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The announcement that Max Verstappen will race for Toro Rosso next season took many fans by surprise. When he takes to the grid in Australia, he will be only 17, the youngest F1 driver of all time.
Ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix, several of his future opponents gave their thoughts, with Adrian Sutil saying he considered Verstappen's promotion to be a risk. He told assembled press (h/t NBCSports):
It’s quite a risky move. Very surprising for everyone that after just doing half of the season in Formula Three, he has already been announced as a Formula One driver, so it might be very early but anyway, we’ll see.
There are certain drivers who can manage that, like [Kimi] Raikkonen, he had only one season in Formula Renault, and performed incredibly well, so it’s possible that it works again.
He has some good support with his Dad [ex-F1 driver Jos], for sure he is definitely well supported in every area, but I think you still need a bit of driving before you go into Formula One.
Fernando Alonso, however, was more relaxed. He told Sky Sports News that no one should judge Verstappen until they'd seen him drive, saying:
I think it is just one number on your passport, the age. At the end of the day you need to be ready for the challenge and be ready for Formula One grands prix.
Some people are ready at 17, some people are ready at 28—that is what we don’t know. So before saying anything we need to see how Verstappen does next year and after six to eight races we can see if he was ready or not. But at the moment anyone is ready.
Other drivers cautiously welcomed the young Dutchman at the official FIA pre-race press conference.
Felipe Massa said he thought 17 was "a little bit young," but added he was pleased Verstappen was being promoted on the basis of his talent, not because he had major sponsor backing. Nico Rosberg echoed his sentiments.
Daniel Ricciardo praised his Red Bull stablemate's racing record, saying the question marks were over his age, not his talent, while Romain Grosjean pointed out Verstappen will have to learn a lot in a short space of time.
Even Kimi Raikkonen had a few words. The Finn, who famously entered F1 after just 23 car races in 2001, told reporters (h/t crash.net):
I don't know how much he has done or what he has done. I did one full year, I only had 23 car races so he's probably going to have more than I had. Obviously I was a bit older than him but I did well.
Time will tell how he will do but obviously it's more simple now than it was in the past; more people get points. . .I think you can prepare yourself more easily now than in the past so I don't think there will be issues but obviously time will tell. Hopefully he will do well for himself.
Has any rookie ever attracted this much attention before he's even made his debut?