Helmut Marko has revealed he only expected a podium from Max Verstappen in his first races as a Red Bull Racing driver, saying he feels vindicated by the formerly controversial decision to replace Daniil Kvyat.
The shock driver shuffle ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix had dominated the headlines, but with the Dutchman going on to claim a sensational win in Barcelona, the swap decision is now being hailed as inspired.
For Marko, who took much criticism ahead of the race for ditching a driver that had been on the podium only two races earlier, he says going from 'zero to hero' is indicative of how quickly the sport can change.
“No risk no fun - that's Red Bull DNA,” he told the official F1 website. “Remember: only one and a half years ago we were called 'criminals' for putting a 17-year old youngster in a Formula One car - now we are heroes!
“We always knew he would do well - and that it was not too early for him. There was never the intention that he should win his first race - we wanted him to grow slowly into the team.
“I was the hero. You see how fast it can go: from zero to hero in only a race distance. But to be honest, that doesn't really affect me.”
Reflecting on the decision to fast-track Verstappen into F1 for 2015, Marko says it was his mature attitude and articulation that persuaded him to take a risk in signing him.
“He looks 18, but at my first meeting with him, the most important one when he was 16 years old, he articulated himself about his future like a 24-year old. The vision he'd got about where he wanted to be was unbelievable for somebody so young.”