Inside Max Verstappen’s long history with Toto Wolff as Mercedes boss puts cards on table | F1 | Sport

has made no secret of the fact he would love to sign for . In F1 terms, the reigning triple world champion is even hotter property than the departing , who has decided to ditch the Silver Arrows for in 2025. But landing Verstappen could be complicated, not least by a history with Wolff as chequered as the flags he’s accustomed to taking.

With Hamilton’s Ferrari move announced a year in advance, Mercedes have plenty of time to appoint his heir. Speaking at the Australian Grand Prix, team boss Wolff openly acknowledged that Verstappen tops his list of candidates.

“We have a slot free, the only one in the top teams – unless Max decides he goes and then the slot is not going to be free with us anymore,” the Austrian told Fox Sports. Verstappen has downplayed speculation linking him with Mercedes, but admitted the words from Wolff are ‘nice to hear’.

It hasn’t always been so friendly between the pair, however. And here, Express Sport takes you through the sequence of ups and downs that have made Wolff and Verstappen’s complicated relationship what it is today…

Mercedes near-miss

Verstappen made his step up to F1 with Toro Rosso – Red Bull’s second team – in the 2015 season, becoming the sport’s youngest ever driver in the process. If Wolff had his way, he would have spent the campaign as a junior driver with Mercedes.

The team principal admitted last year that discussions took place to bring Verstappen on board, but Mercedes were only able to offer an F2 seat due to his lack of experience, with Hamilton and Nico Rosberg occupying the Silver Arrows’ two available positions.

“We talked to them in the initial phases, and it was a nice discussion with Jos and with Max involved as well,” said Wolff. “But it was clear that we couldn’t give him a seat.” Reflecting on the missed opportunity, the Mercedes boss has made it clear that he ‘regrets’ not signing the 26-year-old while he had the chance.

Silverstone fallout

A collision with Hamilton at the 2021 British Grand Prix sent Verstappen hurtling into the wall at high speed, ending his race and sending him to hospital for precautionary checks. Hamilton went on to take the chequered flag and celebrate in a manner which irked Red Bull boss Christian Horner, as well as Verstappen’s father, Jos.

Before the crash, Wolff and Jos had spoken frequently. But Verstappen Snr made his stance clear after the Silverstone showdown, saying: “You don’t celebrate your victory with such euphoria when your colleague is still in the hospital.

“And as for Toto Wolff: We have had good contact for years, he kept calling and smeared honey around our mouths. I think everyone knows why. He didn’t get in touch yesterday. Now he no longer needs to call.”

Abu Dhabi olive branch

The 2021 season ended in a finale more dramatic than anyone could have imagined, with Verstappen overtaking Hamilton on the final lap of the final race in Abu Dhabi after a controversial call from FIA race director Michael Masi, who was subsequently axed.

Wolff was left seething at the decision to set up a last-lap shootout which ultimately denied Hamilton an eighth world title, but Verstappen admitted before the start of the following season that the Mercedes boss had reached out to make peace.

“Toto sent me a text – congratulations on the season and that I deserved to win it,” he told Sky Sports. “So that was very nice of him, of course. Emotions run very high to that last lap from both teams. It is what it is.”

Wikipedia jibe

Verstappen took F1 dominance to a new level last year by winning 10 Grands Prix in a row – more than any other driver has managed in the sport’s history. But Wolff was unimpressed, at least on the surface, branding the accolade ‘irrelevant’ and only ‘for Wikipedia’.

The Red Bull star struck straight back with a cutting blow of his own, saying: “[Mercedes] had a s*** race, so he was probably still p***ed off with their performance. He almost sounds like he’s an employee of our team sometimes, you know? But luckily not.”

Verstappen regrets were becoming commonplace for Wolff at this point, and several days down the line, he admitted that his ‘Wikipedia’ remark was ‘not the most intelligent’.

Family lunch

Having built bridges since their Silverstone fallout, Wolff and Jos Verstappen have been seen talking in the paddock, as well as over food in Bahrain over the past few weeks. The timing is far from irrelevant, with the Horner saga calling Verstappen’s future with the team into question.

Jos Verstappen himself has publicly called for Horner to step down, but the team principal looks set to stay on. Wolff cosying up with the family and trading kind words with Max, despite their up-and-down past, only fans the flames of speculation that a move to Mercedes could be on the cards.

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