Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has said he believes that Max Verstappen’s title success in 2021 will not be his last.
Verstappen has shown promise throughout his career having won 10 races in Formula 3 in 2014 at the tender age of just 16, earning him a spot in Red Bull’s junior team – Toro Rosso – for the 2015 season.
He finished the year ahead of fellow rookie Carlos Sainz in the Drivers’ Standings before moving up to the senior squad four races into 2016 when Daniil Kvyat was dropped following a crash with Sebastian Vettel at his home Russian Grand Prix.
While the Ufa-born racer’s dismissal seemed a harsh one, there was much intrigue around the young Dutchman’s adaptability to a race-winning car, and he proved himself just one race in.
He took victory at the Spanish Grand Prix on his debut after Sir Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg wiped each other out on the first lap, and has since taken 20 more.
10 of those came last year during his championship-winning season, although the final race in which he beat Sir Lewis Hamilton to the title was surrounded by controversy.
Race director Michael Masi reneged on an earlier call to prohibit any lapped runners from going through by permitting only the five between Hamilton and Verstappen following a late Safety Car.
The Dutchman would then claim the victory on the final lap of the race, leaving Wolff “disillusioned” with the pinnacle of motorsport.
The FIA have since put the contentious ending down to a “misunderstanding” of the convoluted regulations, and Masi has been replaced by a combination of Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas.
If the roles were reversed though, Wolff would have gladly swept up the fortuitous opportunity as Verstappen did.
“If the situation had been reversed, we would have claimed the trophy too and we would have been happy too,” he told de Telegraaf.nl.
“Max has been riding strong all season and has also missed a lot of points. He is a deserved world champion.”
1978 world champion Mario Andretti previously testified that life “gets better” after a driver has taken their maiden crown, and Wolff has no doubt that the 24-year-old can add to his tally.
“Max is a brilliant driver and this won’t be his last world title,” he stated.