Toto Wolff says he is pleased to see Max Verstappen emerge as a formidable contender so quickly in Formula 1 under the Red Bull umbrella, less than two years after it was known he was in discussions to enter the Mercedes fold instead.
Having already stolen headlines with performances in European Formula 3 in 2014 – his first season of car racing -, Verstappen was catapulted into the spotlight last year when he was announced as a Toro Rosso F1 driver for 2015.
Aged just 16 at the time of the announcement and only 17 when he made his debut and scored just a round later in Malaysia, Verstappen went on to become a revelation last season with a best of two fourth place finishes.
Verstappen will now make his Red Bull Racing debut this weekend having been promoted ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix in a move seen as assuring his future with the company.
Indeed, despite his inexperience at the time, Verstappen – son of former F1 driver Jos – was in high demand from an early age, with Mercedes F1 boss Wolff explaining how he could have signed with the Mercedes programme had Red Bull not come in with a more attractive offer.
“He's a really good boy [Max Verstappen],” he said. “Jos [Verstappen] he knows things about racing and I remember seeing Max first time around when he picked up his trophy in 2013 at the FIA awards in Paris when he drove the go-kart on stage and within two years that boy has made himself a name in F1, and for every reason.
“We never had any serious discussions because it was clear that he was in the Red Bull channel. When it mattered for Max we couldn't really give him interesting enough opportunities, Red Bull was giving him the Toro Rosso seat and it was clear that Red Bull needed to give him a Red Bull drive and here we go. Everything has panned out in the way that Jos has planned and that's great.”
Verstappen starts his first race with Red Bull Racing from fourth on the grid, his best starting position in F1.