] would move to Ferrari.

“That’s not related to F1, it’s just general life. You never know what happens around you or what might influence you. You can never say 100% what is going to be.

“But I also don’t think about it too much - I’m very relaxed. I’m very happy with the team, the performance is there, there is no reason to leave.”

Mercedes driver George Russell insisted that the Silver Arrows should target Verstappen if the Dutchman becomes available.

Verstappen also defended his father after Jos stated Red Bull would “explode” if Horner stayed in his position as team principal.

It follows the investigation into Horner’s “inappropriate behaviour” towards a female colleague – Horner was cleared by Red Bull GmbH of any wrongdoing – and subsequent leaks of WhatsApp messages allegedly between Horner and the female complainant.

Max Verstappen refused to rule out the prospect of moving to Mercedes in the future (Getty Images)

Asked if his father regretted his comments in Bahrain, Verstappen said: “I have not asked him that but my dad, from how I know him in go-karting, is very outspoken and he is not a liar, that is for sure.

“My dad and I are very close. We call every day.”

Verstappen’s manager Raymond Vermeulen met with Horner earlier this week in an attempt to clear the air at the crisis-hit team. Neither Max, nor Jos, were present.

And Verstappen added: “I don’t see myself in F1 without them (his father and manager) by my side.”

Horner said following last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix that he was “absolutely confident” he would stay on as Red Bull boss for the remainder of the season.

Asked if he can stay at Red Bull with Horner still in his role, Verstappen replied: “Well we are at the moment. I saw a lot of stories about that, which was a bit weird to read.

“But from my side, what I want and it doesn’t matter who is involved in the team or not, it’s to have a quiet environment where everyone is happy to work.”

The second race of the F1 season is this Saturday, 9 March, in Saudi Arabia.

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