At 24-years-old, Max Verstappen has already cemented his place as one of the greatest talents Formula 1 has ever seen, but eight years on from his debut session, is it safe to say we will never see another driver like him?
The 2021 World Champion will undoubtedly go down as one of the sport’s greats when he retires, whilst that’s still an eternity away with the Dutchman only just in his mid-20’s, he’s already changed the way young drivers can get to Formula 1.
At the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, at just 17-years-old, a baby-faced Verstappen drove for Toro Rosso (known now as Scuderia AlphaTauri) in FP1, replacing Jean-Éric Vergne for the session.
Verstappen instantly impressed and didn’t do “nothing wrong”; however, his appearance in the championship at such a young age led to a restructuring of the young driver system.
The Dutchman currently holds the record for the youngest driver to ever participate in an F1 session, a record that will stay with him potentially forever.
Not long after Verstappen’s FP1 appearance, the FIA changed the rules regarding young drivers in a dramatic clampdown.
The rules were changed so that drivers had to be 18-years-old in order to qualify for a super licence, something which they need to gain a certain number of points on to be eligible for F1.
Had the rule been implemented before Verstappen made his FP1 appearance, then there is a chance he wouldn’t have been seen on the F1 stage for a couple more years, after making the huge jump in 2015 from the European Formula 3 championship to a full-time seat at Toro Rosso.
Since the rule was changed, this leap from European F3 to F1 wouldn’t work.
Red Bull chief advisor recognises that they threw Verstappen into the “deep end” at Suzuka; however, it turns out it was all done “deliberately” by the Austrian’s.
“We deliberately chose to throw Max in the deep end,” Marko told Formule1.nl.
“Suzuka was designed by a Dutchman, so is a circuit for guys, right? That was a nice challenge for Max.
“But I believed that with him we had found someone who would become the new normal and in Suzuka, we got the confirmation of what I already knew.
“Max did nothing wrong in that practice and was competitive from the first moment he got into a Formula 1 car.”