Formula 1: Max Verstappen quells Mercedes rumors, says he'll be back at Red Bull in 2025

Red Bull's Dutch driver Max Verstappen reacts during a press conference on the Red Bull Ring race track in Spielberg, Austria, on June 27, 2024, ahead of the Formula One Austrian Grand Prix. (Photo by MAX SLOVENCIK / APA / AFP) / Austria OUT (Photo by MAX SLOVENCIK/APA/AFP via Getty Images)
Max Verstappen says he'll be back at Red Bull Racing in 2025. (Photo by MAX SLOVENCIK/APA/AFP via Getty Images)

Max Verstappen isn’t heading to Mercedes next season.

The three-time defending Formula 1 champion has a contract through 2028 with Red Bull Racing and is the prohibitive favorite to win a fourth straight title in 2024. However, he’s been mentioned as a possible candidate to replace Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes next season after Hamilton announced earlier this year that he was heading to Ferrari in 2025.

On Thursday in Austria, Verstappen made it clear that he would be back at Red Bull in 2025.

“I don’t think that’s how Formula 1 works where suddenly you can say, ‘Well bye guys,'” Verstappen said at a news conference (via F1). “I have a long contract with the team and I’m very happy with where I’m at and, like I said before, we are focusing already on next year with things we can implement on the car so I guess that should say enough of where I’m driving next year.”

Questions were raised about Verstappen’s Red Bull future despite the long-term contract as the team had a tumultuous start to 2024. A Red Bull employee accused team principal Christian Horner of harassment, but the team ultimately cleared Horner of wrongdoing. The controversy allegedly caused tension within the team and has been mentioned as a reason for the departure of aerodynamicist Adrian Newey.

With Verstappen now publicly out of the picture for Mercedes in 2025, it seems highly probable that the team will promote junior driver Kimi Antonelli to replace Hamilton next season. Antonelli, who turns 18 in August, could even make a few appearances for Williams at the end of the season if Mercedes wants to get him some race experience in an F1 car.

Antonelli has seemed like the likely option as Hamilton's replacement in recent weeks as Verstappen was a long-shot possibility to replace the seven-time world champion.

Red Bull has been the dominant team in F1 over the past two seasons as Verstappen had the best season in F1 history in 2023 with 575 points and 19 wins over 22 races. And though he leads the points standings by 69 points through 10 races this season and has seven wins, the rest of the field seems much closer to Verstappen than it was in 2023.

Lando Norris’ average finish of 3.5 is just 0.1 behind Verstappen even though Norris has just one win. Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz have one win each after Sainz was the only non-Red Bull driver to win a race a season ago.

Mercedes’ Hamilton and George Russell also appear far more competitive than they were last season. Mercedes’ recent upgrades have produced serious pace, as Hamilton finished third in Spain a week ago while Russell was fourth behind Verstappen and Norris.

Norris started that race on the pole, but lost the lead entering Turn 1 on the opening lap as he fell behind both Russell and Verstappen. Norris said Thursday that “everything has to be perfect” for McLaren to beat Verstappen.

“We’re against one of the best drivers ever in Formula 1 who’s performing at an incredibly high level and anything that wasn’t perfect, like my start last weekend, you pay the price for,” Norris said. “Simple as that.”