McLaren’s Zak Brown clears the air on comments he made about the possibility of Max Verstappen joining George Russell at Mercedes in F1 2022.
Brown previously told the Daily Mail that Verstappen and Russell pairing up at Mercedes would be the “obvious conclusion,” suggesting that the team will lose Lewis Hamilton at the end of 2021, and seek to replace him with the current Red Bull driver. The Dutchman, Brown says, will be paired with Russell who is likely to replace Valtteri Bottas.
“You’ll see Max and George [at Mercedes] in 2022,” Brown boldly proclaimed. “Lewis wins title number eight this year and is [victorious] in every category; they have a one-year deal with him. George is coming out of his deal, and Max has a deal he comes out of,” he cited as evidence.
In March, the American called this a “killer line-up,” but backtracked on his comments when pressed about them later on. Brown admitted he has “no insight” into the plausibility of his suggestions, and nor does he intend to “stir” up controversy and conversation – putting it just as a logical opinion.
“That’s my opinion — I have no insight as to whether that’s actually going to happen,” Brown confessed, when speaking to media including FormulaRapida.net. “But given George’s relationship with Mercedes and he’s out of contract at the end of the year. You have Lewis on a one-year contract and Max, who I believe is a free agent at the end of the year. It seems to me that would be the logical choice for Mercedes.
“Whether that actually happens or not… I’m not trying to stir it, that’s just kind of what looks like would happen to me. I was asked the question – it wasn’t a prediction, it was an opinion,” Brown shared, having recently signed Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren.
Red Bull has Verstappen contracted until 2023 albeit with a number of reported clauses which could open the door to a move. The team’s principal Christian Horner, though, dismissed that the Dutchman could move to their rival team, dismissing it as “speculation” no more likely to come to fruition than McLaren’s two drivers leaving for Mercedes.
“It’s speculation,” Horner contested. “Maybe they’re [Mercedes] as likely to run Daniel and Lando! We’re at the first race, we obviously acutely aware of what the contracts with our drivers are. It’s a bit early for speculation,” he said. At the same time, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff abstained from the discussion, which he pointed out was only between those who had no connection to Mercedes.
Wolff, though, reiterated that their wish is to finish up the 2022 contracts much earlier than what they did with 2021. “We don’t want to leave it until January to confirm the two drivers,” he said. “Valtteri was pretty regular during the summer, this is when it should happen. Also, to give the driver peace-of-mind, or be able to concentrate on the job.
“And obviously for next year there’s lots of balls in the air and we will always try to do the best for the team long-term while also giving total loyalty to our current driver line-up. We are not doubting either Valtteri or Lewis but discussions obviously are going to happen – but not in January next year,” summed up Wolff.
Here’s Zak Brown, Toto Wolff and Christian Horner on Drive to Surive