Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes that the ‘brilliant’ Red Bull driver Max Verstappen will go on to win many more world champions and that could start as soon as the current season.
As things stand, Verstappen has won a race and not managed to finish the other two in the opening three rounds.
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc has already created a bit of distance between himself and the chasing pack, but it is still early doors as far as the season is concerned.
Wolff’s high praise of Verstappen may come as a surprise to some given how frustrated he was at the end of last season when Max pipped Lewis to bag his maiden championship in a controversial manner.
However, it appears like Wolff’s innate appreciation for Verstappen has outweighed the bitterness of last season.
“[Last season’s success] was not Max’s last title,” Wolff told De Telegraaf.
“He is a brilliant driver. It’s completely normal that the battle was so intense last year. It’s part of racing.
“If the situation had been reversed, we would have claimed the trophy and been happy about it. Max performed strongly all last year and he missed out on a lot of points. He deserved to be world champion.”
No bad blood with Verstappen: Wolff
Wolff denied there being any bad blood between himself and the young Dutch driver, who was a target for Mercedes when he was entering the sport back in 2014.
“It’s true that there were some controversial moments last year. Everyone has their own view on the matter, their own perception of it,” Wolff said.
“Often, the truth lies in the middle. But if you ask me personally, I think Max is very mature and intelligent, quite apart from his qualities as a driver at his age.
“I have a lot of respect for him and for his father, Jos. That will never change, regardless of the discussions that have been going on.”
Wolff offers Mercedes prediction
While Wolff did not want to write Mercedes off completely as far as this season is concerned, he did give an honest assessment of where he thinks the Silver Arrows are placed.
No longer the pace-setters, Mercedes has been plagued with a number of problems this season, with star driver Lewis Hamilton often claiming that his car is impossible to drive.
“My first thought was that this is a repeat of my first year in 2013 – but that was easier than it is now. We had a fast car then, but especially problems with managing the tires during the race,” he said.
“Now we have two teams and four drivers who are more competitive than us. We still believe this concept can work. The situation won’t be there in a few days.
“It’s a fantastic challenge for us, as a team. We have good people and two great drivers in Lewis and George Russell. We want to prove we can recover and fight back. But Red Bull and Ferrari have it better at the moment – and we have to be humble about that.”