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‘It won’t be Max Verstappen’ who fills Hamilton’s seat at Mercedes for 2025, says Horner

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Christian Horner has reaffirmed that Max Verstappen will not be filling Lewis Hamilton’s soon-to-be vacant seat at Mercedes in 2025, backing up Verstappen’s comments earlier in the weekend stressing that he would be staying with Red Bull into the future.

While Verstappen has long held a contract with the Milton Keynes squad that will see him race for the team through to the end of 2028, speculation has persisted in recent months over the possibility of him switching to another outfit on the grid.

READ MORE: ‘I’m very happy where I’m at’ – Verstappen reiterates focus on future with Red Bull as he assesses challenge posed by McLaren

The name most strongly linked to Verstappen has been Mercedes, with team boss Toto Wolff having previously commented that he would be happy to have the Dutchman join the Silver Arrows should he become available.

Amid the rumours, Verstappen reiterated on Thursday in Austria that he is “very happy” at Red Bull and is already focusing on next year’s car with the team. And when it was Horner’s turn to speak to the press on Friday, the Team Principal was asked if Verstappen’s words had been reassuring to him and the squad.

“It only reaffirms everything that we already know,” Horner responded. “Max is an important part of our team. He’s had all of his victories and podiums in Red Bull Racing cars, his three World Championships so far.

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JUNE 28: Oracle Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner attends the

Horner has hailed Verstappen as a "crucial" member of the Red Bull team

“He’s a crucial member of the team, he enjoys being part of the team. He’s got a tremendous group around him. We know what the future looks like. Obviously a lot of noise been made about him going elsewhere, and sometimes one just thinks that that’s a distraction tactic that’s just thrown in.

“You have to question, what are the motives behind that? The driver that’s created all the movement in the market [Lewis Hamilton] had all the information about the engines and 2026 regulations and so on, and chose to leave and left a vacancy at Mercedes, which is why there has now been a little bit of speculation as to who will fill that seat – but it won’t be Max Verstappen.”

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Pushed further on why he believes that Wolff continues to show an interest in Verstappen, Horner added: “That’s a question you’d have to ask Toto. Max was pretty resolute in what he said in this conference yesterday.

“He’s always been absolutely consistent with that with the team. Why Toto [is making comments]… I think it’s purely a tactic of distraction.”

Reflecting on Verstappen’s continued run of success in Formula 1, Horner feels that the 26-year-old’s qualities put him on a par with some of the legends of the sport.

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JUNE 28: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull

Verstappen has claimed seven race victories so far in 2024

“He’s been absolutely outstanding,” Horner said when quizzed on whether this is the best version of Verstappen that we have witnessed in F1. “I think what you’re seeing is a driver that just continues to evolve and continues to develop.

“I think that you’re seeing drives at the calibre that the greats in the sport were capable of delivering – the Ayrton Sennas and the Jim Clarks. You’ve only got to look through the generations.

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“I think that what we’re seeing with Max are those key moments, the big moments are what defines any outstanding sportsman or sportswoman, and that’s what he’s delivering.

“We’ve seen it under pressure, delivering in recent races, and that’s also in combination with the team, because obviously the team is under pressure as well.

“We’ve managed to win three of the last four races and they’ve all been hard-won victories. Max just continues to surprise us with the levels that he’s able to achieve and hit.”

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