It is very rare for myself to write about a driver who has just made his debut in single-seater racing, but there is a lot of hype surrounding sixteen-year-old Max Verstappen that I just had to look into it myself.
The latest son-of-a-former-F1-driver to break into motor sport himself, Max Verstappen is following in the footsteps of his father Jos, who raced for Benetton, Simtek, Arrows and Minardi in Formula 1, claiming two podium finishes as Michael Schumacher’s team-mate in the 1994 season.
However Max will want to avoid the pitfalls that befell his father. He was rushed into the Benetton drive in ‘94 when confirmed driver JJ Lehto crashed and injured his neck, ruling him out for a few races. It was clear he was not ready, and despite two podium finishes, Benetton did not retain him for 1995.
Max will want to be ready for Formula 1, should he get there. He made his karting debut at seven years of age, and made his move into international karting competition in 2010. He finished second racing for the CRG team in the KF3 World Cup, while he won the WSK Euro series crown.
He retained his WSK Euro series title in 2011, and then stepped up to KF2 level for 2012, winning the WSK Master Series and finishing second in the World Cup. In 2013 he raced to the KF2 class European Championship title, while finishing third in the KF1 World Championship.
Max made his debut in a single-seater series in the Florida Winter Series, which is being hosted by the Ferrari Formula 1 team. In the first race weekend of the series, he topped qualifying in just the second session he tried, and finished a high of fourth in the races. He subsequently won race three of the second weekend of races at the Palm Beach International Raceway, having once again topped qualifying. After two events, he sits second in the championship behind Ferrari junior driver Antonio Fuoco, with two more events to come.
Father Jos admits that Max could make the leap straight into the FIA European Formula 3 series for 2014, bypassing the usual route of racing Formula 3 at a national level. Max tested an F3 car back in December, but the sixteen year old is also contemplating the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 series.
“Max is looking at European Formula Renault 2.0, but also European F3,” said Jos.
“Max’s driving style is very suited to F3. These cars have a lot of front end, which he likes a lot, and he was immediately very fast when he tested.”
Setting competitive lap times in your debut test in a car is impressive for anyone, let alone a sixteen year old, who will not turn seventeen until the end of September. But is he ready for international competition, especially in the ultra-competitive European F3 series.
Jos will want his son to be competitive, which is for certain. It might be prudent to allow Max to get experience in single-seater cars under his belt before pushing him into European F3, but the opportunity might not arise again.
“It is better to concentrate on one series and Max needs to learn, but I’m impressed with what he has done so far,” said Jos. “The speed is there and this is the main thing.”
From what has been seen in his very short career so far, it might be that Max Verstappen is the latest talent on the recent up swing of Dutch motorsport. Having seen Giedo van der Garde and Robin Frijns reach F1 level, as either race or test drivers, Max could well be the next. At sixteen he has his career ahead of him, but the initial signs are positive.
Max Verstappen – remember his name, he might just be someone special. I will be keeping my eyes on him that is for sure.