Toto Wolff reveals what he told Max Verstappen about joining Red Bull

Max Verstappen made his full debut for Toro Rosso in 2015, when he was just 17 years old.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has admitted that Red Bull’s Formula 1 setup is the “best way to do it” but is also a “very expensive” setup, with the Austrians’ sister side having allowed them to sign Max Verstappen for the 2015 F1 season.

Before being announced as a Red Bull Junior driver, Verstappen was initially in talks with Wolff; however, the Mercedes boss didn’t have a seat to offer the reigning World Champion.

Mercedes, of course, only have the one team in F1, which at the time had a line-up of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Red Bull on the other hand, have their factory side and also AlphaTauri (previously known as Toro Rosso).

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By having a sister team, Red Bull have two seats where they can promote and develop young drivers, something Verstappen benefitted from.

Wolff ultimately “advised” Verstappen to accept an offer from Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko and join the Red Bull family, where he was offered a seat in F1 at Toro Rosso.

“Yeah, but I didn’t have a seat in Formula 1 that I could offer him,” Wolff told Motorsport Italy.

“We had Lewis [Hamilton] and Nico [Rosberg] and they both had long-term contracts.”

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“Max was clearly an interesting young man but at the time we could offer him a place in GP2 and then maybe a contract,” the Austrian said.

“But Helmut was able to offer him a place in Formula 1 and in the end I also advised him to go that route. And that meant seeing him leave the Mercedes orbit.”

Mercedes losing the chance to sign Verstappen is proof that Red Bull’s system of having two teams works successfully, with the likes of Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly, Carlos Sainz, and Alex Albon having all had time to settle into the sport at the sister team, before being promoted.

As strong a method as it is to getting the very best drivers, it’s also “very expensive”, something Wolff is aware of.

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“It is undoubtedly an advantage to be able to have a team like they [Red Bull] have in which you can evaluate the drivers on the field,” Wolff added, when asked if Mercedes had considered getting a sister team.

“It was a big advantage in their case to be able to evaluate Honda [with Toro Rosso in 2018] before the move to the main team [in 2019], but it is a very expensive operation.

“You have to be able to afford to spend 100 million a season to be able to judge the drivers, and I repeat, it is the best way to do it, but it is also very expensive.”