The Formula One season kicks off this weekend with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. The race takes place at 12:30 a.m. EDT on Sunday morning in the United States (TV: NBC Sports Network).
All eyes will be on Max Verstappen, who at 17 will become the youngest F1 driver ever. Here’s what we know about him.
Yep. Verstappen was born on Sept. 30, 1997 in Belgium. On Sunday he’ll break Jaime Alguersuari’s record for the youngest-ever F1 driver by nearly two years (Alguersuari was 19 when he raced in the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix).
That seems young.
It is! In the Netherlands, where Verstappen holds dual citizenship and the country whose flag he races under, regular teenagers can’t drive alone — without an adult present — until they’re 18. The minimum driving age in Belgium also is 18.
Okay then! How did he get involved in F1?
Well, his auto-racing bloodlines run deep. Verstappen’s father is Jos Verstappen, a F1 driver from 1994 to 2003. His mother, Sophie Kumpen, was a successful kart racer whose father was a rallycross champion. His uncle, Anthony Kumpen, won the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series in 2014 and last month made his U.S. debut in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, a developmental series.
At age 4, Verstappen began kart racing. He worked his way up from there, debuting in European F3 — a major F1 steppingstone — last year. He won a circuit-high 10 races and finished third in the final standings.
So, what are his goals?
“I want to break other records. I want to break all the records. The records for most victories, for most world titles. That’s what matters. I’m not bothered about the age I win. I just want to win the World Championship,” he told the Guardian earlier this month.
How did he do in practice for Australian Grand Prix?
Not bad. He had the sixth-fastest time in the first session and the 14th-fastest in the second on Friday.