Meet Max Verstappen, not even of age to drive in the UK legally yet, but he is becoming F1’s youngest ever driver taking his seat at Torro Rosso next season replacing Jean Eric-Vergne.
Verstappen turns 17 at the end of September and has made a name for himself in the European F3 Championship, having only graduated from karts last year. There is no doubt this is a massive asking of the young man.
What do we know about Verstappen? He is the son of former Formula 1 driver Jos, 42, who contested 106 grands prix for teams such as Benetton and Tyrrell between 1994 and 2003. He will have plenty of guidance from his Dad to keep his feet firmly on the ground and focused. He is also part of the Red Bull young driver programme which he only joined last week, there was also hot interest from Merecedes.
He made an impressive transition to F3, winning six consecutive races and has eight victories in 27 races so far this season, leaving him second to Frenchman Esteban Ocon in the overall standings. Verstappen will graduate to the biggest stage of single seater racing with less than 40 races completed. It is not unheard of though, a certain Kimi Raikkonen had only contested 23 single-seater races when he graduated to F1 in 2001. He went on to become world champion in 2007 and has won 20 races so far.
It is a huge ask for the 16 year old, Torro Rosso will have two young drivers if they keep Daniil Kyyvat who has scored points with the team at just 19 with two ninth place finishes this season. The whole point in Torro Rosso is meant to be Red Bull’s little sister and feeder team so maybe it is the right thing to do but I can’t help but feel for Jean Eric-Vergne who will be on the lookout for a new team for 2015.
I also hope F1 teams don’t forget great talents like Paul Di Resta who is a fantastic driver more than capable of doing a great job for a team. We will have to watch this space to see which new faces emerge for the 2015 season, with the impressive GP2 driver Stoffel Vandoorne highly rated by Mclaren and many others waiting in the wings.
I look forward to finding out more about Verstappen who seems a very chilled out guy, and likens himself to Hamilton in terms of braking style. However, I wonder about his physicality compared to someone like Hamilton who is 13 years his senior and fully developed with drivers in the best shape ever since the sport began. Most 16 year old lads haven’t fully bulked out so he will have much work to do to keep up. His record suggests he fast, we will see next year. I do have an enormous amount of respect for Verstappen, after all when I was 16 I was trying Jack Daniels for the first time and worrying if I had managed to get some GCSEs!
But first we must turn our attention to the current season, and its re-commencement after the summer break this weekend at Spa Francorchamps. One of old school favourites, fans will be on the edge of their seats for another weekend which will provide more twists and turns in the race for the championship.