Red Bull says Max Verstappen would not come quickly with Mercedes in Formula 1 because the Austrian team has a different approach compared to the German team that led to the title. Verstappen broke Mercedes ’dominance in the turbo-hybrid era last year when he won the title after overtaking Lewis Hamilton at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the final lap, marking the first title for the second team to be non-Mercedes.
This marked the culmination of Red Bull’s long-held belief in Verstappen’s talent, as he was convinced from the start that he had the talent he needed to be a champion. Considering that Red Bull competed with Mercedes to sign Verstappen in his junior career, its adviser Helmut Marko welcomed the different attitude of the Austrian team towards the situation.
Speaking in the Dutch book ‘Formula Max’ published by Dutch motorsport and transmitted by British motorsport, Marko said that Red Bull approached things in a way that Mercedes could not. "Of course we knew that Max was also talking to Mercedes, but he wouldn't be in Formula 1 so quickly with Mercedes," Marko said of the period when his team and the German powertrain manufacturer spoke to Verstappen.
"They do not take those risks with the newcomers. But my plan to sign it and immediately put it in Formula 1 was not to surpass Mercedes. "Simply because I saw that he was ready for Formula 1, and it turned out to be so," he added.
Although Verstappen's promotion in Formula 1 was met with a lot of criticism when he was 17, Marko said that Red Bull never doubted the correctness of his decision. "Criticism was expected, but honestly, it was a calculated risk," he said.
“We gave Max all the proper testing at Toro Rosso within the regulations. He first appeared in the 1st free practice on one of the most difficult tracks in the calendar, and that was Suzuka. It was good to see how he would cope with such a difficult path.
" "All in all, it was a very good preparation for his first F1 season. Of course, it's always a risk because drivers who are successful in the junior categories don't necessarily have to be successful in Formula 1.
" "But during the conversation I had with him, I was convinced that he was ahead of his time: both physically and mentally he was strong enough for Formula 1. We never doubted our decision," he assures. "Max had a more experienced teammate at Toro Ross: Carlos Sainz, (who) had a lot more experience in the junior series, but Max immediately started at the same level."
Helmut Marko about Max Verstappen's progress
Verstappen's progress in Formula 1 was quick, and Marko claims that the Dutchman is now a significantly different driver than he was at the beginning in Toro Rosso and Red Bull.
"He has matured," he explains. "The difference is that, for example, if we had problems in free practice this year (2021), he remained calm." "In previous years, he would have exploded or shouted in boxing.
Now he knows he can’t change that, and engineers can’t change that either. Therefore, he is much more focused on the next session or his next opportunity. So, he is much more focused on the next session or his next opportunity.
" "The impatience he had before was also visible in the races from time to time, for example when the cars that were lagging behind (one lap each) did not move out of the way. He definitely learned that over time. "