‘Only reason’ Max Verstappen could leave Red Bull for Mercedes in 2025 suggested

A theory for why Max Verstappen may want to leave Red Bull at the end of the year has been suggested.

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing in the post race FIA Press Conference. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 9, Canadian
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing in the post race FIA Press Conference…

Max Verstappen may be tempted to leave Red Bull and join Mercedes for 2025 if he thinks he may miss out on a seat with the team in F1 2026, it has been suggested.

That is the view of Sky Sports pitlane reporter Ted Kravitz, who reckons the fear of losing out to Mercedes’ teenage protege Andrea Kimi Antonelli would be the “only reason” why Verstappen might choose to quit Red Bull before 2026.

Verstappen is contracted to remain with Red Bull until the end of the 2028 season and has insisted he has no intention to leave despite heavy public courting from Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, who needs a replacement for Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton next season.

It is believed Verstappen’s deal has several exit clauses that could enable an early departure from Red Bull if he so wished, and there have been reports that the three-time world champion has concerns about Red Bull’s fledgling engine project for 2026.

Mercedes are reportedly ahead of their competitors in the development for F1’s new power unit rules, leading to further suggestions that Verstappen may want to switch teams.

But with Mercedes understood to be leaning towards promoting F2 star Antonelli for 2025, and with George Russell tied down until at least the end of next year, there may be no room at the German manufacturer.

“Max can leave if certain conditions are met. One of those conditions is if he just feels like it. The other condition is what happens with Helmut Marko? If he goes then Max can go,” Kravitz said on the latest Sky Sports F1 podcast.

“It is the same kind of contract Sebastian Vettel had at Red Bull which allowed him to go to Ferrari, it’s more or less the same thing with get-out clauses either way, that Max Verstappen has.

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB20 leaves the pits ahead of George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W15 and Oscar
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB20 leaves the pits ahead of George…

“In a sense, the only person Max needs to worry about, in his freedom to move to Mercedes, if he believes, which we believe some of the Verstappen camp do, that Mercedes will be the best place for the new rules in 2026, the only thing Max needs to worry about, whether he needs to get his bottom in that seat early, is a 17-year-old Italian, called Kimi Antonelli, who Toto Wolff hasn’t decided whether he’s going to take his seat.

“So if Max sees the possibility of not getting in that seat and making it harder for himself in 2026 because Antonelli and [George] Russell are already in the team, then that’s the only reason why Max might, at the end of this year or towards the end of this year, or even beginning of next, say, okay, Helmut [Marko] is off if he is if that’s the mechanism he chooses to leave, I would like to go to Mercedes, that’s what I’m going to do.

“But if he still thinks he can race at Red Bull Racing in 2025 and A) his concerns about 2026 are unfounded, then he can continue up to the end of his contract. Or B) if he thinks there is a device or mechanism by which he can move one of the Mercedes drivers, if he still chooses to go there in 2026, then I suppose he could stay for 2025. But that’s something he’ll have to think about.”

However, Kravitz is ultimately convinced that Verstappen will stay put at Red Bull for at least one more season.

“Lots of conjecture and hypotheticals in there but I think we can more or less say that it’ll be Verstappen and Perez at Red Bull next year, I am 99% sure,” he concluded.

Fellow guest and Sky Sports pundit Bernie Collins said: “What they are going to say is that contractually he is signed for 2025, so they are going to say that seat is blocked.

“We know there are caveats in his contract and he can leave if certain conditions are met. I think for 2025, that’s probably his preferred seat, if you look at the performance of the cars. But there’s question marks for in 2026 with the new regulations.

“I can’t see him going anywhere else, but also I didn’t see Lewis going anywhere else.”

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