World champion Verstappen confirms staying at Red Bull – Sport

Max Verstappen on Thursday confirmed he will stay with Red Bull next year, dealing a significant blow to Mercedes’ hopes of recruiting him to replace Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton.

The three-time world champion told reporters at a news conference ahead of this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix, a home event for Red Bull, that he was focused on work for next year’s car and driving for the team.

His response to a direct question will end, for now at least, speculation that he had lost faith in Red Bull following a stormy passage earlier this year when team boss Christian Horner was accused of controlling behaviour by a female colleague.

“Ok, yes,” he said when asked if he was staying.

“And that’s what I have already said. We are working on next year’s car and when you are focused on that it means that you’re also driving for the team.

“Of course, people are talking, but it’s most important that we have a very competitive car for the future. It is very tight on track, but we are working as a team to try and improve. We want to be competitive again next year.”

Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff had said Verstappen was his primary target to replace departing seven-time world champion Hamilton.

“I have a long contract with the team,” added Verstappen.

“I’m very happy where I’m at and we’re already focusing on next year with things we can implement on the car. So, I guess that should say enough of where I’m driving next year.” Verstappen has a contract with Red Bull until 2028.

His father Jos, attending only his second race this year after declaring in Bahrain that Red Bull would “explode” if Horner was retained, appeared to support the decision to stay and fight for more glory with Red Bull.

After seven wins from 10 races this year, Verstappen has a 69-point lead in the title race ahead of nearest rival and friend Lando Norris of McLaren, who has closed the gap on track and believes he can beat him and his two-year dominance of the sport.

Mercedes and Ferrari have also shown competitive potential to win with George Russell taking the pole in Canada and Hamilton his first podium finish this season in last Sunday’s Spanish race.

“It’s great that there isn’t just one dominant force out there now because people want to see fights on track and the drivers going for it,” said Russell.

“There should be more than one car in a position to win. It’s really exciting now to see how this season pans out and into next year — there could be four or five teams fighting to win.”

If Mercedes switch their attention away from Verstappen, it is expected they will sign Italian teenager Kimi Antonelli, who will turn 18 in August.

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