Motor racing - Red Bull's Verstappen could consider joining rivals Mercedes, says Wolff

Formula One F1 - Chinese Grand Prix - Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China - April 21, 2024 Red Bull's Max Verstappen celebrates with the trophy on the podium after winning the Chinese Grand Prix REUTERS/Edgar Su

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Red Bull's triple world champion Max Verstappen has more depths to him and so could consider a move to rivals Mercedes, even though he is currently in the quickest Formula One car, Toto Wolff, the German team's boss, said on Sunday.

Speculation that the Dutch 26-year-old might leave the current champions arose earlier this year after allegations against team principal Christian Horner of misconduct towards a female employee, which he was later cleared of although they stoked rumours of divisions within the team.

Former champions Mercedes have a vacancy, with seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton going to Ferrari in 2025.

"There are so many factors that play a role for a driver joining. And clearly, when you look at it from the most rational point of view, you can say that it is the quickest car in the hands of the quickest driver," Wolff said after the Chinese Grand Prix.

"But I don't think that this is the only reason you stay where you are," he added. "Maybe there is some more depths to some people, that consider other factors too. I think Max has that."

Red Bull won 21 of 22 races last season with the most dominant car in the sport's history and the team's star driver won Sunday's race in Shanghai from pole for his fourth win in five races this year.

Wolff said that Mercedes had held conversations with many drivers over next year's vacant race seat.

"As for Max, no, we are not at the point where we would have discussed years or stuff," Wolff said.

Team boss Christian Horner described Verstappen as a man driving "on another planet" following the Chinese Grand Prix.

"At the end of the day, we know (Verstappen) has a contract until the end of 2028," Horner told reporters in response to Wolff's remarks.

"I don't think Toto's problems are his drivers. I think he's got other elements that he needs to be focusing on rather than, you know, focusing on drivers that are unavailable," he added.

The Mercedes team principal said he felt his team would make a particularly attractive proposition from 2026, when new chassis and engine regulations will come into play.

"If I was Max, I would stay at Red Bull in 2025, but I’m not Max," Wolff said.

"Because it’s the quickest car but there are other factors.”

(Reporting by Joe Cash; editing by Clare Fallon)

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