F1: Sixteen Year Old Gets Toro Rosso Race Seat!
I've always been a strong advocate of the school of 'if you're fast enough, you're old enough' but this may be pushing the limits of what is reasonable. Despite having a lengthy career in Karting - starting at age seven - Verstappen had never even sat in a racing car prior to October 2013. Eighteen months from first getting into a racing car to being on the grid in F1? That seems like an extremely short learning curve. Yes, the Dutchman has a prodigious win rate, but would another couple of years in junior formula hurt? I think not.
F1 is chewing up these young drivers at a ridiculous rate. Verstappen will become the youngest driver to compete in F1 when he starts his first race at 17 years of age - two years younger than the previous youngest starter Jaime Alguersuari. The Spaniard lasted just three seasons before being discarded - despite a good run of results with the Toro Rosso team. Vergne, at 24 years of age seems unlikely to find another drive in F1, again after three years with the team.
It is no surprise that F1 is losing its sense of occasion and appeal. Compare the men who put their lives on the line in the name of speed from this photo from 1973 with the kids who make up too much of the current field. Centre front of the photo is the American George Follmer - who made his F1 debut at 39, the oldest ever F1 debutant. The faces in this picture speak volumes.
There used to be a requirement for drivers to earn a F1 Super-license by producing results at junior formula which proved capability and intelligence. Adding an element of success at multiple junior formulae seems like something that needs to be added right, if only to prevent the sport being filled with twenty-somethings whose career stalled far too early for them to show what they could really do.