Toro Rosso race engineer Xevi Pujolar has heaped praise upon 17-year-old Max Verstappen, calling the Dutchman “the best I’ve seen so far”.
Verstappen will become the youngest ever driver to start a Formula 1 race in March at the Australian Grand Prix, smashing Sebastian Vettel’s existing record by over two years.
However, his rise to F1 has prompted criticism from many due to his age and relative inexperience, having completed just one year of single-seater racing prior to 2015.
Pujolar is not concerned though, telling GP Update that Verstappen is far beyond his years in terms of professionalism and has the potential to be one of the greatest in the history of the sport.
“He’s the best I’ve seen so far,” Pujolar said. “You can see the potential is there. You can see he’s going up.
“Some guys might be 10 or 15 years in motorsport, or even in F1, and their level of professionalism will never be as good as Max’s is at the moment.
“He wants to be the best and he works 100% for that. He wants the people around him to work just as hard. He’s pushing the engine guys, he’s pushing me and he’s pushing the team.”
Verstappen’s quick promotion led to the introduction of new criteria for the award of an FIA super licence required to race in F1. As of 2016, drivers will have to be at least 18 years old and hold a valid driving licence in their home country, meaning that Verstappen’s record may never be beaten.
During his first test for the team in Jerez at the beginning of the month, Verstappen put in a very impressive display to finish ninth in the final standings from the test with a good amount of track time under his belt.
Time will tell whether Verstappen’s rapid rise to F1 has been justified, but the early signs from the Dutchman are certainly encouraging.