Rumors dominate backstage banter at the 2019 Formula 1 prize gala in France

Max Verstappen’s future plans could involve Mercedes—if you believe the rumor mill.

Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, who finished third in the 2019 Formula 1 standings behind champion Lewis Hamilton and runner-up Valtteri Bottas, says there may be opportunities for a move to another team for 2021.

At the FIA end-of-the-season gala in Paris on Dec. 7, the futures of the Dutch driver as well as Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff continued to be hot backstage topics.

“Of course we want to know what each other’s plans are,” Wolff said, referring to Hamilton and rumors the British driver might switch to Ferrari. “But I see no problem that we do not close doors so soon. Whether we know in April, June or October about who is with us in 2021 does not matter to me.”

Hamilton suggested to reporters at the Paris event that Verstappen, who currently drives for Red Bull-Honda, has been calling Wolff about 2021.

“It’s understandable because everyone wants to win and be part of a successful project,” Hamilton said. “What we’ve built up over these years is very strong, and other teams just don’t have that yet. It takes time to build it.”

Verstappen downplayed the latest Mercedes talk.

“I know there will be opportunities next year, but to be honest, I haven’t thought much about it,” Verstappen said. “I think it’s more important that we wait and see what happens at the start of the new year.”

Ultimately, Hamilton will make the key decision about 2021, and Fernando Alonso said at the FIA gala: “I don’t know what I would do in Lewis’ situation. I would imagine that loyalty will play a major role, but no one knows how it will go for Mercedes in 2021 and beyond.”

As for Wolff, he has been linked not only with Chase Carey’s job as chief executive at F1 owners Liberty Media but also with a switch to archrival Ferrari.

“I don’t want to take a decision that involves everyone’s future lightly,” Wolff said. “It will take some time, but I don’t think there will be surprises.”

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