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Max Verstappen

Verstappen Red Bull exit challenged by Szafnauer - 'why leave?'

Max Verstappen has been linked with a Red Bull exit as Mercedes seek the Dutchman's signature - but Otmar Szafnauer has questioned why he would choose to do so for 2025.

Verstappen Miami
To news overview © XPBimages

Ex-Formula 1 team principal Otmar Szafnauer has questioned why Max Verstappen would want to seek an immediate departure from Red Bull.

Speculation has mounted in recent months that Verstappen could exit the energy drink-backed squad amid the emergence of a power struggle between the Thai and Austrian owners.

The three-time world champion has been linked with a switch to Mercedes, with team principal of the Brackley-based outfit Toto Wolff publicly voicing his desire to sign Verstappen.

Suggestions of a Red Bull-Verstappen split come amid a strong on-track period, with Verstappen already looking on course to seal his fourth title with the team this year.

Speaking on the latest episode of the RacingNews365 podcast, former Aston Martin and Alpine team boss Szafnauer has backed Verstappen to stay put for 2025.

“I’m guessing, I’m not speaking from knowledge, [but] if I was Christian [Horner, Red Bull team principal] I would try to keep him,” Szafnauer said.

“He’s great, we’re lucky to see a guy like Max racing while we’re involved. For me, if I was Max for example, as long as Red Bull is performing to the level that they are, I would stay.

“For 2025, with the Honda power train and apart from Adrian [Newey, who will depart early next year], everyone else is the same, you’ve got a good chassis, the regulations aren’t changing - why leave?”

2026 chance

Drivers are currently seeking out their futures with a forward view to 2026 when new aerodynamic and technical regulations will take effect.

It will mark the first regulation shift that Red Bull will endure without the technical leadership of chief technical officer Newey.

The scope of the changes could see a shaking up of the pecking order, with Szafnauer suggesting that a 2026 move for Verstappen is a more likely scenario than a switch for next year.

“2026 is a huge change, no one knows [what will happen],” Szafnauer said.

“The power train will change as well, no one knows about that.

“It’s a massive change, and then you've got to guess 'where is the best spot I can pick?'. But for me, [for] 2025, I would stay.”

			© Red Bull Content Pool
	© Red Bull Content Pool

'The silliest of silly seasons'

F1's 'silly season', containing rumours and discussions over driver transfers, kicked off in February when Lewis Hamilton announced his shock decision to join Ferrari for 2025.

Szafnauer acknowledged he has never seen such a dramatic period in the transfer market during his tenure in F1, but has backed the teams to adequately deal with the situation.

“In my 26 years, this is probably the silliest of silly seasons I’ve seen,” Szafnauer stated. “It depends on what team you’re talking about.

“You can definitely compartmentalise this type of silliness and continue to focus on the job at hand. If you’re not good at compartmentalising that stuff and keeping it to the side, it can have an impact.

“For me, I would rather not have to do this constantly. [I’d rather] leave it for a time when you’re actually needing to do it. Luckily this only happens when drivers are out of contract.

“Usually they sign a two [year deal] or a two plus one, so it doesn’t always happen.

“Last year, no driver changed and this year there are so many that are going to be out of contract, so you get all this kind of stuff.

“It’s part of the sport, I think the media enjoy writing about it, I think the fans enjoy reading about it, so it is part of what we do.”

Also interesting:

Join RacingNews365's Ian Parkes and Nick Golding as they are joined by ex-Formula 1 team principal Otmar Szafnauer to discuss the 'silliest of silly seasons' as well as McLaren and Lando Norris' victory at the Miami Grand Prix.

Rather watch than listen to our podcast? Click here

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