Published On: Sun, Mar 10th, 2024

Toto Wolff ‘would love’ Max Verstappen at Mercedes but problem may block move | F1 | Sport

Toto Wolff has stated that he would ‘love’ to poach reigning world champion Max Verstappen from Red Bull but admitted that Mercedes would need to ‘sort out their car’ if they were to have any chance of convincing him to swap Milton Keynes for Brackley.

Verstappen’s relationship with the Red Bull hierarchy looked rock solid heading into the 2024 campaign and with a contract running until the end of the 2028 season, it seemed impossible that the Dutchman would play any role in the chaos that is expected to ensue with this year’s ‘silly season’.

However, the behind-the-scenes drama at Red Bull involving his father, team principal Christian Horner and advisor Helmut Marko has threatened to destabilise Verstappen’s position. The 26-year-old even threatened to quit if the latter of that trio was dismissed off the back of an internal investigation that was closed ahead of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

If Verstappen were to depart Red Bull, Mercedes would be his most logical destination. The three-time world champion would be the perfect replacement for the Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton, while the Silver Arrows are the highest-ranked team without a decided driver line-up for 2025, outside of his current organisation.

However, there is an issue. “I’d love to have him, but first we need to sort out our car,” Wolff said after the race in Jeddah. “I think we owe it to our drivers George [Russell] and Lewis to improve the car, and give them equipment that is good, before dreaming about the future.”

The Mercedes team principal later added: “I think this is a decision that Max needs to take. There is no team up and down the grid who wouldn’t do handstands to have him in a car.”

With two rounds of the season in the rearview mirror, Wolff is still facing a conundrum regarding his 2025 driver line-up. Should Verstappen prove unattainable, academy prospect Kimi Antonelli has been the most commonly touted alternative.

However, the Italian teenager has endured a messy start to his Formula Two campaign after making the giant leap from FRECA over the winter, scoring points in just two of the first four races of the season.

Should Antonelli fail to impress enough in his rookie campaign to secure an immediate promotion, Fernando Alonso, Carlos Sainz and Alex Albon have all been suggested as options. However, Wolff will certainly push the boat out to convince Verstappen to make the unprecedented switch from Red Bull.

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