Mercedes’ non-executive chairman Niki Lauda confirmed that the four-time Constructors' Champions never made an offer to sign highly-rated driver Max Verstappen.
The 20-year-old managed to record two Grand Prix wins in the 2017 season, a great achievement considering he had to retire in seven of the first 14 races.
Known for his aggressive and exciting driving style, Verstappen is contracted to Red Bull until the end of the 2020 F1 season, and following Nico Rosberg’s retirement from the sport following the conclusion of his 2016 title-winning campaign, Mercedes opted to sign Williams’ driver Valtteri Bottas instead.
The flying Finn notched three victories last season, and three-time world champion Lauda is convinced that the move gave Lewis Hamilton the desire to claim back his title.
“It was only the right move because Bottas was the only available top driver,” claimed the Austrian.
“Lewis Hamilton then found new strength. Whether the reason was that Nico was gone, I do not know. But Hamilton has reached a level so that he was almost unbeatable. He made almost no mistakes and showed incredible races in the first part of the season, when the car was difficult to drive.
“Bottas did his job, he inspired Lewis. He could have performed a little better, but the Mercedes car was so hard to drive in the beginning, it was not easy for him.”
Press reports did link the then-teenager Verstappen to Mercedes as Hamilton’s teammate, but those rumours were shot down by Lauda.
“Actually we never made Verstappen an offer,” said Lauda.
“I have a very good relationship with Red Bull Race Director Helmut Marko. We fly together and so on. But if he thinks you’re taking something away from him, he’ll make a quick contract.
"We talked about it today. I told him: 'You could have saved a lot of money. We never talked to Verstappen, not even about money'.“