Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has revealed that Max Verstappen is his number one choice to replace Lewis Hamilton for 2025, but he has other names on his shortlist.

With a big seat opening up for 2025 as Lewis Hamilton leaves Mercedes for Ferrari, the Austrian said he wants to form a relationship with Max Verstappen.

With Max Verstappen’s relationship with Red Bull somewhat shaky at the moment following the recent embarrassments that have engulfed the Milton Keynes-based team, rivals such as Mercedes have moved to capitalize on the uncertainty that appears to exist within the Verstappen camp.

In Bahrain, with tensions high between Jos Verstappen and Red Bull boss Christian Horner, the Mercedes boss was seen talking to the triple world champion’s father, while Wolff revealed the 2021 rivalry is behind them.

While the chances of Mercedes being successful in bringing Verstappen from Red Bull for 2025 are slim, Wolff has made it clear that the Dutch driver is at the top of his shopping list.

Speaking to Australia’s Fox Sports in Melbourne, Wolff said: “It’s the kind of relationship that has to happen at a certain stage. But we don’t know when.”

When asked directly if Verstappen is his number one for the vacant seat at Mercedes, Wolff confirmed: “Yes. See what its performance levels are. But I wouldn’t want to neglect others either.”

“We have to look at ourselves and [ask] what we can do with this car. Then it becomes a lot easier, whoever is driving the second car, it became a lot easier for George [Russell] because he has the potential to become world champion and more.”

“It’s a team problem that really needs to be solved,” he explains.

Through the promising potential of the W15, but proving difficult to unlock, Wolff said he did not believe Verstappen behind the wheel could influence the team’s fortunes right now.

“No, I think it’s outstanding, but we’d give him a car that’s problematic, difficult to set up and drive,” he explains.

“I’d rather take that step, be outside and say: this is a car you could drive because it also goes fast.”

What are the other options for Mercedes?

Because Wolff has already made it clear that he wants to take time to think about the decision of who to replace Lewis Hamilton with.

The reason for this is that there are simply too many options available.

“As much as we were taken aback by Lewis’ decision so quickly, I really want to take my time now,” he claimed.

“We have a free place, only in the top teams, unless Max decides to leave, then the place will no longer be free with us.”

“There are several options that are really interesting to us, from very young super talents to some older ones who are very experienced. That’s not going to happen in the next few weeks or months or so… I want to continue to monitor the market.”

But the decision will not be influenced by Russell’s own form, deciding whether Mercedes should find a driver who can already be installed at a high level or can afford to take a risk with a younger, unproven name such as Formula 2 driver Kimi Antonelli.

“No, [Russell’s] place. He has that place, he has been a part of our junior program for a long time. The reason why is because he’s great, so it’s another seat.”

“I think it also depends on what Max is doing. Then we have a young kid with a lot of promise and I don’t want to put any extra pressure on him, but he looks like he can be one of the best.”

“But we also don’t want to drown him by putting him in a Formula 1 car so quickly at the age of 17. So there are several options that we play with him,” he explained.

“Obviously, there is Fernando [Alonso] who is very exciting and Carlos [Sainz] is very good. So there are several. I will make a show like a bride – it’s hard to get,” concluded Toto Wolff.