Toto Wolff says Max Verstappen's emergence at the dawning of their dominance of Formula 1 contributed to the Silver Arrows missing out on the Dutchman's signature.
Verstappen signed a deal with Red Bull in 2014 over Mercedes, debuting in F1 the following year with Toro Rosso and then stepping up to Red Bull in 2016.
The Silver Arrows made another attempt to tempt him across for 2017, but Verstappen signed a long-term deal with Red Bull and will hope to lead a title fight against the champions in 2020 on the back of another promising 2019.
Verstappen was once again linked to Mercedes this year as rumours about release clauses in his contract swirled and Wolff hailed the 21-year-old's progress.
"First of all, let me say that the boy from then is an exceptional young man," Wolff told RacingNews365.
"At Red Bull, Max was given the time to develop. He was allowed to make mistakes at Toro Rosso, but also at Red Bull - as in Azerbaijan's GP last year, with Daniel Ricciardo.
"Most top drivers have such a learning curve. His step from last to this year is very impressive, I think."
Wolff has no regrets at missing out on the Dutchman, but hopes to have the next Verstappen in Mercedes' junior ranks.
"Everything happens for a reason," he said. "Red Bull has given this boy time to develop.
"At the time, we had no facilities, no structure for juniors. The focus was still on Mercedes winning races and championships as a team. It was still very fresh for us.
"You know, of course we want 'the next Max'. A few are already coming through our training program, I tell you. But the only real Max Verstappen just came too soon for us."
GPFans is a multi-platform, multi-language brand dedicated to Formula One coverage. We bring you all the ins and outs of the sport, 24/7, everything from up-to-the-minute news and features to the latest viral stories and clips.
We believe that a new generation of exciting, outspoken drivers will make F1 more popular than ever before, and we want to give our users access to as much of their heroes as possible, on and off the track. From Lewis Hamilton to Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo to Sebastian Vettel, we provide in-depth analysis of every every Grand Prix in the season, from Australia to Abu Dhabi.
With Formula One under the new ownership of Liberty Media, how the sport is being covered is evolving, and GPFans will look to be at the heart of this progression into new media, as one of the fastest-growing sites covering the king of motorsports.