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2015-01-05 09:18

'YES LAD, THAT'S THE STEERING-WHEEL': Bit tough, perhaps, but some think Max Verstappen, 17, is too young to be driving F1. Image: AFP / Sandra Koning

LONDON, England - Max Verstappen is playing down expectations ahead of his record-making Formula 1 debut with Toro Rosso.

The International Automobile Federation is about to clamp down on very young drivers from 2016 so the Dutchman's record of racing in Melbourne aged only 17 could stand for some time.

Verstappen, whose former F1-racing father Jos is only 42, comes to the grid not only amid controversy but also high expectations, having leapt straight from karts to F1 in less than a year.

REALISTIC GOALS

Verstappen told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf: "Occasionally I hear or read things that make it seem miracles are expected but I'm a driver, not a magician. I don't think victories or podiums are really likely."

Father Jos, once a younger team mate to Michael Schumacher, was also concerned that expectations from his son's debut were running wild. "He will continue to collect kilometres and gain experience," he said, "and undoubtedly once in a while he will park the car in the gravel.

"I especially hope that people support him and don't suddenly use his youth against him. Many think Max is the new champion but that's nonsense - though I hope he will be over three years."

Max explained that scoring debut points in 2015 was "a realistic goal". "If I manage to finish eighth to 10th it would mean I'm coping well. To rise above sixth would need luck - of course I might get lucky in rain or if many drivers retire but I don't expect us to fight with Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren and Williams.

"Their budgets are much higher than ours but numbers from the wind-tunnel show our car will be good."

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