Ever since the announcement from Red Bull and Toro Rosso that the 16-year-old Max Verstappen will drive for the Faenza outfit next season, it has generated headlines everywhere. At 17 years next season, he will be the youngest ever driver to race in Formula 1. To be honest, it is a rare situation with Verstappen because he is only in his first year of senior racing - in a single-seater series. He is not even leading (currently second) the FIA Formula 3 series where he is competing currently and doesn’t even have a super license to race in Formula 1.
His dad, Jos, was an active Formula 1 driver for eight years. He only managed two podium finishes in a difficult tenure as a Formula 1 racer. His son, Max though, is said to be the next big thing already; he is fast, he is talented but, is he that good to get a breakthrough so early in his career, when other racers of his age are struggling to even get into the junior single-seater series?
Reactions, Red Bull offer
A lot of former drivers have voiced their opinions on the age factor. Naturally, they agree that it is too early for him to step into Formula 1. They are of the view that he requires some more experience, by racing in F3 or GP2/GP3 series before taking the top step. Perhaps, this is what Mercedes were offering him, when the news first broke out that the German manufacturer were talking with Max to get him in their junior driver programme. But, it seems as Red Bull had a better offer - a race seat with Toro Rosso in 2015 - which Max couldn’t say no to.
This extra ordinary promotion of Max left the two promising Red Bull junior drivers, Carlos Sainz Jr and Alex de Costa, once again in a dark room. Earlier this year when Daniil Kvyat was promoted from GP3 to Formula 1, it was these two junior drivers, who were mostly likely contender to move in to Formula 1, but that didn’t happen, of course. No driver would want to be Carlos and Alex right now after being snubbed twice in successive years.
Now confirmed, what next for Max until his Formula 1 debut
With Max not having a super license, it is widely expected that he will take part in a private test to cover the required mileage to get a Formula 1 super license(300km). He will subsequently take part in a couple of practice sessions later this year to get to grips with 2014 cars. It is only then, everyone will see how fast he is and how quickly he can adjust to the car. It has to be noted, all through his karting years, he was won every title in all the championships he competed in Belgian. Moving into the International karting, he won titles in almost all the championship he competed in.
It will be interesting come 2015, to see how he copes up with the Formula 1 pressure; when Daniil was handed his race debut so early, there was apprehension among fans, pundits, drivers. But twelve races in the championship and he has done a fair job, given the car he has. Although, the case with Max is different, because Daniil had four years of single-seater racing experience including GP3, while Max has just one season of F3 experience behind him.
Now what for Max
Earlier this week, Verstappen was involved in a promotional event for Red Bull/Toro Rosso in his homecity of Rotterdam, Netherlands. It was a normal event but because Max was involved in it and that he hit the barriers while performing donuts, the crash made headlines. It added to the growing criticism that is he isn't ready to handle the speed of Formula 1.
The better way to judge him, however, will of course be when he drives the car in a circuit but he has to do a perfect job to keep the criticism at bay.
Are the new generation of Formula 1 cars too easy to drive?
Max’s promotion has also raised the question about the drivability of a modern Formula 1 car; is it so easy now that even a teenager can get to drive one? The current drivers think that it has become a touch easier, but still, there are complexities a driver needs to master, while driving the modern car. Only time will tell how good Max is, but for now, he is going to be in the history books for at least one reason next season. Whether he can add to the history book tally, we will see. The expectation will be high and he has to make sure that he delivers because in the history of Toro Rosso, only Vettel and Ricciardo have managed to get a drive with Red Bull, while all others have most certainly lost their seat. The journey has only started for him.
By Darshan Chokhani