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F1 tensions rise as teams jostle for 2025 driver lineups

F1 tensions rise as teams jostle for 2025 driver lineups
© Reuters
The 2025 F1 'silly season' is quickly reaching a critical point. Christian Horner has openly criticized Toto Wolff's escalating efforts to lure Max Verstappen from Red Bull for the 2025 season and beyond.

The 2025 F1 'silly season' is quickly reaching a critical point. Christian Horner has openly criticized Toto Wolff's escalating efforts to lure Max Verstappen from Red Bull for the 2025 season and beyond.

This heightened tension is largely fueled by Lewis Hamilton's unexpected switch to Ferrari, which has left an open spot at Mercedes. This situation has positioned Carlos Sainz, who is being replaced at Maranello by the seven time world champion, as a central figure, along with Sergio Perez from Red Bull, whose contract expires at the season's end.

"Apparently they (Mercedes) are only offering Carlos a one-year contract," Nico Rosberg commented on Sky Deutschland while in Shanghai.

"Red Bull has made an offer to him too and yesterday I saw (Carlos) Sainz senior talking to Christian Horner, because apparently he (Horner) is being a bit stingy with the offer."

Despite interest in Sainz, Red Bull's advisor, Dr. Helmut Marko, expressed a strong admiration for Lando Norris twice during the Chinese GP weekend, despite Norris's recent contract extension with McLaren.

"He is young and certainly in our focus," Marko revealed to Servus TV on Sunday.

"His father always jokes that Lando won't win a grand prix until Max retires. I told him that he has to come to us, then he would definitely go faster."

At the same time, Perez seems more optimistic about his future with Red Bull.

"I think it will be one more race to find out," he shared with DAZN on Sunday. "I really value being here and we have already made a lot of progress."

The longest contract on offer for the 29-year-old Sainz comes from Audi-owned Sauber, with Haas' in-form Nico Hulkenberg also under consideration.

"Have you signed it yet," Rosberg playfully inquired of Hulkenberg during the Sky Deutschland broadcast, "It's on your table."

In response, Hulkenberg quipped back with a joke - with reporter Peter Hardenacke later clarifying, "Nico confirmed to us again that there's nothing to report."

Amid these developments, Horner responded sharply to Wolff's post-race remarks on Sunday as the Mercedes head continued his efforts to snatch Verstappen from Red Bull.

"We are in a very good position for 2026 and we are ambitious with the targets we have set for batteries and fuel," Wolff asserted.

"It's easy to say 'Max is in the fastest car', but there are other reasons too, even for someone like Max."

Upon hearing Wolff's remarks, Horner retorted, "I think Toto has bigger problems than drivers he can't get. It would make more sense for him to put his time and energy into his team rather than always causing trouble."

He teasingly added, "Have you heard that George Russell's contract expires at the end of 2025?"

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