Max Verstappen said he can understand why Toto Wolff wants to take him to Mercedes – but the triple world champion insists it his “intention” to see out his contract with Red Bull.

Following Verstappen’s ninth consecutive victory in Saudi Arabia earlier this month, Wolff revealed for the first time that he would “love” to sign Verstappen as a replacement for the Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen, 26, is under contract with Red Bull until 2028, but his future is in the spotlight amid the in-fighting at Formula One’s dominant team.

And responding to Wolff’s comments ahead of Sunday’s third round of the season in Australia, Verstappen replied with a smile: “I can understand (why).

Toto Wolff suggested he would love to take Max Verstappen to Mercedes Toto Wolff suggested he would love to take Max Verstappen to Mercedes (David Davies/PA)

“It is always nice to hear that. Toto and I have had our moments. That is normal between two teams battling for the championship but the respect has always been there.

“From my side it doesn’t change anything. I don’t know what will happen after 2028, if I will stay in F1, or continue, or sign a new deal (with Red Bull).

“But that is why I signed the deal in the first place. I am happy within the team and it is my intention to be here in the end.”

Verstappen, who will equal his record of 10 straight wins with another victory this weekend, opened the door to sensationally quitting Red Bull if motorsport adviser Helmut Marko is forced out on the eve of the race in Saudi Arabia a fortnight ago.

Verstappen continued: “It is very important that we try to keep the key players in the team for a longer period of time because that is where the performance is and if I didn’t perform I wouldn’t be sitting here.

“For me, it is a second family. In a family there might some times be disagreements. You cannot choose your family but you can choose friends.

“A lot of people have contributed to the success of this team from the start and that has to be respected. It is important to keep them together, happy and in the same roles.

“But we just focus on the performance. I would like the chat to be about the great car that we have. Hopefully that will come slowly.”