Max Verstappen refuses to rule out replacing Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes

F1: Lewis Hamilton extends Mercedes contract

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Max Verstappen has refused to rule out replacing Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes next season. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner fears that the Dutchman will be at the top of Toto Wolff’s wishlist.

Hamilton has only committed his future to Mercedes until the end of the 2021 season.

The 36-year-old is expected to pull away from Michael Schumacher by claiming his eighth world title this year.

And then the Brit could retire from F1 and leave the Silver Arrows needing a new superstar to lead the team.

Verstappen is widely regarded as the quickest man on the grid, alongside Hamilton, and would be aptly placed to make the move.

However, he refused to be drawn on such speculation – although he did not rule out a transfer either.

“At the end of the day I don’t know, of course, what Lewis is going to do,” said Verstappen. “I just focus on myself.

“I’m very focussed on this year and trying to make it a success.

“So early in the season, with only a basically a shakedown, those kind of things I’m not really thinking about at this stage.”

Verstappen is under contract with Red Bull until 2023 but there is a clause in his deal which could let him walk away for free.

If Red Bull do not provide the driver with a car capable finishing in the top three of the Drivers’ CHampionship then he will be allowed to leave.

And Horner reckons Mercedes will not think twice about snapping the youngster up should he become available.

“I’m sure that should Lewis decide to stop then Max would naturally be the driver at the top of the list,” said Horner.

“But they also have George Russell, they’ve also got other drivers obviously available to them on.”

He added: “All drivers have safeguards within performance and the reality is that yes, of course, as there has always been, there is an element of performance related to Max’s contract.

“I’m not going to go into what that is. It doesn’t relate to the power unit in any way, it’s just a binary performance at a certain measurement in time.

“As with all these things to force a driver that doesn’t want to be there… it’s more about relationships than contracts, and you only pull a contract out of a drawer when you’ve got a problem, in my experience.”

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