Max Verstappen’s father has admitted they once flirted with the idea of signing up with Mercedes instead of Red Bull.
When Max was just 16 and turning heads in Formula 3, the teenager and his co-managers – father Jos and Raymond Vermeulen – received an invitation to meet up with Toto Wolff.
Wolff, the Mercedes boss, admits not signing the Dutchman is a major regret.
“We went to his house in Vienna,” Jos Verstappen confirmed in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“We had a serious discussion but I don’t think Toto had followed him so closely in karting and didn’t realise how special Max was,” he added.
“Otherwise, he would have signed him blindfolded, even though Mercedes didn’t have a junior program,” Jos added.
Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko, however, didn’t make the same mistake.
“We met him in 2014, in Hockenheim,” Jos recalls.
“We came into the Red Bull motorhome and sat together at the table. Helmut said he only had 20 minutes and Max, who was only 16 at the time, said that’s more than enough.
“Then Helmut wasted no time and immediately said that he wanted to put Max in the Toro Rosso next year. So we closed the deal.”
And so while Christian Horner and Adrian Newey are also close to Max today, father Jos admits that Marko remains the most important figure at Red Bull from their perspective.
“Helmut, of course,” he said. “He gave him this great opportunity. He is kind of a second father to Max.
“Also there is Gianpiero Lambiase, of course, his engineer who he has been working with now for seven years. They encourage each other, sometimes get mad at each other, but it works well. It’s a perfect marriage,” Jos added.
Jos doesn’t even shy away from naming a highly controversial race as his son Max’s best moment in Formula 1 so far.
“Abu Dhabi in 2021,” said the 51-year-old, “where he won his first world title.
“It wasn’t easy to overtake Hamilton on the last lap, even though he had new tyres, but Max was aggressive and surprised him in a place where Lewis didn’t expect it. That was a great move,” said Verstappen snr.
“At first we would have been happy with winning a grand prix, but everything happened so fast after that,” Jos continued.
“Now Max has a good car and he wins a lot, as Lewis did in previous years. Then suddenly the moment comes when your son has 41 victories, just like Senna.
“I don’t want to draw comparisons, and I’m not saying they’re on the same level, but Max really is special. And as a father it’s nice to see his successes. I am proud and happy,” Verstappen said.