Max Verstappen: Teenager to drive in practice at Japanese Grand Prix

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen will become the youngest driver in Formula 1 history next season when he races for Toro Rosso

Max Verstappen will become the youngest driver ever to take part in a grand prix weekend when he drives in first practice in Japan on Friday.

The Dutchman, who is 17 on Tuesday, is making his debut for the Toro Rosso team, for whom he will race in 2015.

He will drive Jean-Eric Vergne's car in preparation for next season when he replaces the French driver.

"To be already participating in a practice session is a dream come true," Verstappen said.

F1's youngest drivers
Jaime Alguersuari19 years, 125 days2009 Hungarian Grand Prix
Mike Thackwell19 years, 182 days1980 Canadian Grand Prix
Ricardo Rodriguez19 years, 208 days1961 Italian Grand Prix
Fernando Alonso19 years, 218 days2001 Australian Grand Prix
Esteban Tuero19 years, 320 days1998 Australian Grand Prix

"It will be a very valuable experience, spending some time in the car and also getting used to working with everyone in the team, to prepare myself for next year.

"I am not going there to break any records, I just want to gain experience."

Suzuka is renowned as one of the toughest circuits in the world and is regarded as an extreme test for even the most experienced drivers.

Verstappen said he had spoken to his father, the former F1 driver Jos Verstappen, about the circuit and had been warned it is "not an easy track to start on".

Max Verstappen added: "I have spent one day driving this track on the simulator, which helps a bit, but it's no substitute for driving it for real.

Max Verstappen speaks with the media in the paddock at the recent Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps
Verstappen was the centre of media attention at the Belgian Grand Prix last month

"My first impression is that it's not an easy track and for example it looks hard to get the combination right in the first Esses.

"I have one and a half hours to drive there and I'm looking forward to doing a good job, for myself and for the team."

Verstappen has less than one year's experience in car racing but Red Bull, who use Toro Rosso as a junior team, say they have promoted him because he is a "once in a generation talent".

The company's motorsport adviser Helmut Marko compared Verstappen to the great three-time world champion Ayrton Senna in an interview last week.

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