Villeneuve: Verstappen’s promotion “the worst thing ever for F1”

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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.”

NEOM McLaren Formula E announces Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast for 2023 season

McLaren Formula E Hughes
McLaren Racing
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Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.

The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.

“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.

“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.

“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”

The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.

Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.

Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.

McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.