Wolff ‘will do everything’ to sign Verstappen – Marko

Thu, 15 February 2024, 07:00

Feb.15 (GMM) Bombshell moves in the uncharacteristically tumultuous ‘silly season’ driver market early in 2024 might be far from over, according to former F1 driver Christian Danner.

With Lewis Hamilton stunning the Formula 1 world with his decision to terminate his Mercedes contract after this year to switch to Ferrari, the candidates to replace the seven time world champion are already mounting.

One of them is the current Mercedes reserve driver Mick Schumacher.

“There’s no chance for Mick at Mercedes,” Danner told Kolner Express newspaper. “That’s a different league.

“(Fernando) Alonso, though – they’d only have to call him and he’d be there. Mick would only come into play if Toto (Wolff) suddenly wanted a number 2 driver.

“But Mercedes has always had top drivers, except for Valtteri Bottas, who was more of a ‘1B’ driver. What is clear is that Toto Wolff will be strengthening (George) Russell – but he has to prove himself as a leader.”

Whether Russell can step up into Hamilton-like status at Mercedes, however, would be a total moot point if team boss Wolff got who he would really like – Max Verstappen.

Dr Helmut Marko, Red Bull’s top Austrian F1 consultant, doesn’t even deny it.

“That’s actually his job as team boss,” Marko told Osterreich newspaper. “He must do everything he can to get the best drivers.”

It is likely that Verstappen has a Hamilton-like exit clause in his own existing contract, but Marko thinks it’s very unlikely that the Dutchman might be tempted to jump ship.

“No. He has a good memory,” said the 80-year-old. “Too much has happened in the past. I remember Silverstone (2021) and the turmoil at the finale in Abu Dhabi. It runs too deep.”

Marko, however, recalls Wolff’s recent statement that he was so close to Hamilton that even a piece of paper couldn’t fit between them. “Apparently a Ferrari contract did,” he laughed.

So asked what he would do if Verstappen agreed to fill Hamilton’s shoes at Mercedes, Marko answered: “I would rule that out.”

But Danner thinks that if the financial offer from Wolff and the competitiveness of the Mercedes were right, “even Max” could be wooed from Red Bull.

“I know from 40 years in Formula 1 that anything is possible, always. I remember Jenson Button being happy to sign two contracts at the same time,” he laughed. “You can get out of any contract.

“And if the money and the car are right, all the trouble of the past is history.”

Danner said Red Bull’s current dominance is currently tenuous, especially amid the Christian Horner saga. “If Horner has to leave, Adrian Newey is also questionable as their contracts are linked,” he said.

“This is a huge problem for Red Bull, because success is always a consequence of stability. And when people like that break away, it throws everything into disarray.

“Even Verstappen would then be thinking about whether he is still at the right team.”

Danner also sees a fascinating season ahead for Ferrari, whose departing Carlos Sainz will be much less keen to play any team game in support of Charles Leclerc.

“He’ll be driving against Leclerc with extra wide elbows, wanting to build a reputation to be number 1 at Audi. It’s going to be a nice season,” said the German. “I’m looking forward to it.”

You may also like