Dutch teen takes big step from school to race track

Dutch teen takes big step from school to race track

Max Verstappen is sure to be making schoolboy errors when he  becomes Formula One's youngest ever driver next year.

The Dutch 16-year-old, who turns 17 in September but has already been announced as a Toro Rosso driver, still has a year to go at school and faces the prospect of mixing racing with homework and exams.


"I still need to plan how we are going to do that. We will see," Verstappen told reporters at the Belgian Grand Prix on Friday in his first news conference at a Formula One race.

The son of former grand prix driver Jos, 'The Boss' who competed against the likes of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, will at least have obtained his regular driving licence and race superlicence by then.

He will remain too young to buy a beer in some countries but that will not be a concern, even if Dutch brewers may be disappointed.

"I don't like alcohol," he said. "So that's maybe a good thing for the moment. But I go out with friends and have fun. I think that's also important."

The prospect of Verstappen's arrival at the Red Bull-owned team that catapulted four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel to success has been the talk of the Spa paddock.
While the majority of drivers say they would not have been ready at his age, they also agree that they too would have seized the chance to drive anyway.

"Sometimes you are ready for Formula One at 17, sometimes 29, or sometimes you are never ready. It depends on the character, personality," declared double world champion Fernando Alonso, who made his debut with Minardi as a 19-year-old in 2001.

"Probably (at 17) I was not ready. Even if you feel you are ready, and if I felt at 17 I was ready, now with 14 years in F1 you know there are things you need to improve on and that you learn with time," he added.

"But now F1 cars are a lot easier to drive, not so demanding physically, so in a way that could help the new guys."

Verstappen, who also interested championship leaders Mercedes after shining in European Formula Three, had no doubts and shrugged off the media attention with a composure that belied his years.

Career goal

"Ever since I was seven years old, Formula One has been my career goal, so this opportunity is truly a dream come true," said Verstappen.

"We've worked tremendously hard to reach Formula One and I will give my absolute best to be successful in the pinnacle of motorsport," he added.

"I was always (taking) big steps. From karting to F3 was obviously a big step," he said, likening his driving style to that of Ferrari's Alonso.

"It was a bit of a different environment for me because he (Jos) was an F1 driver, he was really close to me and we did everything together. So it's a bit different for me. I think I am ready for it.
"At the end, the age is just a number and it's on the track where you have to show. I think driving-wise it shouldn't be a problem. It's more everything around it. What is the most important is that you have to be fast on the track."

The youngster will be given some Friday practice sessions this year, with Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne set to leave at the end of the season anyway to make way for him, and he said the schedule was in the process of being worked out.

"We are finding now a good day to start driving an old F1 car, just to get the superlicence. From there on we are also seeing which Friday days I can do," said Verstappen, who will smash the record as the youngest F1 driver by two years.

The previous youngest, Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari, also made his debut with Toro Rosso but was discarded just two years later.

Verstappen preferred to look at a more recent example, with Australian Daniel Ricciardo graduating from Toro Rosso to Red Bull as Vettel's team-mate this year.

He recognised he would need to earn the respect of the other drivers but rejected a suggestion he might recruit a 'mind coach' to help deal with the pressure.

"I think if you start to need a mind coach that wouldn't be a good thing. You need to have a strong head as well," said the youngster, whose father had a reputation as tough and uncompromising.
"I don't see any problems about that."

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