Although Toto Wolff accepts Max Verstappen will probably not join Mercedes next season, he sees no reason – if the Dutchman can get out of his contract – he won’t be in Brackley in 2026.

Wolff has spent much of this year publicly courting Verstappen to replace Lewis Hamilton having been left in the lurch by the Briton’s decision to sign with Ferrari for next year’s championship.

Toto Wolff chasing Max Verstappen, but only for 2026

Drawing on the tension at Red Bull after Christian Horner was investigated over alleged inappropriate behaviour, Wolff has made no secret about believing Mercedes would be a better option for the Dutchman.

But he admits it is more of a case of being a better option in time.

Today Red Bull is the team to beat with Verstappen winning seven of this year’s 11 Grands Prix to sit 81 points ahead of Lando Norris in the Drivers’ standings.

With next year’s cars a continuation of this season’s, although Red Bull are facing more pressure this year, they will still go into the new season as the favourites as Verstappen chases what will most likely be a fifth World title on the trot.

But 2026, that’s another story. Formula 1 is not only putting new cars on the grid but also new engines and the last time the latter was changed it was Mercedes who gained a march on their rivals.

It has Wolff declaring Mercedes could be “quite attractive” to Verstappen come 2026, that’s of course he can get out of his Red Bull deal which runs through to 2028.

“Would Max Verstappen consider joining Mercedes in 2025? No. There is no reason. Why would he?” he told Sky F1.

“The [Red Bull] car is ultra-dominant. Maybe he’s going to win every race, and a driver will always seek that kind of machine.

“That has changed over the last few weeks and months. There are three teams that were competing against each other. Hopefully we can demonstrate that we are part of this group now too.

“So maybe there is there’s a window but 2026 is our main year where lots of things change, and I think it could be quite attractive to drive with us.

“But whether it’s Max, and whether he can get out of his contract, I don’t know.”

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According to widespread reports, there is a clause in Verstappen’s contract and it’s linked to Helmut Marko. Should the motorsport advisor leave the team, Verstappen can too.

Wolff though can’t speak to that, saying he does “not know what form it is.”

But, he continued, “I think in any case, if a driver doesn’t want to stay somewhere, it’s very difficult to keep a driver but I’m not relying on that.

“I think most important is to look at ourselves. Quick cars are always going to attract the attention of a quick driver. So that’s our main priority. All of these driver movements here is not the end of the story.”

Red Bull: Toto Wolff’s wish is the father of the thought

However, in the wake of Christian Horner celebrating Verstappen’s “yes” during Thursday’s driver press conference in Austria when asked if he was staying at Red Bull next season, Helmut Marko has called Wolff’s desire to sign the triple World Champion nothing but a “wish”.

Speaking to Sky Deutschland, the Red Bull motorsport advisor said: “Above all, I think Wolff’s wish is the father of the thought.

“Our starting point has remained unchanged. As long as Red Bull provides Verstappen with a competitive car, and as long as he feels good, there is no reason for him to leave the team.”

Martin Brundle though, believes Verstappen to Mercedes is only a matter of time.

“At some point I think there’s a good chance of that,” he said.

“Nobody’s got a crystal ball even available to them for 2026 but my feeling is there’s a lot of talk in the paddock that Max can exit and go to Mercedes next year, I think that’s receding quite a lot.

“Then the question is, is Kimi Antonelli ready to step into that spotlight alongside George at the Mercedes works team?

“There’s a lot of plates spinning, and a lot of balls up in the air. We’ve got a half dozen drivers who haven’t yet sat down and obviously Carlos Sainz now is the cork in that bottle, assuming Max of course is going to be at Red Bull.”

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