Merc or Aston Martin for Max?

SUZUKA, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 21: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing talks to the media in the Paddock during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on September 21, 2023 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202309210087 // Usage for editorial use only //

Red Bull is facing considerable drama at the start of the 2024 season and none of it has to do with anything that is happening on track. The team have won the first two grands prix and look set for a very good season.

This drama is based on some text messages that team boss Christian Horner allegedly sent a female employee and the leaked messages were also the source of some implication that Red Bull racing consultant Helmut Marko may have been involved with. There is also some terse words from Max Verstappen’s father, Jos, about Horner being a destabilizing element as long as he is at the team.

Then there is the comment from Max Verstappen that he could leave the team if Marko were let go over his alleged involvement. It’s all a very messy situation with very little details and truck loads of speculation, hints, innuendos and allegations. All festering in what some consider a real power struggle within the team and something we discussed back when Dietrich Mateschitz passed.

Now the speculation has turned to the thought of Max and where he might go if he is unhappy with Horner’s continuing leadership at the team. There is also speculation that Adrian Newey and other key engineers may be poached by Ferrari or others in an effort to take advantage of the chaos and bring Red Bull’s dominance to a halt.

For Max, some suggest that a move to Mercedes would be the most logical and I tend to agree. Although as Autosport points out, George Russell is already there and the heir apparent for Lewis Hamilton as he leaves for Ferrari at the end of this season. The article says that Kimi Antonelli leaves no room for Max but I’d argue they would take Max over Antonelli or Russell if given the chance.

The article suggests that replacing Fernando Alonso might make more sense and it gives several reasons this would be a smoother move. I agree with it’s logic but I’m not sure Max would be willing to bet on the concept of hope like Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso did. He would want a team on the rise and capable of winning titles.

There is no assurance Red Bull will make the leap into the new engine regulation era as dominant as they are now. The last big engine change saw Mercedes dominate for eight years. For this reason, I think Antonelli at Williams and Max with George would be the optimum layout for Toto Wolff and Mercedes.

I don’t know if Christian did anything wrong or not but I will say that this entire situation seems like a hit job on Red Bull to pull the carpet out from underneath the team. Create chaos and then pick apart the team. There is some seriously devious power struggles going on in that team or so it would seem.

The most compelling part of the article does hold water though, and that’s the fact that Aston Martin will move to Honda power and that may be very enticing given the current Honda performance in the back of his current Red Bull.

Being the lead driver in a well-funded team with Honda’s backing might be a very interesting option for Max. It makes sense from Aston Martin’s perspective too.

Difficult to know if Max will leave Red Bull before his contract is up given all the speculation but if he did, I think either Mercedes or Aston Martin might be a good home for him and Autosport is right, there is less friction regarding a seat at Aston Martin.

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Can you imagine Max with Lance as a teammate???? That would be funny.

It does seem like a hit job, but Horner should know better than to put himself in that situation.

It’s quite amazing, in 40+ years of watching F1 I’ve never seen a team implode like this, not even the Senna/Prost/Balestre saga seems to be like it, as this one is all internal.