F1'S YOUNGEST DRIVER: Many former F1 drivers have expressed concerns about Toro Rosso signing 16-year-old Max Verstappen for 2015. Image: AP/ Luca Bruno
HELSINKI, Finland - Former Forrmula 1 driver, Mika Salo, has added his voice to concerns about the 2015 Formula 1 debut of Max Verstappen - who's is only 16-years-old.
Salo, who raced against the 16-year-old's father Jos, backed 1997 F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve who has questioned whether Verstappen's signing by Toro Rosso is good for F1. Verstappen will be 17-years-old in September 2014 and will make his F1 debut with Toro Rosso in 2015.
Salo, now a pundit for Finnish TV, told MTV3: "I think it's really bad for F1. A guy that young should not be allowed to drive in F1. It should be the very top category of racing for which drivers train for years. F1 is not a Junior series."
'WHAT IF IT DOESN'T WORK OUT?'
Salo, who raced for Sauber, Toyota and Ferrari, added that Verstappen risks being thrown into the deep end and having a promising career ruined early. "What happens when it doesn't work out after two years? An unemployed F1 driver at the age of 19."
Retired Red Bull driver Mark Webber also weighed in on the debate, laughing to Austrian Servus TV that Verstappen's 2015 debut rules out any hopes of a return to the category for himself: "I had a wonderful career but when I see that a 17-year-old is coming into F1 I think it's not hard to see that it's over when you're 38!"
Red Bull, however, is strenuously defending its decision to sign F1's youngest rookie yet, with Helmut Marko arguing that while other teams "talk about young talents, we make it a reality".
Marko said: "I bet 100 euros that in his first race Verstappen will be able to compete with (Daniil) Kvyat."
Meanwhile, Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost said that while Verstappen was ousting Jean-Eric Vergne in 2014 that doesn't mean the 24-year-old was a bad driver.
He was quoted by Brazil's Totalrace as saying: "Of the drivers we have had, I think Vergne is the best, although Sebastien Buemi also did a good job and has shown talent for Toyota (at Le Mans).
"I hope Vergne has a chance to develop and to show more because he deserves to be in F1."