Former F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve has weighed in on the debate about Max Verstappen making his debut at the age of 17 next season, saying that it is “the worst thing ever” for the sport.
The outspoken figure spoke to Autosport about Verstappen’s promotion to a full-time race seat at Toro Rosso for 2015 after just one season in single seaters, and made his feelings quite clear.
“It is the worst thing ever for Formula 1 because it will have two effects: it will either destroy him or, even if he is successful right away, then F1 will be meaningless,” Villeneuve told the British publication.
“What will F1 be? It will be nothing. It doesn’t do any good for anyone. Getting a superlicense should be meaningful.
“There is something that is flawed there. Basically, it is like getting all the presents without deserving anything.
“But there is this thing of ‘the younger, the better’. What’s the next step? A team who will sign someone at 15 just to get the image out of it?”
Following the team’s announcement earlier this week, the paddock has been abuzz with talk about Verstappen and Toro Rosso. Most of the current drivers have said that they are happy to race against the Dutch youngster, but deemed it to be a risky move on the part of the team.
Red Bull’s chief technical officer Adrian Newey is not as concerned about Verstappen racing in F1, but fears that it may set a dangerous precedent as Villeneuve alluded to.
“I don’t think age per se is particularly important,” he said. “Over the years we’ve seen a huge spread in driver ages. Fernando is still one of the very top drivers but has been in it for many seasons.
“I think what is a much more concerning question personally is the effect on education that happens for these drivers to get there at that age. A lot of drivers in karting and in junior formulas frankly just aren’t going to school. They don’t go to school at all.
“It’s something which motor racing as an industry urgently needs to look at, because personally, I think we’re being irresponsible allowing that.”