Red Bull still in turmoil: Mercedes & Ferrari poised to pounce

Mercedes is reportedly setting its sights on three elite drivers to potentially fill Lewis Hamilton’s shoes in 2025. Toto Wolff, the team’s principal, is said to have a keen interest in securing Max Verstappen, currently F1’s most dominant force, particularly as internal discord and a power struggle intensify within Red Bull.

According to reports from La Gazzetta dello Sport, the upheaval at Red Bull could lead to the departure of not only its triple world champion but also key figures like Adrian Newey and Pierre Wache, among other leading engineers. “One would be David Morgan, Red Bull’s aerodynamic development manager,” the outlet noted, with further reports suggesting Ferrari’s interest in several Red Bull engineers including Ben Waterhouse, responsible for the car’s dynamics, and Alessandro Germani, a lead aerodynamic development engineer.

Meanwhile, Auto Motor und Sport has indicated that Newey is dissatisfied with the unfolding Christian Horner scandal and the proposed shift to a hypercar project “for budget cap reasons.”

On the driver side, Wolff’s willingness to perform “handstands” to entice Verstappen to Mercedes has been made clear, though Horner remains skeptical about the Dutchman’s potential departure. “I’m sure all the teams want Max, but Toto also says that the best drivers want the best cars,” Horner observed.

The controversy surrounding Red Bull continues to mount. “I don’t think Horner will survive it,” former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher predicted, criticizing Horner’s handling of the situation. Schumacher speculates that Verstappen might indeed make the switch, but not before next season.

Following Verstappen, Mercedes seems to have its eye on Kimi Antonelli, a 17-year-old Wolff protégé, and Fernando Alonso, who is currently pausing negotiations with Aston Martin for 2025. Briatore’s recent meeting with Wolff, coupled with Alonso’s cryptic photo in Monaco, fuels speculation about Alonso’s future.

Intriguingly, as Carlos Sainz dealt with illness, his representatives were seen exiting Mercedes’ hospitality with Wolff, stirring further speculation about driver moves.

However, the desirability of Mercedes’ 2025 seat is in question, with Wolff admitting to the car’s weaknesses, particularly in high-speed corners.

But even John Elkann, Ferrari’s chairman, subtly suggested in Saudi Arabia that Ferrari might need to bide its time until 2026 for a genuine shot at surpassing Red Bull. This is due to the forthcoming transition where he noted that one “cycle” of regulations will conclude and another will commence.

The prevailing dominance of Verstappen has led to the perception that the current regulatory cycle (2022-2025), despite its aim to foster closer racing, hasn’t met its objectives. Mike Krack, the chief at Aston Martin, pointed out a “fact” that the current era has ushered in a level of Red Bull “dominance that none of us want.”

Contrastingly, James Vowles, the Williams team boss, offers a different viewpoint, asserting, “I don’t think the regulations have failed.” He further elaborates, “I think even on the data that we can see now, it’s still better than the ’21, ’20 generations of cars.”

Regarding the potential for better racing in 2025, however, Vowles is skeptical, stating, “Whether it will improve in ’25? No, I don’t think so.” As for the 2026 season, with the rules still under deliberation, he comments, “And in ’26, the rules are still being ratified as we speak, so it’s hard to evaluate that.”

GMM

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