16-year-old Max Verstappen will be the youngest driver in Formula One history come 2015.
It is now just over two weeks since Toro Rosso shocked the F1 community by signing Max Verstappen to a race seat, despite being only 16-years-old and having one season of single seaters under his belt. His inexperience, coupled with a crash during his first drive in an F1 car, begs the question of whether the Italian team have signed the right racer to the seat.
The Dutchman, son of former F1 driver Jos, is one of four believed to have been contenders for the seat, and of the four is easily the youngest and least experienced of them all.
Other options - Da Costa, Sainz, Lynn
Antonio Felix da Costa - Firstly, Antonio Felix da Costa was thought to have been a shoe-in for Toro Rosso last season. He was next in the hierarchy, and had shown his raw talent in Formula Renault 3.5. Instead, the team opted for the GP3 champion Daniil Kvyat. A surprise to many, but the Russian has proved already that he has what it takes to compete in the top echelon of motorsport. Felix da Costa has now signed up for the inaugural Formula E season, so his commitments will lie there instead of Formula 1.
Carlos Sainz Jr. - Next up is Carlos Sainz Jr, who everybody expected to be the next to race for Toro Rosso. After Felix da Costa took his commitments elsewhere, the Spaniard went to the front of the queue of drivers lining up for a Toro Rosso race seat. Again, the team went against the obvious hierarchy in hiring Verstappen. This has left Sainz Jr out in the cold, but more recently he has become a contender for a seat at Caterham, maybe even as early as this season’s Italian Grand Prix.
Alex Lynn - Finally, current GP3 championship leader Alex Lynn. The highly-regarded Brit may well end up in a Toro Rosso seat in the future, but it was doubtful whether he would be promoted the same way as Kvyat before him. As far as promotion is concerned he was never mentioned in the same light as da Costa, Sainz Jr or Verstappen, but he was a passing consideration.
The hugely-obvious talking point about Verstappen’s promotion has been regarding his age and his lack of experience, and people are fully within their rights to question the team’s decision. The Dutchman will almost be a full two years younger than Jaime Alguersuari was when he made his debut in 2009, and will have a mere single season of professional racing to his name.
Then there's Kimi...
Having said that, it must be noted that Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen had only 23 races under his belt before he entered Formula 1, and he went on to become world champion in 2007. While it remains to be seen if Verstappen is another Raikkonen, one has to bear in mind the cars of today are very different to those of 2001, when Raikkonen entered the sport.
The case for Verstappen hasn’t exactly been made easier after the 16-year-old crashed the car during a demo run in Rotterdam. A crash which, to be completely honest, was clearly down to inexperience rather than a simple driver error.
Hard to question Red Bull
At the end of the day, Red Bull have been in Formula 1 long enough now to know a good decision from a bad one, and it is clearly evident that they wouldn’t have put Verstappen into their ‘B’ team unless they saw talent in the youngster. Whether he has more talent than the likes of Sainz Jr is uncertain, but you have to trust that the team made an informed decision rather than merely answering to media hype.
Is Verstappen ‘the right man’? No matter what is being said, we'll have to wait until Melbourne to truly find out.