Wolff says he advised Verstappen to sign for Red Bull

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff has admitted that his team came close to signing up Formula 1 rookie sensation Max Verstappen.

Ultimately, the 16-year-old Dutchman and his father-manager Jos went with Red Bull‘s famous driver programme, after Helmut Marko promised him a race seat for 2015 at Toro Rosso.

“We had several meetings with Jos and Max,” Wolff, Mercedes’ motor sport chief, confirmed to Bild. “He is certainly a great talent, but we would not and could not guarantee him a seat with us in Formula 1.

“So I advised them to accept the offer from Red Bull,” Wolff confirmed.

Verstappen’s signing at a very young age – before he even qualifies for a license to drive a road car – is controversial and it will be a big talking point throughout the Belgian GP weekend.

But Formula 1 legend Emerson Fittipaldi thinks the talented Dutchman can be ready for his record-breaking 2015 debut.

“Today, with all the electronic help, young drivers with talent are able to go very fast right off the bat,” he told Brazil’s Globo. “Last year I had the chance to drive a new Lotus and the car is really well balanced.

“The drivers also have a very large support team around them. I am good friends with Franz Tost, he has worked with the drivers who later went to Red Bull like Vettel and Ricciardo, so I trust him a lot,” Fittipaldi added. (GMM)