The young gentlemen in the picture above is Max Verstappen. Max is the son of former F1 driver Jos Verstappen, and will next year partner Daniil Kvyat at Toro Rosso.
This wouldn’t normally warrant significant mention, were it not for the fact that Max Verstappen wasn’t born very long ago. In fact, Max was born in 1997, which means that he is currently 16 years old, and will turn 17 next month.
Which means that, at 17 years old when he straps himself inside that Toro Rosso next year, wee Max will become the youngest Formula One driver in history.
Despite his tender years, Max is a former karting world champion, and this season stepped up to the F3 European Championship where he’s won eight of 27 races to date, putting him in contention for the title already. Before that, he was busy learning to brush his teeth and tie his shoelaces all by himself.
We jest, of course. That’s still a while off. “Ever since I was seven years old,” says Max, “F1 has been my career goal, so this opportunity is a dream come true.” Max’s other dreams at the age of seven apparently included becoming Spongebob Squarepants and joining the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, so watch this space.
Though it’s not the first time a Formula One team has hired a youngster to drive a really, really powerful carbon fibre go-kart, Max is the youngest by a long shot. To date, Jaime Alguersari is the youngest man to have started a GP, aged 19 years and 125 days at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2009.
Max’s new team mate Daniil Kvyat was also 19 years old when he started racing earlier this year, and double F1 world champion Fernando Alonso hadn’t turned 20 when he started his career at the 2001 Australian GP.
It does, however, mean the end of Jean Eric Vergne’s career at Red Bull’s junior team. Toro Rosso’s Franz Tost was quick to acknowledge the Frenchman’s contribution to the team since 2012. “He has produced strong performances, but unfortunately he was also hindered by some reliability problems, especially in the first half of the current season,” he said.
Max’s debut will mean the return of the Verstappen name to Formula One. His dad, Jos, raced alongside Michael Schumacher at Benetton many moons ago, though of course will be remembered for that horrific blaze at the German GP.
So what do you think? Can a 17-year-old cut it in F1?