Max Verstappen will become the youngest driver to take part in a Formula One weekend when he drives a Toro Rosso in Friday practice at the Japanese Grand Prix only three days after his 17th birthday.
The current record is held by Germany’s quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel, who took part in free practice for BMW Sauber in Turkey in 2006 at the age of 19 years and 53 days.
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Toro Rosso said on Monday that the Dutch youngster had been granted the mandatory superlicence by the governing FIA after completing 300km in his first test in a Formula One car in Italy earlier in September.
Verstappen, son of former F1 racer Jos, will drive the car of Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne in the first practice session at Suzuka ahead of Sunday’s grand prix.
“It is good preparation for next year, even if it’s not something I could have imagined a few months ago,” said Verstappen, who has already signed to replace Vergne in the team’s race line-up next season.
“To already be participating in a practice session is of course a dream come true.”
The teenager has been to Suzuka before, to take part in a go-kart race on the track next to the demanding figure-of-eight circuit, and was mindful of his father’s advice about how to handle it.
He has also spent a day driving the F1 layout on a simulator.
“My dad has raced at Suzuka many times and he told me it’s not an easy track to start on,” he said. “I’m not going there to break any records, I just want to gain experience.
“My first impression is that it’s not an easy track and for example it looks hard to get the combination right in the first esses.
“I have one and a half hours to drive there and I’m looking forward to doing a good job, for myself and for the team.”
Toro Rosso’s Russian rookie Daniil Kvyat, who made his debut this season as a 19-year-old and took Vettel’s record as the youngest ever points scorer, has not even been to Japan before let alone Suzuka.
“I like Japanese food and I am looking forward to experiencing it in its home environment,” he said. “I’ve also read a bit about Japanese culture, which has made me curious to see the country for myself.”
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