Roberto Merhi is quick to acknowledge Max Verstappen’s special talent but the former Manor Marussia driver also feels the Red Bull ace’s meteoritic rise to Formula One stardom has been a case of “right place, right time”.
Verstappen took the sport by storm with Toro Rosso in 2015 and earned a fast track promotion to its parent team after four events last year.
The Flying Dutchman went on to become F1’s youngest ever race winner at the Spanish Grand Prix, while also displaying spectacular race craft and flair en route to another six podium finishes.
“Max was in the right place at the right time , that's how it is,” Merhi told Spanish sports publication AS. “There is no denying he is a very good driver, but it is also true that everything has come to him.”
The 25-year-old, who took 13 starts for Manor on his rookie year in 2015, also believes that stewards have tended to show leniency towards F1’s hottest property.
“He has got away with anything. I don't know if it is because he is so young or because he is spectacular.”
Asked to review fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz’ 2016 campaign at Toro Rosso, Merhi, who competed in the FIA WEC with Manor last year, added:
“He had a great season, especially after Max left to Red Bull. I think from that moment onwards, he gelled more with the team, which boosted his morale.
“He performed much better than [Daniil] Kvyat, who is not just any old driver and had been on the podium before being demoted by Red Bull for whatever reasons. So a magnificent year from Carlos.”