Max Verstappen’s manager Raymond Vermeulen has refused to close the door on a future move to Mercedes by declaring that the 23-year-old is not yet where he wants to be with Red Bull. Verstappen has made a promising start to the new F1 season, finishing in the top two at every Grand Prix this year to pile the pressure on defending champion Lewis Hamilton.
The Dutchman took the chequered flag at Imola last month but has been pipped by his Mercedes rival on all other occasions since the beginning of the campaign.
As a result, the Stevenage-born racer leads the Drivers’ Championship by 14 points going into Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix.
Verstappen will be looking to capitalise on Hamilton’s poor qualifying performance from the front row of the grid, with the latter forced to settle for seventh place after Charles Leclerc’s crash brought out the red flags at the end of Saturday’s final session.
Although the Red Bull man is contracted to his current employers until the end of the 2024 season, rumours have long suggested that he could join Mercedes in the near future.
Hamilton and Bottas will both see their current deals expire ahead of next year, and while the seven-time champion is expected to renew for at least another campaign, the future of his team-mate appears to be uncertain.
George Russell of Williams has been tipped to succeed the Finn if he leaves the Silver Arrows at the end of the season, but it remains to be seen whether the German outfit will entertain the idea of signing Verstappen at a later date.
Vermeulen has claimed that while his client is more than happy at Red Bull, the ultimate aim is to be fighting for championships, admitting that the nine-time Grand Prix winner could be forced to move on if he is unable to mount a genuine challenge between now and the expiry of his contract.
“Ultimately we want to win,” Vermeulen told De Limburger. “We are close, but not close enough yet.
“Formula 1 is business on the move, this is how you should see it. If, despite all the sacrifices from both sides, it does not work, then you have to ask yourself: ‘What now?’
“But that is absolutely not the case now. Max feels happy and that is what counts. But beware: we are not there yet.
“We are on a journey. Making a decision is a snapshot. Until now we can look back in the mirror with satisfaction.
“Red Bull’s commitment is also important. There is one man, Dietrich Mateschitz, who decides. Helmut Marko is his right-hand man with the racing team and has carte blanche.
“These are short lines, so that you can make decisions quickly. If you see what they are going to do now with that engine department under their own management, that shows the passion.”
Vermeulen also revealed that he would be overjoyed to see Verstappen and Hamilton at the same team before the Brit’s eventual retirement, suggesting that the former would come out on top if the pair drove identical cars over the course of a full season.
“I don’t see that happening for the time being,” he added. “I hope that one day we can experience that those two are on the same team and in the same car. I think I know the outcome.”
Verstappen previously considered an offer from Mercedes to join their development programme before opting to become a Red Bull junior driver back in 2014.
Since making the step into F1, he has established himself as one of the sport’s finest competitors and is widely expected to seal at least one Drivers’ Championship title at some point during his career.