Red Bull Motorsport Advisor Helmut Marko has conceded signing Max Verstappen to an F1 race seat before his 18th birthday left the team open to criticism had the move proved unsuccessful.
The Dutchman signed the contract as a 16-year-old, making his debut at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix at the age of just 17 years and 166 days, breaking the F1 record as the youngest driver in history.
Verstappen made enemies early in his career with a robust driving style that scattered his early career with errors but has established himself as the dominant force in the sport since, taking the Drivers' title in 2021 before following up last season.
A 125-point advantage over teammate Sergio Perez means Verstappen will likely pick up his third championship success this year, vindicating the risk Red Bull took last decade.
"With Verstappen it was already obvious, as he was sovereign in the karts," Marko told Young Economist.
"Then I already had conversations with Verstappen. I mentioned Formula 3 and other classes, but then I told Jos, 'forget it, we'll do Formula 1.' That was quite brave at the time. Nothing could be heard on the phone for a while, that's how surprised he was.
"You find a driver like that once every 10 years. That's something extraordinary."
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The proof is there
On the risk taken, Marko added: "What if something had happened? Of course, the public would have fallen over us then. The system also changed after that, you have to be 18 years old now [to gain a super license.
"It worked out sensationally at the time. He did some stupid things, but others are still doing that at the age of 22. The proof is there."