What happens if Max Verstappen leaves Red Bull?

Alex Gassman

by Alex Gassman

Max Verstappen

Getty Images / Red Bull Media Pool

There’s a lot of talk and speculation about the possibility of Max Verstappen leaving Red Bull at the end of the season.

If that happens it would be a huge shock to everyone. But it would also set in motion a number of interesting possibilities for the rest of the 2025 driver market.

Below I’ve looked at what could happen to Sainz, Alonso, Ricciardo and some of the other drivers if Max did decide to depart Red Bull.

Why would Max leave Red Bull?

Ever since the news came out about Christian Horner being investigated for inappropriate behaviour there’s been a power struggle going on within Red Bull. Horner has been on one side of it with Helmut Marko, Max and his dad Jos on the other.

It’s resulted in a very tumultuous time that’s kept the Red Bull PR team firmly on their toes. And whilst I don’t know the specifics of what goes on behind the closed doors of the team truck, I do know that it’s a pretty unsettling period for the Verstappen family.

Getty Images / Red Bull Media Pool

Him and his father have always had the ear of Helmut Marko who himself holds huge power within the team. If Helmut went but Christian stayed then there’s a strong chance Max and his dad, who called for Horner to resign, would go too.

It seems absurd for the reigning champ to leave the team that he’s had such incredible dominance with, but every driver needs a new challenge eventually.

Where would Max go?

So, let’s talk hypothetical now. If Max did leave at the end of this year, what are his options? Here’s a couple of the more likely scenarios:

Option 1: Mercedes

Mercedes have one seat open for 2025 after Lewis announced he’s off to Ferrari.

Toto Wolff has publicly said that Max is his number one pick for that seat. Duh. I mean who wouldn’t want the savagely fast Dutchman driving for them.

The issue for Max, however, is that the Mercedes is off the pace. Could Max, being as competitive as he is, knowingly sign up with a slower team after such as long period of dominance? No he couldn’t.

Getty Images / Red Bull Media Pool

But let’s say Mercedes find a load of pace this year and Max joins them. That leaves one seat free at Red Bull who usually fill their spaces from their own driver pool which at the moment consists of Ricciardo and Tsunoda, with Lawson waiting in the wings.

Danny Ric doesn’t look like he’s up to scratch at the moment and Lawson will still need to prove himself further. Yuki, however, has shown immense speed and some people are saying he’s up to the full Red Bull drive. 

But I think he needs to work on his consistency a little more still, and Red Bull are still yet to saying anything too promising about his chances of making the top seat.

So that leaves one other obvious pick. Carlos Sainz.

2025 F1 driver market

Sainz will be given the boot from Ferrari at the end of the 2024 season to make way for Hamilton, and he’s currently without a drive for next year. The smooth appendix-less operator would be the obvious choice to fill Max’s sweaty boots and he’d finally be in a championship winning car.

That would mean Max, Lewis and Carlos do one big 3-way swap.

Option 2: Aston Martin

Aston Martin’s owner Lawrence Stroll has made it quite clear that he wants his team to be fighting for championships. They’re definitely on the right path, especially with Alonso at the wheel, but aren’t quite there yet.

So to get them a little closer they’ve reportedly made an offer to Red Bull aerodynamics extraordinaire Adrian Newey to come and join the Aston Martin team. Knowing the size of Lawrence Stroll’s pockets, I can only imagine it was a very healthy offer indeed.

Getty Images / Red Bull Media Pool

If Max did depart Red Bull and find himself looking for another seat, then Stroll’s cheque book would definitely be making another appearance.

If Newey could be convinced to jump ship, having the promise of the best aero designer in the world onboard (combined with a ridiculous salary) might be enough to persuade Max to join Aston.

The only question would then be what happens to its two current drivers? Lawrence is unlikely to give his son Lance the boot unless he can find him another seat in a top team. But both Red Bull and Mercedes have better options, McLaren have a good pairing and the Ferrari line up is confirmed. So I imagine he’ll stay put.

That leaves Alonso. Let’s say that Sainz takes Max’s place at Red Bull, then Toto is still left with an empty seat at Mercedes.

He’s been eyeing up the young Italian Formula 2 hotshot Andrea Kimi Antonelli, but 2025 might be too soon for the 18 year old to make the jump in to F1. So Alonso might find himself in a Silver Arrows suit alongside George Russell. But is that a move in the right direction for Alonso, given Mercedes’ performance this year? Probably not.

What if Max stays put?

This is all still speculation, and the Red Bull power struggle may well subside enough for Max to stay put and try and continue his dominance.

If that happens, then all eyes will be on the other Red Bull seat. Sergio Perez’s contract is up at the end of 2024 and a decision will have to be made on whether or not to resign him.

Keeping him will allow the balance of power between the teammates, and within the team, to remain the same. But Sainz is looking like the obvious choice, and having him alongside Max would be amazing for us to witness.

Let the games begin.

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Alex Gassman

I‘m Alex. I write F1 and motorsport travel guides based on my experience as racing driver and full-time motorsport nerd. I’ve traveled the world watching F1 and other racing series.

I started oversteer48 with the aim of helping other motorsport fans who are planning on watching some racing themselves.

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Join the oversteer48 F1 Insider's club

I’ll send you a weekly email with insider info on the latest F1 news and results. 
Read by over 5,000 busy F1 fans each week.