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Max Verstappen eulogises Vettel and Ferrari, but Red Bull future looks more likely

Max Verstappen has heaped praise on Sebastian Vettel as a model professional, who knows how to get the best from his team.

Max Verstappen eulogises Vettel and Ferrari, but Red Bull future looks more likely

Max Verstappen has heaped praise on Sebastian Vettel as a model professional, who knows how to get the best from his team.

The 18 year old Dutchman is regarded as the hottest property on the F1 grid and his name has been linked with a possible Ferrari move since he exploded onto the F1 scene last year.

"I'm impressed by drivers who are really tight with their teams and know how to motivate the people," said Verstappen. "Sebastian Vettel at Ferrari is a great example. He knows how to work with the mechanics and everyone is behind him. I think that team spirit is the most important thing for a driver."

Max Vestappen

On one level the interview in today's Gazzetta dello Sport, looks like a classic piece of window dressing, with Verstappen offering due deference to Ferrari's team leader with a possible future together in mind. Kimi Raikkonen is right at the end of his career and his seat is likely to be the most sought after this summer.

However it is not really Ferrari's style to hire young drivers; they tend to take them when they've had at least three years' experience or more. Felipe Massa was an exception, farmed out to Sauber and then brought in to partner Michael Schumacher in 2006 after Rubens Barrichello's departure.

But the intrigue around Verstappen's future took a twist with the strong whisper in Melbourne that Red Bull has no intention of letting Verstappen get out of its clutches and is preparing to move him up to the main Red Bull team for 2017. One would imagine this would be at the expense of Daniil Kvyat, although the Russian managed to outscore his triple race winning teammate Daniel Ricciardo last season.

Meanwhile Mercedes' appetite for young Verstappen seems to be cooling. They offered him a reserve driver role at the same time as Red Bull offered a Toro Rosso race deal for 2015. Despite Max being just 17 at the time, the Verstappens took the Toro Rosso opportunity and it has paid dividends, with some spectacular performances last year, some great overtakes and FIA awards at the end of the season.

Jos Verstappen

Max's father Jos has a good feeling with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and Mercedes certainly had looked like a possible pathway, but now looks the least likely of the three optional routes forward.

Mercedes has Esteban Ocon, who beat Verstappen to the 2014 FIA F3 title. It has farmed him out to Renault as a reserve driver and he is likely to get a race seat next season, as he builds up his F1 career. It also has Pascal Wehrlein, racing with Manor this year. The manufacturer is preparing its young drivers to be ready for the opportunity once Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg reach the end of their time with the team.

There is also the question of what happens next with Verstappen's team Toro Rosso. FIAT and Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne is known to be keen to bring Alfa Romeo back to Formula 1 and there have been some discussions about acquiring Toro Rosso. However informed sources suggest that the focus has now shifted to Sauber as a possible acquisition. The factory in Zurich is relatively close to Maranello, has a state of the art wind tunnel and the team has a long history of technical collaboration with Ferrari.

Verstappen started 2016 strongly by qualifying fifth in Melbourne, although the impetuous side of his nature came out in the race as he unilaterally decided to pit and then lost more time with a spin in the closing stages.

Although there was some tension at Toro Rosso, with Verstappen angry that teammate Carlos Sainz was allowed to pit before him for the second stop, he says in the Gazzetta interview that he has a great relationship with the Spaniard out of the cockpit.

"We both want to beat each other, but that's normal for team mates," he says. "We push each other to the limit. But I don't live this as a struggle, I'm much more concentrated on making sure that I keep improving. Away from the track Carlos and I have had some great moments and I hope it will continue to be like this."
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Series Formula 1
Drivers Max Verstappen
Teams Red Bull Racing
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