No regrets for Wolff over missing out on Verstappen

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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.”

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.