Mercedes Formula 1 chief Toto Wolff says he has no regrets about failing to sign Max Verstappen to the German marque’s junior program in 2014.
Verstappen first broke onto the scene as a 16-year-old in the FIA European F3 series, making such an impression that Mercedes and Red Bull were quick to try and sign him up.
Mercedes was unable to offer Verstappen an F1 race seat for 2015, its two works drives being taken by Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
Red Bull could immediately slot Verstappen in at its junior team for the 2015 season, Toro Rosso, prompting the young Dutchman to opt for this path and make his F1 debut at the age of 17.
After just 23 races with Toro Rosso, Verstappen was promoted into a race seat with Red Bull, with whom he won his first race in Spain earlier this year to also become the youngest victor in F1 history.
In a wide-ranging interview with the official F1 website, Wolff said that as exceptional as Verstappen was, Mercedes simply could not accommodate him.
“He was an exceptional kid in karts,” Wolff said.
“Then he won in the Formula 3 championship against all odds with an inferior car Esteban Ocon was his opponent then – that says a lot.
“But yes, the real test is F1 – and now we see the result. But we simply had no availability for him, so Red Bull was his best option.”
When asked if he regretted missing out on Verstappen and not replacing one of his existing drivers, Wolff replied: “No. We are not disappointed with anything in the past.
“I was very conscious about him. I wanted to find him a place, but with Lewis and Nico we have the perfect driver pairing – so far we have won two constructors championships and it is looking good again – so there was the logical thing, to stay with those two.”