The youngest driver in Formula One history
This week it was announced that Max Verstappen will replace Jean-Eric Vergne in Red Bull’s development team - Toro Rosso. With Max’s debut in the next Formula One season at the tender age of 17 this will make him the youngest driver in Formula One History.
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Who is Max Verstappen?
Max Verstappen is the son of Jos Verstappen and is currently racing in the European F3 championship. Father Jos raced for Formula One between 1994 and 2003 alongside Michael Schumacher for the Benetton team. Max’s fast-track to Formula One means he will partner with Russian Daniil Kvyat who himself has just turned 20. Team Rosso says despite Verstappen’s young age they believe he has already shown the mental strength needed to compete in the Formula One series.
Is 16 years old too young to drive Formula One?
At just 16 years old Max Verstappen would only be on his L-plates if he was driving on Australian Roads. In order for Max to be eligible to race, just like on the roads, a racing licence is needed in order to compete in any form of motorsport. This doesn’t mean that you have to have an instructor sitting next to you like when sitting for your road licence but your driving needs to be observed by track professionals to ensure you are capable of controlling a race car and that you are able to race around other cars safely. You don’t however need to hold a regular licence in order to obtain a racing licence.
To race in major international championships you need an FIA International Driver’s Licence ,which can only be obtained from the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile – the worldwide governing body of motorsport. The highest licence grade in the FIA system is the Super Licence, reserved only for drivers who will race in Formula One.
How does Max qualify for a super licence?
Max Verstappen doesn’t yet have a Super licence as he has not completed a lap in a Formula One car. Due to the fact that he is the winner of the 2012 CIK-FIA Karting World Championship in the KZ class, he is automatically qualified for a Grade B international licence. A Grade B international licence is two class licence’s away from obtaining a super licence. Toro Rosso will no doubt give Verstappen more than enough testing opportunities to allow him to qualify for a Super Licence by the time he makes his debut at Albert Park next March.
What must be remembered is that unlike learner drivers on Australian roads, most young karters have been racing for almost a decade before they step into bigger racing vehicles. Verstappen started karting at age 7 logging up hundreds upon hundreds of races and notching up many wins and titles along the way. Although he does lack car racing experience he is no doubt going to be closely watched during the next Formula One season.