At just 16 years old, Verstappen was already on the radar of the main F1 teams, leading to the Dutchman and his team speaking with Niki Lauda about the possibility of joining the Silver Arrows.
However, in the end it was Helmut Marko and Red Bull who secured the services of Verstappen, resulting in the teenager making his Formula 1 debut for the squad’s then-called junior team Toro Rosso in 2015.
Wolff on advice to Verstappen
When asked by Motorsport Italy about losing out on this particular battle to Marko, Wolff explained: “Yeah, but I didn’t have a seat in Formula 1 that I could offer him.
“We had Lewis [Hamilton] and Nico [Rosberg] and they both had long-term contracts.”
Wolff ultimately advised Verstappen to choose the opportunity to move immediately into F1, which meant taking the Red Bull route.
“Max was clearly an interesting young man but at the time we could offer him a place in GP2 and then maybe a contract,” the Austrian said.
“But Helmut was able to offer him a place in Formula 1 and in the end I also advised him to go that route. And that meant seeing him leave the Mercedes orbit
Advantage of a second team
At this time, Red Bull’s second squad often brought in young talents to F1, with the drivers gaining experience at the team before moving up to the main outfit.
When quizzed on whether Mercedes had ever considered the benefits of having a junior team, Wolff said: “It is undoubtedly an advantage to be able to have a team like they [Red Bull] have in which you can evaluate the drivers on the field.
“It was a big advantage in their case to be able to evaluate Honda [with Toro Rosso in 2018] before the move to the main team [in 2019], but it is a very expensive operation.
“You have to be able to afford to spend 100 million a season to be able to judge the drivers, and I repeat, it is the best way to do it, but it is also very expensive.”