The two drivers Red Bull will target if Max Verstappen quits the F1 champions

Max Verstappen is contracted to Red Bull until 2028 (Photo: Getty)

Red Bull have reportedly identified two drivers they want to hire should Max Verstappen leave the Formula 1 champions over the Christian Horner scandal.

The Horner scandal has overshadowed the start of the 2024 season and shows no sign of going away quickly or quietly, with the female Red Bull employee who accused the team principal of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ set to appeal the case.

Following comments made by his father Jos, there has been speculation that Max Verstappen could sensationally quit Red Bull, the team with whom he has won the last three championships.

Those rumours only intensified after it was revealed that the Dutchman has a break clause in his contract that would allow him to leave if team advisor and key ally Helmut Marko departed.

During the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix last weekend, there were reports that Marko was going to be suspended by Red Bull, supposedly over the leak of texts and images related to the Horner investigation, though the 80-year-old later claimed that would not happen.

Nevertheless, Verstappen made a thinly veiled threat to Red Bull’s hierarchy that he will quit if Marko leaves, while Horner has admitted he would not stand in the 26-year-old’s way if he wanted to go.

Should he leave, the three-time champion’s only real option at the moment would be to go to Mercedes, who are looking for a replacement for Ferrari-bound Sir Lewis Hamilton, with Silver Arrows boss Toto Wolff admitting he would ‘love’ to sign Verstappen.

F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia - Qualifying

Alex Albon is now at Williams after getting axed by Red Bull at the end of 2020 (Photo: Getty)

Now, F1 Insider report that Red Bull already have a back-up plan in place in case their superstar does go, with Horner ready to ‘break the bank’ to sign two drivers: Williams’ Alex Albon and Oscar Piastri of McLaren.

Furthermore, Verstappen’s under-pressure teammate Sergio Perez is expected to be axed at the end of the year when his contract expires.

Albon, 27, is contracted to Williams until the end of 2025 and previously drove for Red Bull for a season-and-a-half before being axed and replaced by Perez.

Oscar Piastri finished on the podium twice in his rookie season (Photo: Getty)

Next Mercedes Driver in 2025 odds:

Andrea Kimi Antontelli – 5/4

Fernando Alonso – 6/4

Max Verstappen – 6/1

Carlos Sainz – 12/1

Esteban Ocon – 14/1

Valtteri Bottas – 25/1

Sergio Perez – 40/1

Oscar Piastri – 50/1

The Thai driver struggled in comparison to then-teammate Verstappen but has proven his worth since and has been tentatively linked with the vacant Mercedes seat

Piastri, 22, meanwhile enjoyed a fantastic rookie campaign in 2023 and is already regarded as one of the most talented drivers on the grid,

The Aussie is committed to McLaren until 2026, and Horner has previously expressed regret over not signing him up to Red Bull’s academy.

Christian Horner investigation – what we know

If this report is to believed, it means that Red Bull would be surprisingly overlooking the other drivers currently on their roster, including RB’s Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda, as well as promising reserve Liam Lawson.

Of course, this all depends on if Verstappen leaves, but for the moment, the Dutchman is hoping that normal service resumes as soon as possible at the team he has driven for since 2016.

‘I always said that what is most important is that we work together as a team and that everyone keeps the peace and that’s what we, I think, all agree on within the team,’ he said after winning in Saudi Arabia.

‘So hopefully from now onwards, that is also fully the case and everyone is trying to focus in the same direction.

‘And I think the positive out of all this is that it didn’t hurt our performances so it’s a very strong team. I think also mentally, you can see from not only the driver’s side, but also mechanics, engineers, everyone is there to do their job.

‘And I think everyone even when there is stuff going on or whatever, like they’re just very focused on their job as they should be.’

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