Helmut Marko has expressed his surprise at Toto Wolff not being able to spot Max Verstappen’s talent from a young age.
Wolff revealed recently that he had met with Verstappen and his father early on in the Dutchman’s career but given he had no F1 seat spare and that Verstappen was not the world superstar he is now, Wolff opted against pursuing the future Red Bull driver.
Mercedes’ loss was Red Bull’s gain as they swooped in to sign the young Dutchman first to their Toro Rosso team before a move up to Red Bull in 2016.
It was a decision that has been repaid multiple times over with Verstappen bringing Red Bull’s first title since 2013 and is on course for a third consecutive championship.
Marko then has taken the opportunity for a little bit of gloating by suggesting that he, unlike Wolff, could see Verstappen’s potential from an early age.
”His talent would not have been visible enough in Formula 3 but then I don’t know what exactly Toto has been looking at,” Marko said, as per the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad.
“Because when I saw Max busy for a while at the Norisring, it was already completely clear to me that he had something special.”
Wolff admitted he regrets missing out on Verstappen but that it simply “wasn’t an option back in the day.”
“Do I regret missing out on Max? Certainly,” the Austrian told ESPN. “But it wasn’t an option back in the day.
“We had two drivers that I was extremely happy with, in Nico [Rosberg] and Lewis [Hamilton], and when Nico left [at the end of 2016], Valtteri [Bottas] was then the option and Max wasn’t even available.”
Besides, even if Verstappen had joined Mercedes there is no guarantee that he would have performed to the same level as he has done, especially if he was sharing a garage with Lewis Hamilton.
“Would Max and Lewis have functioned? Maybe not,” Wolff pondered.
“And Lewis is a Mercedes guy since forever, so that hard question I never needed to ask myself for the organisation. Everything happens for a reason.
“But I had two drivers in the seats, no deal with a junior team, so it was clear that the option with Toro Rosso was what they needed to do and they did well.
“After that we always had friendly contact but never discussing driving.”