F1 2015 Driver Review: Max Verstappen

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Max Verstappen

Team: Scuderia Toro Rosso
Car No.: 33
Races: 19
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: 4th (Hungary, USA)
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 49
Laps Led: 0
Championship Position: 12th

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

It is difficult to put into words the achievement of Max Verstappen in 2015. After being thrust into the spotlight to make his Formula 1 debut with just one season of single-seater racing under his belt, the Dutchman wasted little time in making an impression.

Verstappen was unfortunate not to score any points on debut in Australia, but he quickly made up for it with his first top ten finish of the year in Malaysia. Further points followed in Austria before he finished fourth in Hungary, marking Toro Rosso’s best finish in a race since Sebastian Vettel left the team in 2008.

Verstappen enjoyed a strong second half of the year that included a run of six straight points finishes, including another fourth place finish in Austin, despite being on the wrong strategy at the end of the race. He comfortably finished 2015 as the top rookie in the drivers’ championship.

And yet it was not his final score that made 2015 so impressive for Verstappen. Instead, it was the fine race craft he showed week in, week out. When thinking about the overtake of the year, Verstappen is the only name that really comes up: his dive down the inside of Marcus Ericsson in China; his ballsy move on Pastor Maldonado in Monaco; his bravery in passing Felipe Nasr around the outside of Blanchimont at Spa; his moves around the outside of Turn 1 at Interlagos. They are all signs of greatness from a driver destined to tear up the record books.

Oh, and he’s only 18. Just in case you missed it.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

It was a shame, I thought, that the FIA reacted to Max Verstappen’s promotion to Formula 1 with the introduction not just of superlicense points, but more crucially the 18-year-old age limit for racing. Frankly, Red Bull wouldn’t have placed him at Toro Rosso if they didn’t think he could get the job done – age be damned – and so it was that the 17-year-old Dutchman did just that in an amazing rookie season.

He was on course to score points in his debut at Australia before mechanical woes – a common story in either Red Bull camp this year. And his misjudged move on Romain Grosjean at Monaco was a true rookie mistake that earned him a five-placed grid penalty.  Other than those two negatives, Verstappen was obviously driving beyond his years for the majority of the rest of the season.

In the six intervening years between when Sebastian Vettel got promoted to Red Bull, Toro Rosso had a grand total of zero top-five finishes between Sebatien Bourdais, Sebastien Buemi, Jaime Alguersuari, Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat. Verstappen had two, and he was also a consistent points finisher with eight in the last 10 races. The undisputed rookie-of-the-year could well podium before he turns 20, and perhaps begin his own assault on Vettel’s records.

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”