Red Bull tonight announced that Max Verstappen will be handed a race seat at Toro Rosso for the 2015 season. His 17th birthday is next month..
Less than a week after the Dutch racer, who is the same age as children collecting their GCSE exam results this week, signed for Red Bull’s Junior Team it was this evening announced on the company’s Austrian television station, Servus TV, that he will drive for Toro Rosso next season in place in Jean-Eric Vergne. The French driver is set to part company with Toro Rosso in November after three seasons with the Faenza-based squad.
Presuming that the 2015 season will start in mid-March, Verstappen will be aged 17 years and 5 months when he makes his grand prix debut next year. He will thus become the youngest driver ever to race in Formula One, taking the accolade from former Red Bull junior Jaime Alguersuari, who made his debut at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix aged 19 years and 125 days.
Verstappen, the son of former Benetton racer Jos, is a world kart champion and currently racing in the FIA F3 European Championship. He made the switch from karts to cars less than a year ago and has 8 wins from his 25 races so far, enough to qualify for an FIA super licence. But established F1 stars may question whether he is too inexperienced to race at the highest level.
Last weekend at the Nurburgring he claimed his eighth win of the season. He is currently in second place in the championship standings with 325 points, 77 behind series leader Esteban Ocon, with two race weekends and six rounds left.
Verstappen’s countrymen Jan Lammers and current Sauber reserve driver Giedo van der Garde were both quoted this week by Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf as saying that the prodigy is not too young to race in F1.
“In terms of age, it can be very easy,” Lammers said. “At the age of 4, Max was already in a kart and the transition from Formula 3 to Formula One is not illogical. Alain Prost, Kimi Raikkonen, myself, we all did it. No one should forget that Max is a talent of the highest quality.”
Van der Garde added: “Personally, I think 17 is very young, but some are just mature earlier than others. When I look at myself, I was absolutely not ready for Formula One. Of course, it helps that his father Jos was in Formula One and knows exactly how everything works.”
Where the decision leaves Vergne is not clear. The French driver is currently 13th in F1 Drivers’ Championship standings, with 11 points, three ahead of 15th-placed team-mate Daniil Kvyat.
Twenty-four-year-old Vergne is ahead 6-5 in the qualifying battle with his 20-year-old Russian team-mate and has four points finishes to his credit this year, including two eighth-place results, in Australia and Canada. Kvyat, too, has scored points four times, with a best finish of ninth, in Australia and Britain.
For most people it’s the age at which they start learning to drive, let alone race an 800 horsepower F1 car.
Do you believe 17 years old is too young to race in Formula One? Let us know your thoughts.