Max Verstappen pledges future to Red Bull despite Mercedes rumours

Max Verstappen has scotched conjecture that he would be leaving Red Bull next season by definitively stating he would be with the team next season, despite repeated rumours that he is considering a move to rivals Mercedes.

Lewis Hamilton is set to leave Mercedes at the end of this season to join Ferrari and his current team have been open about their desire to persuade Verstappen, now a three-time world champion, to join them, despite the Dutchman being contracted to Red Bull until 2028.

The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, has said he would want to bring the best driver to the team and made no secret of his admiration of Verstappen, who has won seven out of 10 races this season.

Speaking before this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix, Verstappen finally unequivocally stated he would be remaining next year, when asked for a yes or no answer.

“Yes, we’re already also working on next year’s car,” he said. “When you’re very focused on that, that means that you’re also driving for the team.”

There had been no little debate on the subject and Verstappen and the world champion had been pressed for a definitive answer because often his replies have been somewhat open to interpretation, as was the case again at the Red Bull Ring.

“It’s most important just that we have a very competitive car for the future,” he had said earlier when asked about his future. “At the moment, of course, it’s very tight, but we are working very well as a team to try and improve more. We are working and focusing also on next year to try and be competitive again.”

Hamilton was upbeat in Austria buoyed by his first podium of the season at the last round in Spain when he took third place, behind Verstappen and McLaren’s Lando Norris. It was comfortably his best race of the year and indicative of the strides Mercedes have made with the sequence of upgrades they have brought to recent meetings.

“There is a great energy within the team knowing we finally have the direction that we need to be working towards,” Hamilton said. “The energy back in the factory, they have a spring in their step, for me it feels good to be back in competitive positions.”

Lewis Hamilton enjoyed his first podium finish of the season in Spain. Photograph: Xavi Urgeles/Zuma Press Wire/Shutterstock

After a trying season to be back vying for a podium in Barcelona was also a pleasure for the seven-time champion to be once more properly in the mix at the front of the field.

“It feels good to have races like that where you get to get your elbows out and have some fun and challenging overtakes,” he said. “That was a really good fun one for me, Barcelona has been a strong one for me for years, we all need good days like that in our lives to remind us. The fire is definitely there and we just need to keep it blazing.”

F1 has also acted this weekend to address the farce of last year’s race when more than 1,200 incidents of track limits violations were logged, taking the FIA five hours to assess them and which led to 12 penalties changing every position from fourth downwards.

This year it has inserted strips of gravel traps at exits of turns nine and 10 and also moved track limit line at turns one, three, four and six to be nearer gravel traps in an effort to prevent drivers from going wide.

Earlier on Thursday in Austria, Aston Martin confirmed Lance Stroll will race on with the team for “2025 and beyond” in a contract extension with the team owned by his father, Lawrence Stroll. Alpine also announced a multi-year extension with their driver, the Frenchman Pierre Gasly. His partner at the team has yet to be confirmed with Esteban Ocon’s contract not being renewed for 2025.

The Guardian