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Mercedes face key obstacle as they pursue Verstappen

Mercedes believes that Red Bull’s Max Verstappen is a realistic target.

Toto Wolff has made one thing unequivocally clear in recent months – Mercedes are interested in signing Max Verstappen. The Triple World Champion is seen as a realistic target for the Silver Arrows in the wake of significant internal instability at Milton Keynes. The impact of Red Bull’s civil war is still ongoing, with departing Adrian Newey likely the first major casualty. However, this does not mean Mercedes can easily sign the Dutchman.

Max Verstappen, until the start of 2024, was never considered an attainable option for anyone. After all, his multi-year contract with Red Bull should keep him in the Austrian team for many years to come. Even ignoring contractual obligations, why would Verstappen give away the seat in Formula 1?

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Turbulence at Red Bull

However, recent events at Red Bull have presented the answer to this question. Fall-out within the team has created significant rifts, with Jos Verstappen even calling for Christian Horner’s firing earlier in the year. Although on-track success has somewhat distracted from this feud, there are still issues below the surface.

Because of this, Toto Wolff has frequently mentioned Max Verstappen as a target for the Brackley-based team. As it stands, the German constructor is still licking its wounds after Lewis Hamilton’s Ferrari move.

Aside from a shock promotion of Kimi Antonelli, there is no other driver signing that could create the same shockwaves as poaching Red Bull’s Verstappen. As Mercedes looks to make a statement of intent, they are exploring all possibilities.

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Wolff: Verstappen will consider more than performance

When discussing this possibility in Shanghai, Wolff made clear that performance will not be the only variable in the Dutchman’s calculations:

“There are so many factors that play a role for a driver joining.

“Clearly, from the most rational point of view, you can say – ‘well, the quickest car in the hands of the quickest driver.’

“But I don’t think that is the only reason you stay where you are. For, let’s say, simple minds, that might be the only reason you stay in the car, and that’s it. 

“But maybe there’s more depth to some people that consider other factors, too. And I think Max has more depth.”

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Will Mercedes’ current pace be a limiting factor?

Wolff is not incorrect to suggest that speed is not the only variable drivers will consider in negotiations. This is especially true when looking ahead to 2026 when fresh regulations could shake up the order.

Mercedes will be counting on nailing the new engines in 2026 to catapult them back into Championship contention. Whilst Red Bull is working on their own powertrains, it seems reasonable to expect a more established manufacturer like Mercedes to have the upper hand.

Verstappen will surely take this into consideration. However, Milton Keynes is still producing the best cars in F1 – and could secure Verstappen another two World Championships in 2024 and 2025.

Unless James Allison can rectify the W15’s current deficiencies, it seems unlikely the Red Bull driver will abandon his winning car any time soon.

Perhaps the 26-year-old is gettable in 2026. However, even then, Mercedes would be selling him on their potential – rather than current performance. In this sense, Toto Wolff’s team might lack the speed to capitalise on the fractions that have weakened the Verstappen-Red Bull partnership.


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