Revealed: Ferrari’s approach for Max Verstappen and ‘serious discussions’ with Mercedes

Thomas Maher
Toro Rosso's Max Verstappen pictured in 2015.

Toro Rosso's Max Verstappen pictured in 2015.

Jos Verstappen has said Ferrari made an approach to sign Max Verstappen after his first year racing with Toro Rosso.

While Ferrari went on to re-sign Kimi Raikkonen for the 2016 season as Sebastian Vettel’s teammate, the Scuderia made overtures to the Verstappen camp in a bid to lure them away from Red Bull’s clutches.

With Verstappen still unproven at F1 level, the Dutch driver was nonetheless the subject of plenty of interest from Formula 1’s leading teams as he began to make his mark in the sport.

Jos Verstappen: Ferrari looked for Max after his first year

With Verstappen making his full F1 debut with Toro Rosso in 2015, his father Jos recounted how the Ferrari management, then under new team boss Maurizio Arrivabene, had come looking for his son as a potential replacement for Kimi Raikkonen as Sebastian Vettel was in the middle of a three-year deal.

Speaking to Italy’s Gazetta, Verstappen senior was asked about whether talks between Max and Ferrari have ever taken place.

“Not with the current management,” he said, with the former F1 racer reluctant to shed light on the nature of the conversations.

“They looked for us after the first year in F1.

“Now Max has everything at Red Bull, a competitive car and team, it wouldn’t make sense to change.

“However, wherever he goes in the future he would make a difference if surrounded by the right people.”

Ferrari would go on to commit to Raikkonen once again, having also evaluated Valtteri Bottas as a possible replacement.

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Verstappen himself hasn’t ruled out one day driving for Ferrari if the stars align and he opts to continue in the sport beyond his current Red Bull contract that runs until 2028.

“People always ask me if I have a dream team,” Verstappen said in an interview with Sky F1.

“I know Ferrari has an amazing history in Formula 1 and is an amazing team to race for, but I always said to myself I just want to be in the fastest car.

“I had to wait a few years to be in the fastest car and now we do have the fastest car and that is a great feeling.

“At this stage, if it happens, it happens but I’m very happy where I am and for me personally, the desire of having to drive for one particular team at all costs, no.”

Helmut Marko gave Max Verstappen a 20 minute meeting

With the Verstappens doing their best to find a way into an F1 team in 2014, Mercedes’ Toto Wolff met with the teenage Max, but a deal wasn’t struck.

“We went to his house in Vienna, we had a serious discussion,” Jos commented.

“But I don’t think Toto had followed him much in karting and really knew how special Max was, otherwise he would have signed him blindfolded, even if Mercedes didn’t have a junior programme.”

Instead, at that year’s German Grand Prix, the Verstappens were granted an audience with Helmut Marko at Red Bull – the Austrian since revealing that he was already very impressed by the Dutch driver’s abilities.

“We met [Helmut] in 2014 in Hockenheim,” Jos said.

“We got into the Red Bull motorhome and joined the table. Helmut said, ‘I only have twenty minutes’. Next year I want to put Max on a Toro Rosso in F1′.

“The deal was done.”

By year end, Verstappen was at the wheel of the Toro Rosso for practice session appearances in Japan, the United States, and Brazil. Landing the race seat for 2015, he scored his first points in his second race by coming home seventh in the Malaysian Grand Prix.

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