Formula 1 Racing

How Verstappen is keeping the F1 driver market hostage

Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG

Power struggles at Red Bull may be opening the door for a shock departure of its prized asset Max Verstappen, which would have been unthinkable just weeks ago.

Needless to say, the touted possibility of Verstappen activating certain exit clauses to move before the end of his 2028 deal has put rival teams on high alert.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff openly stated the triple world champion would be his number one target to replace outbound Lewis Hamilton, who is trading the Silver Arrows for Ferrari.
Aston Martin also appears to be sniffing around Verstappen and according to’s Italian edition, an offer to Red Bull’s star designer Adrian Newey combined with Honda works engines for 2026 could be seen as an attempt to recreate the right environment to entice him.
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Since Hamilton’s departure announcement, numerous drivers and their managers have thrown their hats in the ring and contacted Wolff about his vacant seat, but until Verstappen either pledges his loyalty to Red Bull or announces a shock exit of his own, Mercedes won’t be in a hurry to decide.

“As much as we were taken aback by Lewis’ decision so quickly, now I really want to take my time,” Wolff told Fox Sports Australia in Melbourne.

“We have a slot free, the only one in the top teams – unless decides he goes, then the slot is not going to be free with us anymore.

“There are a few options that are really interesting for us – from the very young super talent to some of the other ones, who are very experienced.

“That’s not going to happen in the next few weeks or months. I want to continue to monitor the market. It depends on what Max does.”

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While it remains to be seen if Mercedes protege Andrea Kimi Antonelli, the “very young super talent” Wolff mentions, will even be ready for an early promotion after a single season of F2, Verstappen’s impasse is also having a snowball effect on current drivers eyeing the seat.

Sainz’s case is the most pressing, as unlike his aforementioned colleagues he doesn’t have the option of staying where he is. Sainz was collateral damage in Ferrari’s audacious push for Hamilton and is now actively looking for a job.

Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

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