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Horner fires at Wolff over attempts to poach Verstappen from Red Bull
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Horner fires at Wolff over attempts to poach Verstappen from Red Bull

The Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, has issued a stern rebuke to his counterpart at Mercedes, Toto Wolff, insisting he needs to focus on solving the problems at his struggling team rather than trying to poach Red Bull’s world champion Max Verstappen.

Verstappen won the Chinese Grand Prix with a dominant drive from pole, his fourth win from five races this season as he remains on course to claim his fourth world championship. His command of the race was such that at times he was up to almost a second a lap quicker than the rest of the field.

Mercedes have been struggling since the regulation change of 2022, with Lewis Hamilton taking ninth and George Russell sixth in China. Wolff has made no secret of the fact he would like to bring Verstappen, currently contracted to Red Bull until 2028, to Mercedes to replace Hamilton who will join Ferrari next season.

After the win in Shanghai, Horner bluntly maintained that Wolff should look internally to solve the problems as he firmly maintained his driver was going nowhere and indeed that there was no reason for Verstappen to leave.

“I don’t think Toto’s problems are his drivers,” Horner said. “He has other elements he needs to focus on, rather than focusing on drivers that are unavailable. Mercedes are behind their customer teams at the moment. His time would be better spent focusing on the team than the driver market. Sometimes it is just designed to create noise.

“I can assure you that there is no ambiguity as to where Max Verstappen will be next year. I don’t know how many more times Max can say he is staying. Today we moved ahead of Mercedes in terms of races won in the modern era. So, the team is in form. Why on earth would you want to leave?”

Despite being under contract Verstappen has still not unequivocally ruled out a move recently, noting before the race that he desired a “quiet and peaceful environment” when asked about whether his future was with Red Bull. This may have been intended as a pointed remark given the furore that surrounded the team in the opening part of the season after Horner was accused of inappropriate behaviour by a female Red Bull employee.

The grievance was dismissed by an internal inquiry but is under appeal and may yet be taken to an employment tribunal. There have also been question marks raised about the efficacy of Red Bull’s engine set to be used in the 2026 season.

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Max Verstappen celebrates on the podium after his win at the Chinese Grand PrixView image in fullscreen

After the race in China, Wolff suggested that Verstappen was weighing up a range of considerations in deciding his future.

“There are so many factors that play a role for a driver joining,” he said. “Clearly when you look at it from the most rational point of view you can say: ‘Well, that’s the quickest car in the hands of the quickest driver’. But I don’t think that this is the only reason you stay where you are. Maybe there is some more depth to some people that consider other factors, too? I think Max has that depth.

“Are we going to convince him? I don’t think it’s a matter of convincing him. Max knows motor racing better than anyone and he will take decisions that he feels are good for him.”

Source: theguardian.com