JUNE 25, 2024

Mercedes flexible for Verstappen until November

Toto Wolff admits he is leaving Mercedes' door wide open for Max Verstappen for as long as possible this year.

Max Verstappen, Spanish GP 2024
© Red Bull

Mere days ago, Mercedes CEO and chairman Ola Kallenius caused a stir when he admitted that his top pick to replace Lewis Hamilton next year is another multiple world champion.

The cards are being reshuffled, he said. Silver would also suit Max well.

Team boss and co-owner Wolff has also made no secret of favouring Verstappen even over and above his own 17-year-old protege Kimi Antonelli.

He says holding the seat open for so long wouldn't have been fair on the job-seeking Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz.

I didn't want to keep him waiting, said Wolff. "We want to delay the decision for as long as possible to remain flexible.

I don't think we can make a decision until November.

As for Verstappen, the Dutchman has a contract through 2028, with his boss Christian Horner believing Kallenius and Wolff are only trying to destabilise Red Bull.

However, the power struggle at Red Bull has already cost that team the services of Adrian Newey, with Dr Helmut Marko also not ruling out a departure.

Wolff said: Let Christian believe that Verstappen will stay. Our job is to enable Lewis and George (Russell) to finish the season on a high level and we'll see if the W15 will be a car that can convince Max.

The Austrian even hinted that Red Bull would face a major slump if Verstappen departed.

I think it's Max who wins the races, not Red Bull, said Wolff. The car is solid, but (Sergio) Perez is not doing well. It's Max who makes the difference.

Former F1 driver Christijan Albers also thinks Red Bull is currently skating on thin ice.

We all hear them say it - that it doesn't matter that Newey is leaving, because Pierre Wache is the man, he told Viaplay.

But with all due respect, we see in the last races that the car is not getting better.