Verstappen set for FP1 debut at Suzuka

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen made his debut in a Formula 1 car on Tuesday and now De Telegraaf newspaper claims Red Bull has targeted October’s Japanese Grand Prix as a potential first official outing for the teenager.

That is despite Toro Rosso chief Franz Tost saying at Spa that Verstappen’s first Friday practice outings will only be in “Austin, Sao Paulo and Abu Dhabi”.

But Red Bull may now be speeding up the teenager’s already-accelerated Formula 1 programme even more.

“Max is in England for a brief introduction,” said Max’s father Jos.

He is referring to an outing for Verstappen at Rockingham, at the wheel Red Bull’s title-winning 2011 car, in Toro Rosso livery. It is a shakedown ahead of a forthcoming demonstration event in Rotterdam.

“It [the Rockingham debut] is not a test,” Verstappen’s father said. “Today (Tuesday) he is driving back and forth on the straight to get used to a Formula 1 car.”

Red Bull’s Helmut Marko confirmed: “Everything went well. Max did everything right, but I expected nothing else. When you talk to Max, you realise quickly that he is a confident young man who knows exactly what he is doing.”

But even Red Bull’s very own Sebastian Vettel, who made his Formula 1 debut as a teenager, has described Verstappen’s age and experience as “borderline”.

“There is some sort of limit and Max is very young,” the German said on a visit to Sochi this week to try the new Russian Grand Prix layout.

“I guess he should go to school, but he is not going to have much time for that next year! He already has a lot of racing experience, and his talent is obvious,” continued Vettel. “So why shouldn’t he be in Formula 1?” (GMM)