Verstappen shows the truth about his character, writes JONATHAN McEVOY (2024)

Max Verstappen is a loyal man and not without sensitivity, but in declaring his intention to remain at Red Bull next season he has underlined a fundamental truth about his character. He is the ultimate pragmatist.

It is a trait that helps to make him the most ruthless machine of a racing driver imaginable.

You don’t crank out world championship wins by allowing yourself flights of fancy, and joining Mercedes for 2025 would have been exactly that.


Yes, the Silver Arrows appear to be finding their way out of the technical labyrinth in which they went dizzy over the past two-and-a-half years. But they remain winless all this season and last, while Red Bull have torched the record books. Verstappen’s suitors still have plenty to prove on their long journey back on to the high road.

It is this fact the Dutchman couldn’t escape in any reckoning of where his immediate future lay, even though there were emotional factors nagging at him, namely the turmoil created by the texting scandal that battered his team principal Christian Horner earlier in the season.

Max Verstappen has decided to snub a move to Mercedes and stick it out with Red Bull

The move comes despite emotional factors nagging at him, namely the turmoil that surrounded team principal Christian Horner (right) at the start of the season

Mercedes team prinicipal Toto Wolff would have loved to sign Verstappen from his rivals

This controversy pitted Horner against Max’s father Jos, the former driver who took against the Englishmen. The two men rowed bitterly. Jos suggested the team would ‘explode’ if Horner stayed, and sought employment for Max elsewhere, not least at Mercedes, run by Horner’s sworn enemy Toto Wolff.

Read MoreEXCLUSIVE Mercedes hire investigators amid messages claiming Lewis Hamilton is being 'SABOTAGED' by F1 team

Switching straight there would have been sweet revenge for Jos – and the threat of it would have holed Horner badly, perhaps fatally – but Max, the rationalist, instead called for calm at Red Bull so he could pursue his own brand of no-frills dominance. He set aside family hostility towards Horner and put his foot to the floor.

Seven wins out of 10 races is the result coming to Red Bull’s home race the verdant Styrian region at the foot of the Alps, where a giant bull comprising 1,200 pieces of rusted steel, 16 yards high, with golden horns eight yards long, ‘jumps’ through a hoop out in the valley where the track winds.

The good news for Verstappen is that he is in no need of jumping early himself. He is, and will remain for the foreseeable future, the most coveted driver in the world. Mercedes will still be there if he wants him ahead of the rule changes in 2026.

As will be Ferrari, though the Verstappen camp have private reservations about the Italian’s capacity for dependability.

Verstappen has won seven out of the opening 10 races as he looks to win a fourth straight title

Officially, Max is signed up until 2028 but there are ways round that – as well as the black-and-white escape clause that allows him to exit immediately if his ally Dr Helmet Marko, the 80-year-old motorsport adviser to the parent energy drinks company, leaves.

He will consider carefully which team is likely to produce the winning formula. He’ll weigh up whether Red Bull’s new in-house engine is likely to deliver for him. He’ll evaluate whether Mercedes’ improvement is real or illusory, fleeting or lasting.

The fastest man in the sport is the only one who doesn’t need to move fast.

Symonds avoids scrutiny

Flavio Briatore’s appointment as an adviser to the Alpine team was justifiably questioned by the media in Spain last week.

Read More The men who put the F in Formula 1: Drive to Survive was built on their legend

As we know, the old playboy was Renault team principal when Nelson Piquet Jnr was ordered to crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix that altered the course of the race so Fernando Alonso might win, which he did.

The chicanery earned Briatore a lifetime ban from motor racing, a swingeing punishment later overturned in a French court.

But one anomaly in the rush to condemn Briatore is how co-conspirator Pat Symonds’ return to a team has passed pretty much without comment.

Symonds was the technical director of Renault and a leading hatcher of the scam.

Yet he worked as Ross Brawn’s sidekick at Formula One Group for some seven years and, his work having dried up there, recently joined F1 aspirants Andretti in an advisory capacity. The opprobrium that fits Briatore fits Symonds.

Pat Symonds' (right) return to F1 has passed without comment while Flavio Briatore's own return (left) was justifiably questioned by the media (the pair pictured together in 2006)

Bearman announcement due

We reported earlier in the month that 18-year-old Oliver Bearman had signed a contract to drive for Haas next year. I am told the announcement has been saved for the week of the British Grand Prix. Watch this space.

Oliver Bearman's move to Haas for the 2025 season could be announced on the weekend of the British Grand Prix

Domenicali fashion faux pas

Stefano Domenicali has a keen eye for style, as befits an Italian. And no doubt the maroon striped suit the Formula One chief executive wore to meet the King of Spain, was very haute couture. But no tie, and, horror, no socks for an official engagement at the baroque Zarzuela Palace? Lese-majeste!

What chance Mercedes have of finding mystery email author

What chance Mercedes uncovering who sent the email and text messages accusing them of ‘sabotaging’ Lewis Hamilton?

Remote to zero, it seems, despite their hiring private investigators to look into the matter. If they succeed, they’ll have done what Red Bull couldn’t over the saucy correspondence sent to embarrass Christian Horner in the recent Red Bull scandal.

And what could Mercedes do about it even if they did unearth the originator? Sack them, I suppose, if they work for Mercedes (which they say isn’t the case, but how can they be sure?).

Beyond that, when the police have said no crime has been committed? Name and shame the sender(s).

There seems little chance that Mercedes will find who accused them of 'sabotaging' Lewis Hamilton

Verstappen to appear in Pitt movie

Formula One’s incoming movie – due for release this week next year – will include the current grid. Max Verstappen, for example, will appear as world champion. Yet I wonder if he will remain so as the credits role.

Might not Brad Pitt, playing a returning former driver, the fictional Sonny Hayes, usurp the Dutchman?

‘I couldn’t possibly comment,’ says my source close to the cutting-room floor.

Brad Pitt (centre) is making a movie about Formula One which is due for release next year

Aston Martin in race for Newey

Conjecture swirls around Adrian Newey’s next job. We reported a source in Italy claiming he has already penned a deal with Ferrari.

His manager Eddie Jordan says not. Now, Aston Martin have entered the speculation chamber.

One team principal is adamant the super-designer will end up there, and is willing to offer me a four-figure wager on it.

Aston Martin are looking to beat Ferrari to signing super-designer Adrian Newey

Hamilton concern

Lewis Hamilton has a track record of looking round corners to find the best team to drive for. McLaren and then Mercedes at the right times.

Next stop, Ferrari. A change is as good a rest, and it is worth a punt.

But I wonder if he has an iota of doubt in light of Mercedes’ sudden upturn and Ferrari’s recent dip?

Verstappen shows the truth about his character, writes JONATHAN McEVOY (2024)
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