Motor Sports

Wolff puts Verstappen top of Mercedes' list to replace Hamilton

LONDON: Max Verstappen would be top of Mercedes' list of possible replacements for seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton in 2025 if available, according to team boss Toto Wolff.

The triple world champion has a contract with Red Bull until 2028 but his future at the team has been clouded by a breakdown in relations between his father Jos and principal Christian Horner.

Mercedes are losing Hamilton at the end of the season to Ferrari, with Sunday's Australian GP winner Carlos Sainz losing his seat.

"We have a slot free, the only one in the top teams – unless Max decides he goes and then the slot is not going to be free with us anymore," Wolff told Fox Sports Australia in an interview in Melbourne.

The interview, conducted after qualifying, was not widely picked up at the time but the strong comments drew attention later.

Asked if Verstappen would be the No. 1 pick, Wolff replied: "Yes. You see what his performance levels are but I wouldn't want to discount the other ones too."

Wolff tried to sign Verstappen as a teenager before he joined Red Bull but Wolff could not offer him an F1 seat immediately.

The Austrian said he had a good relationship with Jos Verstappen and had met at the time in Vienna to discuss future possibilities but the driver had already an offer from Red Bull at that point.

"It's a kind of relationship that needs to happen at a certain stage, but we don't know when," he said when asked if signing Verstappen could close a circle.

Wolff also mentioned double world champion Fernando Alonso, Sainz and Mercedes-backed F2 rookie Kimi Antonelli as possible options.

"Obviously there's Fernando, who's very exciting, and Carlos, very good. So there's a few ones," he said.

Verstappen has not ruled out a move to Mercedes in the long term but said in Australia he was comfortable at his "second family" Red Bull and it would be a great story to finish his F1 career with them.

Once-dominant Mercedes failed to win a race last season and suffered a double retirement in Melbourne, their first since 2018. -- Reuters

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