The advisor of Red Bull
Racing, Helmut Marko, suggested he expects Toto Wolff
to try to snatch Max Verstappen
Lewis Hamilton will leave quite a gap in Mercedes after he leaves the team at the end of the 2024 season, and there are not many drivers capable of filling this gap.
One name that hasn't been mentioned as often and would maybe be the best replacement for the seven-time World Champion in terms of driver potential is Max Verstappen.
While both Alonso and Vettel would be short-term options for Mercedes, the 26-year-old Red Bull Racing driver is still quite young and hasn't reached his peak.
The advisor of the Red Bull Racing F1
team, Helmut Marko, fully expects the team principal of Silver Arrows to approach the triple World Champion. He told sport.de
: "Toto Wolff will try that - but he will be unsuccessful."
What currently stands in Wolff's way seems to be Verstappen's long-term contract, Verstappen's loyalty to the Red Bull family, and maybe most of all, the fact that he can't offer the Dutchman the fastest car on the grid.
The thing is, all of these things except the 26-year-old's contract can change over time. The Dutchman has been with the Red Bull family ever since he started racing in F1.
However, the team is going through a tough period ahead of the season as Christian Horner is being investigated for "inappropriate behavior."
Rumors suggest resignation might be on the table
, depending on the outcome of the investigation.
If Horner was then forced to leave the team from Milton Keynes, who knows what impact it might have? Maybe it could trigger a chain of more key members leaving the team to the point where Red Bull loses its advantage over rivals.
Then, it would make no sense for the Dutchman to keep racing for the Austrian team. Another thing is the enormous challenge that awaits Red Bull in 2026.
The team decided to produce its own power, and Marko with Horner admitted that their team had no plan B if the project failed
. Drivers tend to have various clauses in their contracts to protect themselves.
It is only reasonable to assume Verstappen would have something like that in the long-term contract he signed with Red Bull in 2022.
There are many IFs in the conversation, but Wolff might have a dominant car to offer to Verstappen starting in 2026, and that could be one of the crucial factors that change the Dutchman's mind.
Could you imagine Verstappen suddenly changing teams from Red Bull to Mercedes?