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Mercedes to give Verstappen ‘time’ amid Red Bull ‘wobbles’

Toto Wolff says Mercedes will give Max Verstappen “time” to decide on his future amid “some wobbles going through” Red Bull.

​​​​​​Amid the continued turbulence surrounding F1’s world champions following the investigation into Christian Horner, which resulted in the grievance made against the team principal by a female colleague being dismissed, Verstappen’s future at Red Bull has been at the centre of speculation despite the Dutchman’s current total dominance of the sport and the fact his contract with them ostensibly runs to the end of the 2028 season.

Were he to move before then, then Mercedes have been most strongly mooted as an alternative landing spot for the triple world champion given they have a seat open as early as next year after Lewis Hamilton stunned the sport in February by signing for Ferrari from 2025.

Asked by Sky Sports F1’s Karun Chandhok if Verstappen was going to be driving for his team next year, Mercedes team boss Wolff replied: “If I would know…

“At the end, Max is in the quickest car and this is what a driver is always going to look at.

Image: Verstappen speaks with team boss Horner in the Melbourne paddock on Thursday

“He’s in a fantastic place in his career and then it will be a decision that is up to him to say, ‘is it an environment that I’d like to change and if yes, where do I want to go?'”

Wolff was then asked whether the spectre of the sport’s major 2026 rules change and overhaul of engine regulations, which will see Red Bull develop their own power unit for the first time against established engine manufacturers like Mercedes, could also come into Verstappen’s thinking about his future plans and be a trump card for his team.

“I think the trigger for him maybe thinking about other options is because they have some wobbles going through their team,” replied Wolff.

“I think we’ve got to give him time to think how he wants to sort out his future without giving it a push from our side.”

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Following continued off-track turbulence at Red Bull, Max Verstappen remained coy on his future

Striking a more consolatory tone about his Red Bull future than was the case at the previous round in Saudi Arabia, Verstappen himself reiterated on Thursday at the Australian GP that it was his “intention” to see out the remainder of his long-term deal at Red Bull.

“At the end of the day, it’s a performance basis. It’s the same as if I wouldn’t perform, I wouldn’t be sitting here. I know how that works. With the deal (my contract) in place, that’s my intention for sure to be here until the end because it would be a great story,” he said.

“For me personally, also, to just see it out to the end because it almost basically means that I’ve been part of one family and team.”

But he did nonetheless welcome the public expression of interest from Wolff, who had said at the last race in Saudi Arabia that he “would love” to have the triple champion at Mercedes next year.

“It doesn’t have any impact on me on what I would do. It’s always nice to hear that,” said Verstappen when asked about whether Wolff’s comments affect him.

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Craig Slater says Christian Horner appears to be rebuilding his relationship with Max Verstappen and it looks like the Red Bull Team intend to ‘close ranks’

“Toto and I, we had our little moments but that’s normal between two teams battling for the championship. But the respect has always been there. From my side, it doesn’t change anything.”

Asked if he would ever join Mercedes in the future, Verstappen said: “I don’t know. I don’t know what happens after 2028. I don’t know if I’m going to stay in F1 or continue or sign a new deal? I don’t know that.”

More to follow…

Toto on Susie’s legal action: ‘It matters that things are not brushed under the carpet’

Wolff also discussed publicly for the first time the decision of his wife Susie, the head of F1 Academy, to file a criminal complaint against the FIA, Formula 1’s governing body.

Susie Wolff announced on Wednesday that she had filed the complaint in French courts after the FIA launched and then dropped an investigation in December 2023 over an alleged breach of confidentiality.

The probe arose after a report in Business F1 magazine claimed that other team principals were concerned Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff was benefiting from information shared by his wife, who is the managing director of the all-female F1 Academy series and reports directly to F1 boss Stefano Domenicali.

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Toto Wolff explains that Susie Wolff feels wrong has been done and that the FIA needs to take ‘accountability’ for what has happened

“First of all, Susie is a strong woman. She doesn’t take anything from anyone and has always followed through on her convictions and values, and that’s the case here,” said her husband, Toto.

“She’s very unemotional about it, and pragmatic. She feels wrong was done and the court needs to hear that, and nothing’s going to bring her off that path. That’s how her character is.

“And on the other side, it is the case and the fact, that all year now we have been talking about cases of transparency and various other factors that are just not great, and this is what Lewis referred to.

“We should talk about the greatest of the sport where we are and not the other stuff, but it needs to be pointed to.”

Asked what Susie wanted to happen in the case, Toto replied: “I think Susie just started that process many months ago, had done it very diligently, as far as I am concerned, and will go all the way.

“I think it matters for her most to find out what happened and people take accountability and responsibility, and that things are not brushed under the carpet.

“I think we as a sport need to do that in all areas, whether it is Susie’s case or some case with the other teams. Overall, I think this sport has such a massive platform, we are doing so well and maybe sometimes we need to take it out of the jurisdiction of our sport into the real world and see what it does.”

Sky Sports F1’s live Australian GP schedule

The third round of the 2024 F1 season takes place on Sunday, with lights out at 4am on Sky Sports F1
Image: The third round of the 2024 F1 season takes place on Sunday, with lights out at 4am on Sky Sports F1

Saturday March 23

  • 12.10am: F3 Sprint
  • 1.10am: Australian GP Practice Three (session starts at 1.30am)
  • 3.10am: F2 Sprint
  • 4.15am: Australian GP Qualifying build-up
  • 5am: Australian GP Qualifying
  • 7am: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook
  • 7.30am: Australian GP Qualifying highlights
  • 8.30am: Australian GP Qualifying replay (Sky Showcase)
  • 10.30am: Australian GP Qualifying replay
  • 10pm: F3 Feature Race

Sunday March 24

  • 12.30am: F2 Feature Race
  • 3am: Australian GP build-up: Grand Prix Sunday
  • 6am: Australian GP reaction: Chequered flag
  • 7am: Ted’s Notebook
  • 7.30am: Australian GP highlights
  • 8.30am: Australian GP build-up: Grand Prix Sunday replay
  • 9.30am: Australian GP race replay
  • 10am: Australian GP highlights (Sky Showcase)
  • 11.30am: Australian GP reaction: Chequered flag replay

Formula 1’s biggest ever season continues with the Australian Grand Prix this weekend, with Sunday’s race live on Sky Sports F1 at 4am. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – no contract, cancel anytime

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