Toto Wolff opens up on visiting Max Verstappen’s house

Toto Wolff has disclosed meetings with Max Verstappen and his representatives, expressing regret over the missed chance to secure the Dutch driver for Mercedes.

Toto Wolff, the team principal of Mercedes, has revealed that he had two meetings with Max Verstappen and his representatives to discuss a potential move to the Mercedes Formula 1 team. In 2014, Verstappen’s impressive performances in various karting series caught the attention of top teams in the sport.

Wolff disclosed that Verstappen and his father Jos visited him at his office in Brackley, followed by another meeting at his home in Vienna. These discussions took place when Verstappen was transitioning from karting to Formula 3 in 2014.

“I spoke to Jos and Huub Rothengatter [Jos Verstappen’s manager at the time] when they came to my office in Brackley and that must have been when Max was in karting or the end of his karting days [in 2013] just before Formula 3 [in 2014],” Wolff told ESPN.

“And then we spoke again when Max and Jos visited me in my house in Vienna. We spent a few hours discussing his future.”

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However, due to the lack of a sister team, Mercedes ultimately missed out on signing Verstappen, who instead joined Red Bull, where he has remained ever since.

While Wolff admits to regretting the missed opportunity, he clarifies that signing Verstappen was not a feasible option at the time. 

“Do I regret missing out on Max? Certainly,” Wolff said. 

“But it wasn’t an option back in the day.

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“We had two drivers that I was extremely happy with, in Nico [Rosberg] and Lewis [Hamilton], and when Nico left [at the end of 2016], Valtteri [Bottas] was then the option and Max wasn’t even available.”

With Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton as his drivers, and later Valtteri Bottas as Rosberg’s replacement, there was no vacancy in the Mercedes lineup.

Wolff also expressed doubts about how a pairing of Verstappen and Hamilton would have worked out. 

He noted that Hamilton has been affiliated with Mercedes for a long time and there was never a need to consider such a scenario. 

He believes that everything happens for a reason and that he was content with the drivers Mercedes had at the time.

Although Wolff and Verstappen maintained a friendly relationship, they never discussed the possibility of Verstappen driving for Mercedes. 

“Would Max and Lewis have functioned? Maybe not,” Wolff pondered.

“And Lewis is a Mercedes guy since forever, so that hard question I never needed to ask myself for the organisation. Everything happens for a reason.

“But I had two drivers in the seats, no deal with a junior team, so it was clear that the option with Toro Rosso was what they needed to do and they did well.

“After that we always had friendly contact but never discussing driving.”

Wolff defended his decision by highlighting that, at the time, Verstappen was not dominating the Formula 3 championship. He pointed out that Esteban Ocon, driving a more competitive car, won the championship that year.

Looking ahead, Wolff acknowledged Verstappen’s growth and maturity in Formula 1, recognizing him as a true world champion. 

He emphasided that the transition to becoming a standout driver takes time, citing examples such as Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher, and Ayrton Senna.

“Back in the day I think there wasn’t huge hype around Max, because Max and Van Amersfoort weren’t winning the championship that year,” Wolff said. 

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“Esteban [Ocon] won in a more competitive car.

“You can only say when someone grows in Formula One and matures that he is a true world champion — an outstanding one. Before we had Lewis and then Michael Schumacher and before that [Ayrton] Senna.

“Who is the next one? Was it clear that Max would step into these shoes? It wasn’t clear back then.”