Wolff’s wild card: Could Mercedes snatch Newey from Red Bull?

Toto Wolff is keeping an open mind about the possibility of Max Verstappen, Dr. Helmut Marko, and Adrian Newey making a blockbuster move from Red Bull to Mercedes.

Red Bull has demonstrated unparalleled dominance on the track as the 2024 season gets underway. In light of speculation about Red Bull potentially sweeping every grand prix this year, Wolff expressed his hopes against such a scenario: “At least I hope that’s not the case.”

However, off the track, Red Bull has faced turmoil, including public revelations about team boss Christian Horner’s private life and internal power struggles. This unrest has made the team vulnerable to poaching by rivals, with reports indicating that Ferrari is targeting several of Red Bull’s key engineers.

This situation may present an advantageous opportunity for Mercedes, particularly as Lewis Hamilton’s potential departure could open a spot for Verstappen. F1 legend Gerhard Berger speculated on a scenario where “Horner stays, Marko and Newey quit, and Max goes to Mercedes,” which Marko deemed “an interesting variant.”

Wolff, discussing this possibility with Osterreich newspaper, hinted at the potential for significant changes if Horner remains at Red Bull, emphasizing, “I’m just saying that if Horner stays, there are exciting possibilities. Ultimately, it’s about Horner’s personality,” he added, “but as I’ve said, I only read about what happens internally at Red Bull in the media.”

The speculation extends to the possibility of Newey, regarded as F1’s top technical design mind, following Verstappen out the door. Wolff remarked on the fluid nature of F1 personnel moves, saying, “Everything is always possible in this crazy carousel. I wouldn’t rule anything out. But we already have an excellent team of engineers with whom I feel comfortable and 100 percent correctly positioned, even if the laptime doesn’t reflect that at the moment.”

Wolff also acknowledged the potential for Marko, traditionally seen as an adversary, to join Mercedes, underlining the focus on Verstappen’s future decisions: “It’s all about Max and his perspectives. But to be able to judge how important Marko really is for Max, I don’t know enough about the dynamic between the two.”

Securing Newey might lead Mercedes into a financial battle, especially with reports that Ferrari’s chairman, John Elkann, is willing to spend significantly to acquire Newey’s services. Alexey Popov noted, “They say that (Ferrari chairman John) Elkann is ready to pay any amount for Newey to go there.”

Complications in Newey’s relationship with Horner have been reported, with claims of a significant cooling in their personal interactions. This tension comes at a time when Franz Tost, a part-time consultant for Red Bull, emphasized the critical importance of the Verstappen-Newey partnership to the team’s success, stating, “Red Bull’s success stands or falls with the Verstappen-Newey combination.”

GMM

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