I’d love to have him – Toto Wolff would welcome Max Verstappen at Mercedes

By Sports Desk March 09, 2024

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.

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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    The 34-year-old remained fifth overall in the world championship and a point behind Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, who was one of five drivers that failed to finish the race. 

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    His final incident cost him a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Barcelona, with the stewards punishing him for a breach of the safety rules that require a driver to stop if the car is unsafe.

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    He then crashed into the barriers late in the day after losing control on a damp kerb at turn six, hobbling back to the pits with a broken rear wing. 

    "I'm very sorry for my team, I let them down today. But we will come back no doubt. There’s a very long way to go," Perez said on social media.

    His final incident cost him a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Barcelona, with the stewards punishing him for a breach of the safety rules that require a driver to stop if the car is unsafe.

    "The incident was on me, I touched the wet part into turn six and I couldn’t stop the car, I couldn’t touch the brakes," Perez said on Sunday.

    "It has been a very tough couple of weekends, we will regroup, keep our heads down and learn from the weekend. We identified a couple of issues after qualifying and they meant we would have qualified a lot higher.

    "Hopefully we can be back to our form in Spain and get back to the level we were at earlier in the season. I am confident in that, there are good tracks coming for us."

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