It was August 2014 when Red Bull caused a stir by revealing teenager Max Verstappen would make his F1 debut with Toro Rosso the following year.
Having not even completed his first season of single-seater racing, and at that stage never driven an F1 car, Verstappen’s stratospheric rise proved the hottest of topics – with opinion split on whether or not he would be ready for the top level at such a young age.
Nearly two years on, and with the 18-year-old Dutchman having just become the youngest race winner in history, take a look back at what some of F1’s leading figures past and present said before his race debut in March 2015…
Helmut Marko, Red Bull advisor and head of junior driver programme
“He is an exceptional talent that comes along only once in decades.
Scuderia Toro Rosso Verstappen Driver Hat
“Most likely Ayrton Senna [he is comparable to]. And in such a case you must not look at his age. He has been talking with people who are experts when it comes to the development of youngsters and they all say that [in terms of] his mind he is more like 22 than 16.
“He has been racing since he was four years old – professionally. So we expect him to be competitive from the first race. We are not playing the lottery – we know what we are doing. And success proves us right.”
Mika Hakkinen, two-time world champion
“It’s too young because in F1, the risk is high. In F1 you don’t go to learn, you have to be ready. F1 doesn’t allow you to do too much learning.”
Fernando Alonso, two-time world champion
“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 1 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.”
Jean Todt, FIA president
“Personally, I do think he is too young.”
Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso driver who Verstappen replaced at Red Bull
“I don’t know, but 18 years old is probably on the edge. But who can say? It is his seat now and it is up to him to do something with it.”