Wolff regrets not signing Max Verstappen to Mercedes

Wolff regrets not signing Max Verstappen to Mercedes

Toto Wolff reveals that he regrets Mercedes did not sign Max Verstappen, but concedes that he would not have made the best teammate for Lewis Hamilton.

Max Verstappen started his Formula One career in 2015 with the Red Bull junior team Toro Rosso before moving up to the senior squad a little over a year later. Verstappen has spent his entire F1 career with the Red Bull program.

Since joining Red Bull, the Dutchman has won 40 races and two championships and after seven races in the 2023 Formula 1 world championship, he is 53 points ahead of teammate Sergio Perez in the standings. This suggests that he will likely win a third consecutive championship in 2023.

If Verstappen might have chosen Mercedes over Red Bull back when he was just 16 alternatively, the outcome would have been quite different.

Silver Arrows head Toto Wolff has revealed the conversations he had with the future star’s representation to ESPN. The Dutchman had only graduated from karts when he began drawing the attention of various F1 teams in 2014.

“I spoke to Jos and Huub Rothengatter [Jos Verstappen’s manager during his F1 career] when they came to my office in Brackley and that must have been when Max was in karting or the end of his karting days just before Formula 3,” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said.

“And then we spoke again when Max and Jos visited me in my house in Vienna. We spent a few hours discussing his future.

“Do I regret missing out on Max? Certainly. But it wasn’t an option back in the day.

“We had two drivers that I was extremely happy with, in Nico [Rosberg] and Lewis, and when Nico left [at the end of 2016], Valtteri [Bottas] was then the option and Max wasn’t even available.

“Back in the day I think there wasn’t huge hype around Max, because Max and Van Amersfoort weren’t winning the [F3] championship that year. Esteban [Ocon] won in a more competitive car.

“So the insiders knew that Max probably was in an inferior package and in his first year, and the insiders knew there was a very good one coming, but it wasn’t clear that he was that good at that stage.

“You can only say when someone grows in Formula One and matures that he is a true world champion – an outstanding one. Before we had Lewis and then Michael Schumacher and before that [Ayrton] Senna.

“Who is the next one? Was it clear that Max would step into these shoes? It wasn’t clear back then.”

In view of the intense rivalry Verstappen and Hamilton had when battling for the 2021 championship, Wolff acknowledges that it may have been better that the two did not end up holding a driving seat in the same team.

“Would Max and Lewis have functioned? Maybe not,” Wolff admitted. “And Lewis is a Mercedes guy since forever, so that hard question I never needed to ask myself for the organisation. Everything happens for a reason.

“But I had two drivers in the seats, no deal with a junior team, so it was clear that the option with Toro Rosso was what they needed to do and they did well.”

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