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2019 F1

Verstappen surprised to hear Mercedes switch rumours

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Max Verstappen has joined his father in slamming suggestions he regularly talks on the phone to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.

The rumours, triggered by Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko, sparked suggestions the 21-year-old Dutchman might try to exercise a break clause in his contract and switch to Mercedes for 2020.

Verstappen’s father Jos denied that Max even has Wolff’s phone number.

Max, speaking in Shanghai, agrees with his father that there is nothing to the speculation.

“I was really surprised to read about it,” he said.

“I have never called Toto Wolff and he has never called me. He doesn’t have my number so it’s pretty funny.

“Toto and my father sometimes talk, but it’s more about babies and karting,” Verstappen smiled.

He also refused to talk about the supposed performance-related exit clause in his contract. The rumours suggest if Red Bull drops out of the top three, he is free to leave.

“I cannot and will not talk about my contract,” said Verstappen. “I think that’s normal.”

More important to the Dutchman is his 2019 car, which according to Marko has an “aerodynamic problem”.

“I feel better in the car than last year,” Max said in China. “But right now we are not fast enough.”

He said changes have been made since Bahrain, helped by the post-GP test.

“We know now what we did wrong with the setup,” said Verstappen. “We’ll see how the car behaves with the changes,” he added, indicating they are related to the car’s mechanical setup.

“It is not a big problem so it should be quickly resolved. If we find the right balance, we can be closer to Mercedes and Ferrari.”

Speaking to Kronen Zeitung newspaper, Marko agrees: “We see light at the end of the tunnel.

“The tests in Bahrain clarified the direction to go.”

He denied that the “aerodynamic problems”, uncharacteristic for an Adrian Newey car, reveal a fundamental issue with the 2019 machine.

“It’s aerodynamic problems, so I don’t think we have to question the overall concept of the car,” said Marko.

“Then we have a good engine, although not quite at the level of Ferrari and Mercedes.”

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