F1'S YOUNGEST DRIVER: Toro Rosso's new driver for 2015 will make history at the 2014 Japanese GP when he becomes the youngest F1 driver during practice on Friday. Image: AP / Luca Bruno
LONDON, England – Teenager Max Verstappen will become the youngest driver to take part in a Formula 1 weekend when he drives a Toro Rosso race car during Friday practice for the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.
Verstappen, son of former F1 racer Jos Verstappen, will drive Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne’s car during the first practice session at Suzuka. It will be three days after his 17th birthday.
The current “youngest driver” record is held by Germany quadruple F1 champion Sebastian Vettel; he took part in free practice for Sauber in Turkey in 2006 aged 19 years and 53 days.
Toro Rosso said on Monday (Sept 29 2014) that the Dutch youngster was granted his mandatory superlicence by the International Automobile Federation after completing 300km during his first test in an F1 car in Italy earlier in September.
Verstappen has already signed to replace Vergne in 2015. He said: "It is good preparation for 2015, even if it's not something I could have imagined a few months ago.
"To already be participating in a practice session is a dream come true."
The teenager has already raced at Suzuka – but that was in a kart race on a track next to the demanding figure-of-eight F1 circuit, and was mindful of his father's advice about how to handle it. He has also spent a day driving the F1 layout on a simulator.
Verstappen Jnr said: “My dad raced at Suzuka many times and he’s told me it's not an easy track to start on. I'm not going there to break any records - I just want to gain experience.
"My first impression is that it's not an easy track… it looks hard to get the combination right in the first esses. I have one-and-a-half hours to drive there and I'm looking forward to doing a good job, for myself and for the team."
CURIOUS ABOUT JAPAN
Toro Rosso's Russian rookie driver Daniil Kvyat, who made his debut this season (2014) as a 19-year-old and has taken Vettel's status as the youngest F1 points scorer, has not even been to Japan - let alone Suzuka.
"I like Japanese food and I’m looking forward to experiencing it in its home environment," he said. "I've also read a bit about Japanese culture, which has made me curious to see the country for myself."Stay with Wheels24 for the 2014 Japanese GP this weekend.