Max Verstappen: Christian Horner tells Toto Wolff to focus on Mercedes’ form and not ‘unavailable’ drivers

“I think a few factors play a role but he’s the one that will trigger some more domino stones to trigger afterwards,” suggests Mercedes’ Toto Wolff about Max Verstappen’s F1 future; but Christian Horner responds: “I don’t think Toto’s problems are his drivers”

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Max Verstappen talks about his latest win and the first Sprint weekend of 2024 after the Chinese GP

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has responded to Toto Wolff’s latest comments about Max Verstappen’s Formula 1 future by telling his Mercedes counterpart to stop “focusing on drivers that are unavailable”.

With Mercedes yet to decide on who will replace the Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton for 2025, Wolff – who revealed earlier this season that he “would love” to sign F1’s reigning world champion were he to become available – said after Verstappen’s latest dominant win for Red Bull in the Chinese GP that “everyone is waiting on what he is going to do”.

Verstappen’s Red Bull contract runs to 2028 but uncertainty around the Dutchman’s future emerged earlier this season in the wake of an investigation by Red Bull Racing’s parent company into allegations of inappropriate behaviour against Horner by a female colleague.

The grievance against Horner, who has always denied the claims, was dismissed. The woman who brought the complaint has appealed the outcome.

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Speaking after the race on Sunday evening in the Shanghai paddock, Wolff suggested having F1’s fastest car – which Verstappen currently possesses at Red Bull in a period where he has won 21 of the last 23 races – would not be the only consideration for the Dutchman and his representatives when thinking about where he drives in future.

“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 could say that’s the quickest car in the hands of the quickest driver,” said Wolff.

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Verstappen secures another win for Red Bull at the Chinese Grand Prix with Lando Norris and Sergio Perez also finishing on the podium

“But I don’t think this is the only reason you stay where you are. I think for let’s say, simple minds, that might be the only reason you stay in the car and that’s it, but maybe there are more depths for some people that consider other factors too, and I think Max has depth.

“In that respect are we going to even convince him?

“I don’t think Max needs convincing, I think Max knows motor racing better than anyone and will take decisions that he feels are good for him.

“I think a few factors play a role but he’s the one that will trigger some more domino stones to trigger afterwards. Everyone is waiting on what he is going to do.”

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Speaking at the Australian GP, Toto Wolff responds to the rumours that Verstappen could potentially join Mercedes if he were to leave Red Bull

Speaking in a recent interview with Fox Sports Australia, Wolff said that Verstappen would be his first choice to replace Hamilton.

However, he had previously appeared doubtful that Verstappen would ultimately walk away from F1’s dominant car, saying at March’s season-opening grand prix: “I think the driver will always choose the quickest car, that is fundamentally what it’s all about.

“At the moment, Red Bull is the quickest car so that will, in my opinion, always be the priority.”

Horner responds to Wolff: ‘I don’t think Toto’s problems are his drivers’

Wolff’s post-race remarks in China were soon put to Horner at his own Sunday media briefing, and he suggested the Mercedes team principal should be focusing on his outfit’s current form on track after a difficult start to the 2024 season.

“When did he [Wolff] say that [about Verstappen]?” asked Horner.

“If you speak to Max and…it’s not about pieces of paper at the end of the day. We know he has a contract until the end of 2028.

“It’s about how he feels in the team and the relationship he has in the team and the way he’s performing.

“I don’t think Toto’s problems are his drivers. He has probably got other elements he needs to focus on, rather than focusing on drivers that are unavailable.”

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Sky F1’s Damon Hill and Karun Chandhok discuss the long-term future of Verstappen and the possibility of him joining Ferrari at some point in his career

Asked whether he would like Verstappen to say outright that he is staying, Horner said: “I don’t know how many more times he needs to say it! He’s said it numerous times.

“I think sometimes it’s designed to create noise. We’ve moved ahead of the amount of races Mercedes have won in the modern era. The team is in form, why on earth would you want to leave this team?

“Mercedes are behind the third team, behind their customer teams at the moment. His time would be better spent focusing on the team than the driver market.”

Horner then insisted: “I can assure you that there’s no ambiguity as to where Max Verstappen will be next year.”

When quizzed about his future at last month’s Australian GP, Verstappen said: “I don’t think about any other thing because it’s pretty fixed where I’m at, and that’s also where I want to be.”

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