Mercedes: Verstappen & Leclerc still future options despite long-term contracts

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Max Verstappen and/or Charles Leclerc could still be attracted to join Mercedes despite their current long-term contracts, Toto Wolff claims.

Both drivers signed extensions during this off-season, with Verstappen renewing at Red Bull until the end of 2023 and Leclerc adding two more years at Ferrari until 2024.

While that might seem to rule them out of joining Mercedes for the foreseeable future at least, the Austrian does think there will be clauses which could allow them to leave earlier.

“I would be surprised if both of these young drivers have committed to their teams for five years and closed the door to everywhere else," Wolff told Auto Motor und Sport.

“Contracts are often more complex than the media portrays.

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“As long as we have a fast car, because this is our first priority, we will always have a situation where we can choose who drives it.”

It is true that in the case of Verstappen, who is seen more likely as a future Mercedes driver, Red Bull admits he has a clause linked to Honda staying in Formula 1 post-2021 and would almost certainly put himself forward if Lewis Hamilton was to retire.

At the same time, however, Wolff notes they would be far from the only drivers the Brackley-based team would consider.

“We have some juniors we rely on who have done a really good job, like George Russell who drove absolutely faultlessly at Williams and Esteban [Ocon] as well,” he added.

“So we have a pool of young drivers that we can access.”

Perhaps another name to throw in that is Stoffel Vandoorne after the Mercedes Formula E driver was named as official reserve driver for the F1 team this season.

The former McLaren driver has already scored two podiums in the all-electric series in Season 6 and could potentially put himself back in the picture for a future F1 return.