Max Verstappen will replace Jean-Eric Vergne at Toro Rosso in 2015
Dutch youngster - who is not yet 17 years old - will set new F1 record
By William Esler
Last Updated: 30/10/14 8:03pm
Max Verstappen will replace Jean-Eric Vergne at Toro Rosso from the start of next season, it was revealed on Monday, making him the youngest driver in F1 history.
Verstappen is currently just 16 years old and only graduated from karts this year. However, an impressive string of performances in the European F3 Championship saw him join Red Bull’s junior programme earlier this month.
The Dutch driver turns 17 at the end of September and will therefore comfortably break the record currently held by Jaime Alguersuari, who was 19 years and 125 days old when he made his F1 debut, also for Toro Rosso, at the 2009 Hungarian GP.
“First of all, I would like to thank Dr Helmut Marko and Red Bull for all their trust and giving me the chance to make my Formula 1 debut in 2015 with Scuderia Toro Rosso," Verstappen said.
“Ever since I was seven years old, Formula 1 has been my career goal, so this opportunity is truly a dream come true."
Like current championship leader Nico Rosberg and McLaren's Kevin Magnussen, Verstappen has an F1 pedigree. Father Jos raced between 1994 and 2003, making his debut for the Benetton team alongside Michael Schumacher.
“There are several people that have helped me throughout the years and still support me to this day and I want to sincerely thank them," he continued. "First of all a big thanks to my father Jos, who has always been by my side, day and night, year after year.
“We’ve all worked tremendously hard to reach Formula 1 and I will give my absolute best to be successful in the pinnacle of motorsport. With the return of the Verstappen name to Formula 1, I hope we can relive old memories and I’m hoping to see many fans at all the Grand Prix circuits.”
Verstappen's fast-track to F1, which was announced on Red Bull's Servus TV station in Austria, means he will partner Russian Daniil Kvyat, who has himself only just turned 20.
Despite his age and inexperience, Toro Rosso Team Principal Franz Tost feels Verstappen has already shown the mental strength needed to compete in F1.
“We are happy to welcome Max into the Toro Rosso family,” Tost said. “It’s great to see how the Red Bull Junior Programme continues to find talented young drivers and gives them the opportunity to come into Formula 1.
“We consider Max to be as 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. This year he has already demonstrated how well he can cope under difficult conditions."
“Bearing in mind that Scuderia Toro Rosso was created with the aim of bringing young talent from the Red Bull Junior Team into Formula 1 and to educate them, it will now be up to us to provide Max with a competitive car, which will enable him to have the best possible start to his Formula 1 career.”
Vergne must therefore make way after three years with the Faenza-based team, although Tost is hopeful the Frenchman can secure himself a place at another outfit.
The 24-year-old was in contention for a seat alongside World Champion Sebastian Vettel little more than a year ago. Having lost out to Daniel Ricciardo, however, Vergne now becomes the latest in a string of drivers, including Alguersuari, to fall off the Red Bull conveyorbelt.
“I would also like to thank Jean-Eric Vergne for all his hard work,” Tost added. “He has produced strong performances, but unfortunately he was also hindered by some reliability problems, especially in the first half of the current season.
“We hope that we have resolved these problems and that he will be able to end the second half of this season on a high note and thereby show that he still deserves another opportunity in Formula 1.”