F1’S TEEN DRIVER PERMIT
ed Bull’s announcement, Aug. 18, that
Max Verstappen will race for Scuderia
Toro Rosso in the 2015 Formula 1 World
Championship caused shock waves.
The Dutch-Belgian Formula 3 rookie
was still 43 days shy of his 17th birthday
when the energy-drinks giant dropped its
bombshell (astutely timed to coincide
with the build-up to his home grand prix
at Spa-Francorchamps), and was still only
16 when he logged his first proper F1 test
mileage in the frenzied weeks that followed.
When Verstappen makes his F1 race
debut in Australia next March 15, he’ll blitz
the record for the youngest ever grand
prix starter, currently held by former Red
Bull protégé Jaime Alguersuari, at 19
years and 125 days (see page 78).
Meanwhile Red Bull’s resident talent
spotter, Helmut Marko, has piled on the
pressure by comparing his new signing with
Ayrton Senna, calling him “an exceptional
talent that comes along only once in
decades.” This from the man who mentored
Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo...
The fast tracking of Verstappen has left
many wondering if it’s really wise for a
17-year-old kid to be racing in F1,
whatever the obvious potential of the
individual in question. Is someone of that
Rage really ready for the pressures that he
will inevitably face? Should a teenager not
yet eligible to drive a road car in his native
country be allowed to race an F1 car? And
what about the ethical issues should the
next 17-year-old phenom be signed up to
race a Martini-liveried Williams, or a
Johnnie Walker-backed McLaren – or even
find themselves on a podium clutching the
obligatory bottle of champagne?
And there’s a bigger picture in terms of
the wider public perception of the sport. Is
F1 getting too easy if someone so young
can be rushed straight into it, bypassing
most of the accepted training series?
The response from the Red Bull camp,
and from those who know and have worked
with Verstappen, is that he’s exceptionally
mature for his age, and that he is ready.
Just three days after his 17th birthday on
Sept. 30, his first run in a current-spec F1
car seemed to confirm that. Driving in the
first free practice for the Japanese GP (one
of four planned FP1 outings this season),
he ended the session just 0.443sec slower
than Toro Rosso teammate Daniil Kvyat –
as in, the guy tapped to replace four-time
F1 champ Vettel at RBR in 2015.
One could also point to the fact that
some of the greats of the sport – Senna
Is 17-year-old Max Verstappen too young for Formula 1? Red
Bull doesn’t think so. And as the guy who nurtured Max’s
precocious talents for a decade, neither does his father, Jos.
WORDS Adam Cooper MAIN IMAGE Philip Platzer/Red Bull