Max Verstappen: Teenager to drive for Toro Rosso next season

Sixteen-year-old Max Verstappen insists it is "more dangerous to bike through a big city than race in an F1 car" after being signed up to drive for Toro Rosso.

The Dutchman will become the youngest F1 driver in history when he competes in next year's championship.

Close call for Verstappen's dad

Verstappen, who turns 17 next month, currently races in Formula Three.

"I'm a relaxed guy. I will handle it," Verstappen, who will replace Jean-Eric Vergne at Toro Rosso, told the BBC.

Verstappen is the son of former Formula 1 driver Jos, 42, who contested 106 grands prix for teams such as Benetton and Tyrrell between 1994 and 2003.

Max Verstappen will break the record for F1's youngest ever driver by almost two years when he lines up for his debut next year.

Spain's Jaime Alguersuari - who was 19 years and 125 days when he raced in Hungary, also for Toro Rosso, in 2009 - is the current record holder. Alguersuari left Torro Rosso and F1 at the end of the 2011 season.

The youngest driver  to earn a Championship point is Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat, who was 19 when he finished ninth in this season's opening race in Australia. The Russian will be Verstappen's team-mate in 2015.

F1's youngest drivers

Jaime Alguersuari

19 years, 125 days

2009 Hungarian Grand Prix

Mike Thackwell

19 years, 182 days

1980 Canadian Grand Prix

Ricardo Rodriguez

19 years, 208 days

1961 Italian Grand Prix

Fernando Alonso

19 years, 218 days

2001 Australian Grand Prix

Esteban Tuero

19 years, 320 days

1998 Australian Grand Prix

Verstappen was a successful kart racer before driving for Van Amersfoort Racing  in this year's Formula Three Championship. 

He made an impressive transition to F3, winning six consecutive races at one stage, and has eight victories in 27 races so far this season, leaving him second to Frenchman Esteban Ocon in the overall standings.

Although he will graduate to F1 with fewer than 40 single-seater races under his belt, it is not unheard of for drivers to make the step up to the top level of the sport with such low levels of experience.

Finland's Kimi Raikkonen had only contested 23 single-seater races when he graduated to F1 in 2001. He went on to become world champion in 2007 and is a 20-time grand prix winner.

James Allen - BBC Radio 5 live F1 correspondent

"Verstappen has the credentials and the results in junior category Formula Three to qualify for a super licence but established Formula 1 names will question whether he has enough experience."

Verstappen is not fazed by his fast-track progress and believes the hardest transition has already been made.

"I think the biggest step I had was karting to F3. I think F3 to F1 will be a smaller step," he told BBC Radio 5 live.

"I'm not that worried about it. The cars are a really safe. I think it's more dangerous to bike through a big city than race in an F1 car."

Verstappen's F3 team boss also believes he can succeed.

"It is a huge step but I think if anyone can do it, it's Max," Frits van Amersfoort told the BBC. "I've never seen a kid that age who is so calm and so relaxed. He has incredible feeling with the car.

"Time will tell and it's a huge step, but I think Max is capable of doing it. He will need some guidance and Toro Rosso will give him that for sure."

By joining Red Bull's junior team, Verstappen is following the same career path as four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel and his Red Bull team-mate, Australian Daniel Ricciardo.

Did you know?

The minimum age for driving a car in Verstappen's native Netherlands is 18. To hire a car you have to be 19.

BBC 5 live correspondent James Allen said Verstappen might have the necessary requirements  to race in F1 but that some drivers would be concerned at sharing the grid with a 17-year-old.

"The governing body, the FIA, has to award a super licence and you can't race a Formula 1 car until you've got a super licence," Allen explained.

"The minimum requirement for that is some victories in certain important feeder categories.

"Verstappen ticks the boxes, so he is eligible for a super licence, but I think there will be quite a debate this weekend at the Belgian GP."

The ousted Vergne, 24, has collected 11 points for Toro Rosso this season after making his F1 debut for the team in 2012.

The Frenchman wrote on Twitter:  "Toro Rosso is a good school. I learnt a lot. Now focused on a great end of season.

"I'm already working for 2015. Still a lot to show in F1."