Red Bull denies Mercedes forced its hand in Max Verstappen F1 deal
|By Ben Anderson||Sunday, August 31st 2014, 14:31 GMT|
Helmut Marko has denied an offer from rival squad Mercedes influenced Red Bull's decision to sign Max Verstappen and immediately give him a 2015 Toro Rosso Formula 1 seat.
Verstappen, 16, will become the youngest driver ever to race in F1 after securing a deal to replace Jean-Eric Vergne for next season.
The Formula 3 rookie, who is currently completing his maiden season of single-seater racing, was informally offered a chance to join Mercedes' junior programme for 2015, which would have included a race deal in GP2 and F1 Friday practice running with one of its customer engine teams, with a view to placing him in F1 with Force India or Williams in 2016.
Red Bull had been negotiating with Verstappen for some time, but Marko - head of its driver development programme - denied the Mercedes offer played a role in Red Bull's decision to place its new Dutch prodigy in F1 straight away.
"We are Red Bull, we are not Mercedes - we have a different philosophy," Marko told AUTOSPORT.
"I never asked what Mercedes was offering. We did our negotiations, built up our relationship and he decided to go with us."
AUTOSPORT understands Verstappen has signed a three-year contract to race for Toro Rosso and will likely make his debut for the team in free practice for November's United States Grand Prix at Austin.
Marko said Verstappen had committed to Red Bull because of the "good feeling" he had with the organisation.
"For us we have a proven record with our juniors," Marko added.
"We are not burning money and offering ridiculous money, that was always not the case.
"He's on a similar contract to all the other drivers, but it was just the chance to get an extraordinary, outstanding talent, which doesn't come every day."
Verstappen is having his first run in an F1 car this weekend, driving one of Toro Rosso's demonstration machines in the City Racing street event in Rotterdam (pictured), in which Kimi Raikkonen is also participating with a 2009 Ferrari.
Verstappen had a minor impact with the barriers during a doughtnut display early on, but the car was repaired ready for his final runs.