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Max Verstappen

Wolff sets clear timeline target for Verstappen

Will he? Won't he? The speculation surrounding Max Verstappen joining Mercedes goes on.

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has clarified that he is targeting Max Verstappen for 2026.

Wolff has long stated he would love to have Verstappen in the team, drawing on the unrest that continues to exist inside Red Bull, notably between Verstappen's father Jos and Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.

Verstappen stated unequivocally on Thursday ahead of this weekend's Austrian Grand Prix he would be with Red Bull next year, completing a period with the team at the peak of its powers under the current regulations.

In 2026, however, there is a complete overhaul of the regulations, notably with the introduction of a new power unit, and at this stage there is uncertainty as to which team will have the upper hand.

Speaking in an interview with Sky Sports F1 co-commentator Martin Brundle, it was suggested to Wolff that Verstappen is his plan A to replace Lewis Hamilton who leaves at the end of the year to join Ferrari.

But Wolff replied: "Would Max Verstappen ever consider joining Mercedes in 2025? No. There is no reason. Why would he?

"The car is ultra-dominant. Maybe he's going to win every race, and a driver will always seek that kind of machine.

"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.

"All of these driver movements here is not the end of the story."

Antonelli - 'The only question is when'

That leaves a question mark hanging over its 2025 line-up and who will partner George Russell, whose contract expires at the end of next season.

Mercedes junior Andrea Kimi Antonelli appears to be an option for Wolff, with Brundle suggesting the 17-year-old Italian is plan B.

A recent regulation change would allow Mercedes to blood Antonelli in practice sessions before he turns 18 in late August, although there are now only four races to do so - the British, Hungarian, Belgian and Dutch Grands Prix.

Wolff has previously made clear he is very protective of Antonelli, and he does not want to throw the teenager in at the deep end too soon.

Asked whether there was the possibility of Antonelli driving in F1 this year, Wolff said: "It's difficult.

"Every single category that he participated in [he] was a success. He won all of that as a rookie, and his karting record is immaculate.

"He's going to end up in a Mercedes one day that's clear, the only question is when."

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