Signing Max Verstappen would ‘leave Toto Wolff with a headache’ for F1 2026

Max Verstappen arriving at Mercedes would give Toto Wolff a "headache", it has been claimed.

Max Verstappen (NLD), Red Bull Racing Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 7, Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Imola, Italy, Race
Max Verstappen (NLD), Red Bull Racing Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 7,…

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff would have a “headache” selecting Max Verstappen's teammate if he successfully lured the F1 world champion from Red Bull.

That is the view of BBC Sport F1 correspondent Andrew Benson, who says that while a switch from Red Bull to Mercedes for Verstappen is “extremely unlikely to happen for 2025”, he argues it is "a definite possibility for 2026”.

But such a statement signing by Mercedes would leave Wolff having to choose between George Russell and their highly-rated Formula 2 protege Andrea Kimi Antonelli for the other seat alongside the Dutchman. 

Asked whether Russell should be feeling unloved amid Wolff’s public courting of Verstappen during a Q&A, Benson wrote: “Absolutely not. Mercedes have made it clear they see Russell very much as their driver for the future - and he is performing at a level to fully justify that faith. He is one of the absolute elite drivers in F1 and his performances prove it.

“For example, the margins between him and Lewis Hamilton in qualifying have been vanishingly small in their three seasons together. They were separated by 100ths of a second on average in both 2022 and 2023, with Russell ahead one year and Hamilton the other.

“And the same remains the case this year, even though Russell is ahead a striking 7-1 on the head-to-head.

George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Monaco Grand Prix, Monte Carlo, Monaco, Race
George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8,…

“Wolff has made no secret of his intention to attract Verstappen to Mercedes. That is extremely unlikely to happen for 2025, but a definite possibility for 2026.

"If Mercedes do secure Verstappen for 2026, that means 2025 would be effectively a head-to-head between Russell and Antonelli if the Italian is promoted, which is not yet a given.

“Talented as Antonelli is, it would be hard to bet against Russell in that situation, given that he has been in F1 since 2020. Which would leave Wolff with something of a headache for 2026. But I suspect he would say that was both hypothetical and a nice problem to have.”

BBC Sport also report that Verstappen, whose Red Bull deal runs until 2028, “has a contractual mechanism by which he can leave whenever he wishes”.

“This is tied to the position of Red Bull motorsport adviser Helmut Marko, an ally of the Verstappens,” Benson added.

“If Marko leaves Red Bull, Verstappen is contractually free to go, too, and the Austrian is said to have pledged to act in whatever way Verstappen wishes for his future.”

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