Formula One drivers say Max Verstappen’s impending promotion to Formula One next year at the age of 17 shows talented drivers can still make their way to the sport without financial backing.
“All the journalists are always asking ‘is it only with money that you can get into the sport?’ and things like that,” said Nico Rosberg.
“It’s great to see that if you have the talent and you really deserve it, there’s been many examples now recently that have made it into F1. That’s important, that’s good. Of course it’s very young but I think it will be OK.”
Felipe Massa agreed, pointing out Verstappen has been successful in his career so far. “He’s a very quick driver and he shows big talent in go-karts, Formula Three, winning many races – I think he’s second in championship,” he said.
“But it’s his opportunity. I think first of all it’s great that teams are still interested in the talent of the driver, not in the money, and I think that’s really positive, that’s good for the sport in general and I’m happy for that.”
However all the drivers in today’s press conference agreed they would not have been ready to take the plunge into F1 at the age Verstappen will be next March.
“Seventeen is a little bit young for sure,” said Massa, “I don’t know, we need to wait and see how he is going to perform in his first year.”
Daniel Ricciardo, who like Verstappen was part of Red Bull’s driver development programme, said “It makes me feel a bit old!”
“But definitely Red Bull’s junior team and the programme for me worked a treat, helped me get to where I am so obviously it’s good they’re now helping out Max.
“Obviously the age is a question mark but the talent, as Felipe said, is there. It’s going to be interesting but yeah, it’s good.”
Verstappen’s future team mate Daniil Kvyat, who is one of the eight drivers in F1 history to make their debut as a teenager, expects he will get up to speed quickly.
“I think any driver can come to Formula One and can adapt, get up to speed,” he said. “I think everybody’s coming to Formula One because of some reason, because he has talent, because he’s been successful somewhere.”
“There is always a reason why someone comes to F1. But there are many different things that make the difference, simple as that.”
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Image © FIA F3/Motofoto