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Horner: Wolff should focus on his own F1 problems, not “unavailable” Verstappen

Red Bull boss Christian Horner has told Toto Wolff that he would be better off focusing on improving his Formula 1 car than dreaming he can capture “unavailable” Max Verstappen.

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing, Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes AMG

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Amid fresh comments from Mercedes chief Wolff about the ongoing possibility of Verstappen walking away from Red Bull and potentially to his team, Horner has issued a hard-hitting response.

With every indication to Red Bull from the Verstappen camp that the triple world champion is fully committed to his contract, Horner says Wolff is wasting his time dreaming that there is a chance of getting him.

Asked about Wolff’s ongoing hints about Verstappen potentially being available, Horner told the media: “Have you spoken to Max about this? Because if you speak to Max, it's not about pieces of paper at the end of the day.

“We know that he has a contract to the end of 2028. It's about how he feels in the team, the relationship he has in the team and the way he's performing. And I don't think Toto's problems are his drivers.

“I think he's probably got other elements that he needs to be focusing on rather than focusing on drivers that are unavailable.”

Wolff has made no secret of the fact that he would like Verstappen to be Lewis Hamilton’s replacement, but he is equally aware that his hopes are not made easy by the fact his team’s 2024 car is not that competitive at the moment.

However, speaking in China, Wolff suggested that factors beyond pure performance would ultimately decide Verstappen’s future.

This comes off the back of a turbulent start to the campaign for Red Bull, where Horner’s future at the squad had been the subject of speculation following an internal power battle triggered by a complaint from a female employee about his behaviour.

Wolff said: “There are so many factors that play a role for a driver joining. Clearly when you look at it from the most rational point of view you can say it is the quickest car in the hands of the quickest driver. But I don’t think this is the only reason you stay where you are.

“For, let’s say, simple minds, that might be the only reason to stay in the car. But maybe there is more depth to some people that consider other factors too, and I think Max has that depth.

“In that respect, are we going to convince him? I don’t think it is a matter of convincing. I think that Max knows motor racing better than anyone and he will take decisions that are good for him.

“I think a few factors play a role but he is the one that is going to trigger some more dominoes to fall afterwards. Everybody is waiting on what he is going to do.”

While Wolff believes Mercedes’ prospects for the 2026 rules revamp would make his team very attractive, he is in no doubts that he has a weak hand when it comes to selling the potential of next year’s challenger.

“If I was Max, I would stay at Red Bull in 2025,” he said. “But I am not Max. It is the quickest car, but there are other factors.”

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG F1 Team

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Horner believed that the ongoing intrigue surrounding Verstappen’s future was perhaps being fuelled as a distraction tactic by Mercedes to shift focus away from its tough start to the season.

“I'm not going to get drawn into it,” said Horner. “I think sometimes it's just designed to create noise.

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“We moved [in China] ahead of the amount of races that Mercedes have won in the modern era. So the team's in form. Why on earth would you want to leave this team?

“Mercedes are the third team, behind their customers at the moment. So, I would think his [Wolff's] time would be better spent perhaps focusing on the team rather than the driver market.”

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