Could Max Verstappen really join Mercedes in 2025? Here’s what we know

In the never-ending topsy-turvy circus of Formula One, it’s wise to expect the unexpected.

Yet these latest shenanigans regarding Christian Horner, Max Verstappen and Red Bull – and the potential fallout and consequences of internal politics within the team – would be monumentally seismic for the sport.

The controversy surrounding Horner doesn’t seem to have concluded just yet. The latest is that Horner met with Verstappen’s manager in Dubai on Monday, to de-escalate tensions within the team after Verstappen’s father Jos implied that Horner’s position as team principal was untenable.

But where are we heading in this matter? What could the potential fallout be? And could Red Bull be in danger of losing their star driver to their biggest rivals?

The Independent gives the low-down on all matters Verstappen, Red Bull and Horner:

After his first world championship following that dramatic and contentious 2021 finale in Abu Dhabi, Verstappen signed a long-term extension with Red Bull until the 2028 season, with his salary reported to be around £50m a year.

The message was clear: the flying Dutchman was here to stay. However, the current rumours about Verstappen’s future stem from a divide playing out behind the scenes at the world champions.

In one camp, there is Helmut Marko: Red Bull’s long-term motorsport advisor, central to Verstapppen’s rapid development at the team since his debut as a 17-year-old in 2015. The 80-year-old is a close ally of both Max and Jos.

On the other side of the divide, as we have learnt in recent weeks amid the internal investigation into his conduct, is Horner – Red Bull Racing’s team principal, chief executive and the team’s sole figurehead since their inception 19 years ago.

What has emerged in the last 48 hours is of more significance, though. It is understood that there is a break clause in Verstappen’s contract allowing him to leave Red Bull should Marko also depart. Marko said when asked: “As far as I am concerned, I will not stand in the way of Max.”

Max is now in the middle of the split. Verstappen Sr told The Daily Mail on Saturday night: “There is tension here while he [Horner] remains in position. The team is in danger of being torn apart. It can’t go on the way it is. It will explode. He is playing the victim … when he is the one causing the problems.”

Questioned further on whether he was the source of the leak of hundreds of WhatsApp messages last week, he said: “That wouldn’t make sense. Why would I do that when Max is doing so well here?”

Regarding the Mercedes-specific link, Jos was seen in conversation with Silver Arrows boss Toto Wolff in the Bahrain paddock and reportedly the pair had dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel in Manama.

Wolff has made no secret of his regret at not signing Verstappen as a junior ahead of Red Bull. Before the 2021 title clash, he still held out hope of signing the Dutchman, before the bitter battle between the two teams that year seemed to diminish that possibility.

However, no matter how small the crack, Wolff would be insane not to pursue any opportunity to land the quickest driver of his generation.

Max Verstappen has won 21 of the last 24 F1 races

Right now, in this current phase of regulations, leaving Red Bull would as good as mean leaving guaranteed race wins and titles.

Verstappen has long said he simply wants to drive for the team where he has the best chance of winning. For this year, and likely 2025, that is Red Bull. But the pecking order could well change in 2026 when new engine regulations come into force.

There is also something to be said for Verstappen’s overall F1 career – does he want to be a one-team man? Jim Clark, with Lotus from 1960-1967, is the only world championship-winning driver to have driven for just one team. The history of the sport tells us that the star drivers, as Lewis Hamilton has most recently shown, enjoy the lure and prestige of a dream transfer.

Sure, Verstappen has technically driven for two teams given he started at the Red Bull sister team in Toro Rosso. But in time, will there be a nagging sense from Verstappen to try his luck at a traditional titan of the sport, such as Ferrari, Mercedes or McLaren?

Jos Verstappen wants Horner out of Red Bull

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff had dinner with Jos Verstappen in Bahrain


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