How Red Bull stopped Verstappen from becoming Hamilton's team mate at Mercedes

accreditation
0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing and second placed qualifier Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP interact in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 19, 2021 in Le Castellet, France.
Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing and second placed qualifier Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP interact in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of France at Circuit Paul Ricard on June 19, 2021 in Le Castellet, France.
Photo by Nicolas Tucat - Pool

Red Bull boss Christian Horner revealed how Red Bull stepped in to sign a young but supremely talented Max Verstappen ahead of Mercedes.

It came down to a battle of two uncompromising Austrians, Helmut Marko and Niki Lauda after the "karting jungle drums" had been beating about Verstappen's potential.

Of course, Red Bull won the day, giving the Dutchman his F1 debut with their 'sister' team, Toro Rosso, in the Australian Grand Prix less than six months after his 17th birthday.

Only 14 months later, Verstappen was promoted to the senior Red Bull squad and remarkably won on his debut for them at the Spanish Grand Prix to become Formula 1's youngest driver to lead a lap, finish on the podium, and notch a first victory all on the same day.

Now, of course, the 23-year-old leads the Drivers' World Championship standings – which shows why there was such an intense struggle for his signature back in 2014, as Horner recalled.

AUSTRIAN gp
Max Verstappen of Red Bull Racing, Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner and Red Bull Racing Team Consultant Dr Helmut Marko .

"I first became aware of Max after hearing his name through the karting jungle drums and through contacts who I communicated with," said Horner, quoted by The Sun.

"But it was only when he got into Formula 3 that suddenly his talent really started to stand out.

"It was at Silverstone and his first race. Here was a guy who had done no junior racing at all and had jumped straight into Formula 3, which was considered a big step up in those days, and suddenly he is running at the front and winning races.

"He was also doing it in a car that didn't belong to a traditional front-running team. So it became obvious he was a potential star of the future, and it was at that point Red Bull's advisor, Helmut Marko, really started to pay closer attention to what he was doing.

It was at Hockenheim in 2014, and I went for dinner with Helmut. He was saying how Niki Lauda was trying to sign Max for Mercedes, and he was asking me my thoughts.
Red Bull team boss, Christian Horner


"Once I knew that, I said 'sure, let's go for it, it's something Mercedes chim offer him'.

"Niki was pushing hard, and it was a bit of Austrian pride between Niki and Helmut who was going to get him! The advantage we had was the cockpit we had available at Toro Rosso and taking that risk.

"So we agreed on the deal, and the moment he first got in the car later that year to drive in first practice at the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, he was sensational."

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
Who do you feel was at fault for Verstappen and Hamilton's Italian GP crash?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Verstappen
25% - 978 votes
Hamilton
41% - 1617 votes
They were both at fault
34% - 1351 votes
Vote