Mercedes workforce boss Toto Wolff says he regrets not signing Max Verstappen when he had the prospect however doubts a driver mixture of Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton would have labored.
Earlier than Verstappen was introduced as a Purple Bull junior driver in August 2014, he and his father, Jos, had met with Wolff about the potential of becoming a member of Mercedes.
On the time, Mercedes’ F1 driver line-up included Hamilton and Nico Rosberg and the workforce was embarking on a interval of unprecedented success within the sport.
In contrast to Purple Bull, nevertheless, Mercedes didn’t have a junior workforce and subsequently couldn’t provide the 16-year-old Verstappen a place in Method One for the 2015 season.
Verstappen signed with Purple Bull, raced for its junior workforce Toro Rosso in 2015, and was promoted to the senior race workforce on the Spanish Grand Prix in 2016.
Verstappen has gone on to win two titles with Purple Bull, together with his slim victory towards Hamilton within the 2021 championship.
Requested in a current interview with ESPN if he regretted lacking out on Verstappen, Wolff stated he twice talked to the Verstappens earlier than they signed with Purple Bull.
“I spoke to Jos and Huub Rothengatter [Jos Verstappen’s manager during his F1 career] after they got here to my workplace in Brackley and that will need to have been when Max was in karting or the tip of his karting days [in 2013] simply earlier than Method 3 [in 2014].
“After which we spoke once more when Max and Jos visited me in my home in Vienna. We spent a number of hours discussing his future.
“Do I remorse lacking out on Max? Definitely. However it wasn’t an possibility again within the day.
“We had two drivers that I used to be extraordinarily pleased with, in Nico and Lewis, and when Nico left [at the end of 2016], Valtteri [Bottas] was then the choice and Max wasn’t even obtainable.”
Wolff stated Hamilton’s presence at Mercedes additionally meant Verstappen was by no means a real goal for the workforce.
“Would Max and Lewis have functioned? Possibly not.
“And Lewis is a Mercedes man since eternally, so that tough query I by no means wanted to ask myself for the organisation. All the pieces occurs for a motive.
“However I had two drivers within the seats, no cope with a junior workforce, so it was clear that the choice with Toro Rosso was what they wanted to do. And so they did effectively.”
Requested if he ever tried to method Verstappen once more after he signed for Purple Bull, Wolff added: “After that we at all times had pleasant contact however by no means discussing driving.”
Wolff additionally stated that it wasn’t solely clear how good Verstappen was when he was racing in Method 3, particularly after a collection of retirements and blended outcomes early within the season left him third within the closing 2014 standings behind champion Esteban Ocon and vice-champion Tom Blomqvist.
“Again within the day I feel there wasn’t enormous hype round Max, as a result of Max and Van Amersfoort weren’t successful the championship that yr,” Wolff stated. “Esteban gained in a extra aggressive automotive.
“So the insiders knew that Max in all probability was in an inferior package deal and in his first yr, and the insiders knew there was an excellent one coming, nevertheless it wasn’t clear that he was that good at that stage.
“You’ll be able to solely say when somebody grows in Method One and matures that he’s a real world champion — an excellent one. Earlier than we had Lewis after which Michael Schumacher and earlier than that [Ayrton] Senna.
“Who’s the following one? Was it clear that Max would step into these sneakers? It wasn’t clear again then.”