Max Verstappen still well on track to be a future F1 champion despite his immature behaviour

Some times, given his rapid rise to the top, it is easy to forget that Max Verstappen is still just a teenager.

Some times, given his rapid rise to the top, it is easy to forget that Max Verstappen is still a teenager.

The Toro Rosso driver made his Formula One debut last year at the age of 17, and now in his second season, and with 20 races under his belt, is 18.

To put into context how far ahead of his peers he is, triple world champion Ayrton Senna was 25 when he had that many grands prix under his belt, Michael Schumacher, F1’s most successful driver, was 23, and Jamie Alguersuari, the previous youngest driver to start in F1 before Verstappen, was 20.

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Given how good his debut year was, with great overtaking, strong race pace and qualifying performances, and generally punching above his weight in a midfield car, there was always a danger too much was going to be expected of the Dutchman in the tricky second season.

Tricky? Only in that there are greater expectations, and given that Verstappen is again with Toro Rosso, there is only so much he can improve on given that barring a freakish occurrence he will not be challenging for a first race win this year.

But, there was a lot to like in Australia for Verstappen fans.

He was fifth in qualifying, the best non-Mercedes-GP or Ferrari runner, which was a great achievement.

But, then came the race, and probably the first reminder that Verstappen, for all his clear raw talent behind the wheel, is still a teenager, at least emotionally.

After running fourth in the early laps it all went wrong.

Upset that teammate Carlos Sainz Jr had been able to pit before him, he then chose to pit, without the team’s approval, causing chaos as his mechanics did not have his tyres ready for him.

He dropped down the order, got stuck behind Sainz, ranted to his team that he should be allowed past his teammate, and then to compound things spun after hitting the back of Sainz’s car, an incident where both cars, more through luck than judgement, were able to continue to the finish.

Tenth place, from running fourth, was a disappointment, but the criticism of Verstappen’s antics subsequently has been over the top.

Yes, he messed up by taking his pit strategy into his own hands, a move that probably cost him his chance of a top-five finish.

But, the aggressive driving behind his teammate, and the frustration on the pit radio should be certainly learnt from, but not something to be held against him.

Verstappen is comfortably the youngest driver on the grid, and hearing him moan to his team was a reminder that he is still only 18, and that while he drives like a man beyond his cars, that maturity had not yet stretched to keeping calm, especially when things are not going well.

That is the consequence of Verstappen being fast-tracked to F1. The experiences he would have picked up from GP2 and GP3, and dealing with reverse grids, would have helped him prepare for the days when things do not quite go according to the script.

It would have been more worrying, however, had Verstappen simply switched off in the closing laps, cruised home, not said a word on the radio, and then said something like “easy come, easy go” to the media afterwards.

Verstappen wants to win, and win badly, and anything that gets in his way will cause a tantrum or two.

Pretty much every recent F1 champion, with the exception of perhaps Jenson Button, has shown some immature behaviour during their ascent to the top.

Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel have all been fairly ruthless on the track, and not afraid to have a rant when its not going their way.

Verstappen has talent, that is clear, and he will win races and, in all likelihood, championships when he gets a more competitive car.

Australia was a race to forget, that he should not be looked down on too much for his behaviour, as there is more upside to it than not.

The speed is there, as is the desire, and the maturity will come with more experience. It is still looking very good for the teenager.

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