17-year old Formula 1 racing driver, Max Verstappen, has caused quite a stir since he came onto the F1 scene in March this year. Son of former Dutch F1 driver, Jos Verstappen, Max is the youngest ever driver in Formula 1. Incredibly, he hadn’t passed his driving test when he joined the sport, so was allowed to race at 200 mph around a race track but not permitted to drive on public roads. He has since passed his test and due to a regulatory change, his record as the youngest driver to race in Formula 1 will stand, since the minimum age for a super licence (the type you need to be allowed to race on track) has been increased to 18 years old.
Despite the backing of his famous father, Max has earned his place in F1 through talent. He rose quickly through the ranks of the Red Bull young driver programme and beat several other talented youngsters to secure a drive for Red Bull’s sister team in F1, Torro Rosso. It was widely expected that despite his talent, Max would not be able to cope with the pressure of the sport, which is notoriously ruthless if drivers underperform. Many of Max’s predecessors at the Torro Rosso team have been axed due to sub-standard performance, sometimes mid-way through the season. One one former Torro Rosso driver has gone on to achieve greatness in the sport. Sebastian Vettel joined Red Bull having been promoted from Torro Rosso and went on to win 4 consecutive world championships from 2010-2013.
Verstappen however, has risen to the occasion and has consistently surpassed expectations so far this season. He has been commended for his gutsy overtakes as well as outright pace and maturity. On the occasions that things didn’t go to plan, it was down to mechanical failures beyond his control. Red Bull boss, Dr Helmut Marko, recently told the current Red Bull drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kyvaat to pull their socks up because their counterparts at the sister team, Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz, were outperforming them.
The young dutchman’s luck has changed in the last week as Formula 1 headed to Monaco for what is considered the jewel in the crown of the F1 season. Verstappen silenced his critics during the ‘free practice’ sessions on the Thursday before the race by driving around the street circuit in the 3rd fastest time. Fellow drivers and race pundits alike praised Max for his pace around a circuit that is incredibly difficult to master with its narrow track and tight bends that leave no room for error. But his inexperience showed on race day when he was trying to overtake Romain Grosjean’s Lotus at the Sainte Devote corner and ended up causing a huge collision.
Having placed his car in prime position to overtake the Frenchman. Verstappen was caught out when Grosjean braked earlier than expected before the corner and crashed in to the rear right wheel of the Lotus. Verstappen’s front left suspension broke on impact and his car crashed into the barrier at over 100 mph. The Lotus was able to continue with no obvious damage and fortunately, Verstappen escaped unharmed from the cockpit. Those watching the race live on TV has the best angle on the accident as the live footage at the time was from the onboard camera next to the driver’s helmet.