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.