Verstappen says he plans to fulfil his Red Bull contract to 2028 amid Mercedes switch rumors

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Formula 1 champion Max Verstappen wants to stay with Red Bull until the end of his contract in 2028 amid rumors of a switch to Mercedes, even as he admits to actively avoiding knowing any more than he does about the ongoing turmoil at the team.

Verstappen said on Thursday he was flattered by comments at the last race in Saudi Arabia by Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, who said he’d “love” to have the Dutch star as a driver. Verstappen said he wants to stay with his Red Bull “family.”

“That’s why I signed the deal in the first place,” Verstappen said.

“As I’ve said before, I’m happy within the team and, of course, it’s very important that we try to keep the key players in the team (together) for a longer period of time because that’s, of course, where the performance is as well — and at the end of the day, it’s a performance business.

“It’s also my intention to be here until the end (of it) because, of course, it would be a great story for me personally to see it out, because it basically means that I’ve been part of one family, and one team.”

Rumors that Verstappen could seek a move to Mercedes were wide of the mark, he said.

“We all want the same, and we want to just perform on track, so that’s what we want to focus on as a team,” he said.

“The problem is also that (speculation is happening) not only within the team, but from the outside and that is something that I cannot control. The only thing you can control is, of course, (getting everyone moving) on the same direction within the team, and I feel that is what we are doing.”

He also defended the way Red Bull is handling the saga surrounding team principal Christian Horner, stating it was all done “in the right way,” though necessarily distanced himself from the process.

“I also don’t want to be too involved with these kind of things,” Verstappen said. “At the end of the day, I’m the driver who’s here to look at the performance side of things, that’s what I’m hired for.

“But from what I know, everything is handled in the right way and I’m not going into any further details on that side. I don’t know more than that, and I also don’t want to know because that’s not my job or my task within the team.”

The team’s parent company last month dismissed a complaint of alleged misconduct by Horner toward a team employee. Verstappen’s father Jos has been sharply critical of Horner, claiming the team could “explode” if he remains in charge.

The employee whose complaint sparked the investigation has since been suspended. The employee has exercised the right to appeal Red Bull’s clearance of Horner and filed a formal complaint with F1 governing body, the FIA.

Earlier Thursday, Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Sergio Pérez downplayed speculation that three-time champion Verstappen could be considering a switch to Mercedes.

“The team is in a very strong position, because with the results we’re currently having, the harmony that there is in the team, I think to achieve that it takes a couple of years probably,” Pérez said before the first practice sessions in Melbourne.

Verstappen won the first two F1 races in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Perez finished second in both.

“Right now, the dynamic, everyone in the team is working really well together, the whole engineering group, it’s really united,” Perez said. “And you can see that on-track, and how efficient we’ve been in the last year. So I don’t see any reason to change it.”

He added it would “obviously be a blow for the team if Max were to leave.”

Pérez denied any knowledge of an exit clause in Verstappen’s Red Bull contract, which has been the subject of intense speculation.

“I don’t have that clause,” Pérez said. “I don’t know what clause Max has in his contract, it’s better if you ask him. Max, as far as I know, has a contract with the team and is fully committed with the team.

“And the rest, it’s not for me to comment, nothing to do with me.”

The Australian Grand Prix is set for Sunday. There are two practices scheduled for Friday and another on Saturday before afternoon qualifying.


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