Motorsport

Verstappen To Mercedes? Horner Tells Wolff To Move His Focus In Pursuit Of F1 Champion

Max Verstappen – under contract until 2028 – has resisted multiple opportunities to confirm he will remain with Red Bull next year following the scandal which engulfed the world champions at the beginning of the season

Andy Wong/AP
Max Verstappen celebrated winning Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix. Photo: Andy Wong/AP
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Christian Horner has told Toto Wolff to focus on his struggling team after the Mercedes boss refused to back down in his pursuit of Max Verstappen. (More Motorsport News)

Red Bull’s Verstappen secured another commanding win in China on Sunday to cement his status as the best driver in Formula One.

The Dutchman has won 21 of the last 23 races staged and he remains on an unstoppable course to take his fourth world crown in as many seasons.

Mercedes, the team which once dominated the sport, endured another underwhelming afternoon, with George Russell sixth and Lewis Hamilton bemoaning that his car was “broken” and “slow”, as he drove back from 18th to ninth.

But despite his unprecedented success, Verstappen – under contract until 2028 – has resisted multiple opportunities to confirm he will remain with Red Bull next year following the scandal which engulfed the world champions at the beginning of the season – and is again likely to rear its head with Horner’s accuser in the process of appealing the company’s decision to exonerate him of “inappropriate behaviour”.

Speaking prior to Sunday’s race, Verstappen would only say he wanted a “quiet and peaceful environment” when pressed over whether he would stay at Red Bull.

And Wolff, seeking a superstar replacement for the Ferrari-bound Hamilton, said: “There are so many factors that play a role for a driver joining and clearly – when you look at it from the most rational point of view – you can say ‘well that’s the quickest car in the hands of the quickest driver’.

“But I don’t think that this is the only reason you stay where you are. Maybe there is some more depth to some people that consider other factors, too? And I think Max has that depth.

“Are we going to convince him? I don’t think it’s a matter of convincing him. Max knows motor racing better than anyone and he will take decisions that he feels are good for him.

“A few factors play a role but he’s the one that is going to trigger some more dominos to fall afterwards. And everybody is waiting on what he is going to do.”

Verstappen’s father, Jos, is expected to be back at the next round in Miami – his first paddock appearance since he took the pin out of the grenade by claiming in Bahrain that Red Bull would “explode” if Horner remained in his post.

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Wolff added: “I don’t think that anyone can sell anything to Max, Jos and (Verstappen’s manager) Raymond (Vermeulen).

“It is a question of how they feel where the future is best for them, considering a lot of factors.”

However, Horner remained adamant that Verstappen, 26, would not quit a team that have failed to win only seven of the last 49 races.

“When did he (Wolff) say that (about Verstappen)?” he asked. “I don’t think Toto’s problems are his drivers. He has other elements he needs to focus on, rather than focusing on drivers that are unavailable.

“Mercedes are behind their customer teams at the moment. His time would be better spent focusing on the team than the driver market. Sometimes it is just designed to create noise.

“I can assure you that there is no ambiguity as to where Max Verstappen will be next year. I don’t know how many more times Max can say he is staying.

“Today we moved ahead of Mercedes in terms of races won in the modern era. So, the team is in form.

“Why on earth would you want to leave this team?”

Verstappen will head to the United States for round six with a 25-point lead over team-mate Sergio Perez, who finished third on Sunday.

McLaren’s Lando Norris split the Red Bull drivers following an impressive showing from the British driver, while Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz finished fourth and fifth respectively for Ferrari.

“I made a bet before the race as to how far behind the Ferrari drivers we would finish and I said ’35 seconds’,” joked Norris after he recorded his best result of the season so far.

“I am surprised, but very happy. The team deserve it. Good day, good points and another podium. I am happy to be wrong about the bet.”

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