Max Verstappen makes F1 history

Updated: 
Japan F1 GP Auto Racing
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Dutch racing driver Max Verstappen has made motorsport history today, after becoming the youngest ever person to take to the wheel of a Formula One car.

The 17-year-old driver, who is the son of veteran racer Jos Verstappen, climbed aboard a Torro Rosso car during today's first practice session at the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka. He reportedly put in a credible performance for nearly the entire session before he was forced to retire due to engine failure ten minutes from the end.

He finished 12th on the leaderboard, which was led by Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. Despite it being his first time experiencing an F1 car at competition speeds, Verstappen was just four-tenths of second behind his Torro Rosso teammate Daniil Kvyat.

At just 17 years and three days old, Verstappen, who is due to replace Jean-Eric Vergne at Torro Rosso next season, takes the record for the youngest ever F1 driver from Sebastian Vettel, who was 19 when he entered his first practice session with BMW in 2006.

Speaking on his first practice session, Verstappen insisted he had not been really pushing the car. "Of course I was not even close to the limit," he told The Guardian. "I was just driving safely without doing any crazy stuff. For me the main thing today was just to try to make a lot of laps."

Verstappen is currently racing in the Formula Three series, and is second in the championship standings. Despite the massive increase in complexity and technology the move to F1 represents, the Dutchman hasn't found it a particular problem.

"As [part of] a younger generation you grow up with all that kind of stuff," he said. "You play many times on the PlayStation and you can see the many buttons - they are all there - so you already have a first feel for it."

Lights go out on the start of the Japanese Grand Prix at 7:00am (UK time) on Sunday.