In the Netherlands, teenagers must wait until they are 18 to drive a car without supervision. But Max Verstappen has found a way around that: The 16-year-old Dutchman will become the youngest Formula One driver in history next season.
Verstappen, who turns 17 on Sept. 30, will replace Jean-Éric Vergne for Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso in the circuit next season, the racing team announced Monday. He’s the son of Jos Verstappen, a former Formula One driver.
“Ever since I was seven years old Formula One has been my career goal,” Verstappen Jr said.
Toro Rosso’s team principal, Franz Tost, said: “We consider Max to be one of the most skilled young drivers of the new generation and we believe he has the necessary maturity and mental strength to take on this challenge successfully.”
Verstappen currently competes in the lower Formula Three European Championship, where he has won eight races and sits second in the points standings. The Guardian points out that the addition of Verstappen to Formula One will continue the circuit’s youth movement: The average age of the drivers at the Australian Grand Prix in March was under 27. By contrast, Juan Manuel Fangio was 46 when he won the F1 title in 1957.
The youngster told the Guardian he isn’t worried about the dangers inherent in auto racing. “I think it’s more dangerous to bike through a big city than race in an F1 car,” Verstappen said.
According to the Guardian, Formula One’s youngest driver to this point is Spain’s Jaime Alguersuari, who was 19 years 125 days old when he made his debut at the Hungarian Grand Prix for Toro Rosso in 2009.
Joey Logano is the youngest modern-era driver to compete full-time in NASCAR’s top division after a 2002 rule change mandated that drivers have to be 18 to compete in a national series. He ran his first NASCAR race at the age of 18 in 2008.