Verstappen set to make F1 history in Japanese GP practice just three days after turning 17

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Think back to what you were doing on your 17th birthday. Got it? Now prepare to be made to feel very average and, simply, a bit old.

Just three days after turning 17 – the age at which you can legally drive a road car in the USA or UK – Max Verstappen is set to get behind the wheel of a 2014 Formula 1 car for the first time during practice for the Japanese Grand Prix.

17 years and three days. In his native Netherlands, Verstappen is not legally able to drive without an adult to supervise him – yet he’s getting behind the wheel of a multi-million pound racing machine at the legendary Suzuka Circuit.

The debate about his age has raged on since Toro Rosso confirmed in August that he would be stepping up to a full-time seat with the team in 2015, replacing Jean-Eric Vergne. Despite his relative inexperience, Verstappen is known to be greatly talented, with Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko comparing him to the great Ayrton Senna in a recent interview.

Verstappen was due to run in practice for the final three grands prix of the year, but this was brought forwards after some successful initial running in an old Toro Rosso car (even if he did crash during a show-run).

The Dutch youngster is looking to gain as much experience from his run-out at Suzuka, and is not promising the world with his public debut.

“It’s a truly beautiful track,” Verstappen said on Suzuka. “It looks interesting and it’s certainly not the easiest track to begin at. However, I didn’t travel to Suzuka to break lap records but to gain as much experience as I can, so I’m looking forward to Friday.”

Verstappen will become the youngest ever driver to take part in a grand prix race weekend session, breaking Sebastian Vettel’s record set at the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix by over two years. He will also become the youngest driver to start a grand prix when he makes his debut in Australia next March.

Although he may not be chasing first place on the timesheets, if Verstappen can beat the established backmarkers and get close to the time of regular driver Daniil Kvyat, it will go a long way to silencing many of his critics.

You can watch Verstappen in action during FP1 for the Japanese Grand Prix, which will be available on Live Extra from 9pm ET tonight.

Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”