Wolff says Mercedes is in “observation mode” regarding 2025 F1 driver market: “We want to take our time”

Photo Credits: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team
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Mercedes F1 team principal and CEO Toto Wolff has made no secret of his wish to get reigning three-time world champion and current Red Bull driver Max Verstappen to join his squad in place of the departing seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton, taking advantage of the unrest at Red Bull following the allegations of controlling behaviour by Christian Horner, and more recently the shock announcement of Adrian Newey’s departure.

But that didn’t go down well with Red Bull managing director Oliver Mintzlaff, as he mentioned a lack of “respect” from Wolff, and said the Mercedes team principal needs to focus on his “own challenges” – in reference to the team’s difficult spell on track since the ground-effect regulations started in 2022:

“I understand the pressure that Toto Wolff and perhaps other teams have after years of being behind,” he told Bild Am Sonntag. “But I think Toto Wolff should concentrate on his challenges. He has enough of those.

“And it also has something to do with respect. If I keep talking about the personnel of other teams, that’s not right.”

When confronted with this, Wolff downplayed the importance of Mintzlaff’s comments, saying it is of “no relevance” to him in his pursuit to get the Dutchman to drive a Mercedes in the future:

“I don’t know what this guy is commenting on,” he said. “It has no relevance for me.”

Whilst the rumour going around the paddock after the Chinese GP was that Wolff would meet the Verstappen entourage after the Miami GP, he denied to comment further on that, stating that he’s not “playing chess with humans” during the negotiations with other parties – but mentioned that two key drivers in the form of Verstappen and Carlos Sainz mean the German squad is in “observation mode” for now:

“There’s always plenty of meetings,” he said. “I can’t really say [anything definite] about the second driver. I think we’ve talked about the possibilities, and I want to be fair to these guys and not make it look like we are playing chess with humans because we are not doing that.

“We want to take our time, see where Max’s thinking goes and, at the same time, monitor the other drivers.

“Carlos [Sainz] was very strong today again and that’s why we are a little bit on observation mode at the moment.”

Another driver in premature contention for being George Russell’s team-mate at Mercedes in 2025 is young F2 driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli, but the 17-year-old Italian doesn’t have his superlicence yet due to being under 18. There were rumours of the FIA being asked to give special dispensation for him, and that his debut in F1 could come at Williams as soon as the next race, in Imola.

But Wolff has plainly denied any such requests, saying Antonelli should “concentrate on his F2 campaign”:

“So many stories were created, and it doesn’t do him any favours because he needs to concentrate on his F2 campaign.

“He’s doing lots of testing for us in order to bring him up to speed and I think this decision of the second driver is weeks if not months away. We didn’t make any approach to the FIA about getting an earlier release.”