Since his arrival into Formula 1 in 2015, Max Verstappen has certainly not been shy. In his first season with Toro Rosso he scored 9 top ten finishes, two of which were in fourth position.
Simply by starting the 2015 season he broke the record for the youngest person to start a Formula 1 race. When he finished in seventh position in his second race (Malaysia), he became the youngest person to win points in a Formula 1 race.
Following on from this, he has continued his record breaking career this year, as he became the youngest person to win a race at the Spanish Grand Prix, after Hamilton and Rosberg collided during the opening lap.
This begs the question: can Max Verstappen advance to become the youngest world champion yet?
Verstappen’s win at the Spanish Grand Prix was surrounded by controversy; in the week before the race, he was promoted to Toro Rosso’s sister team, Red Bull.
Daniil Kvyat was demoted to the sister team, Toro Rosso in Verstappen’s place. This followed a string of inconsistent results for him since the start of the 2016 season, although at the end of the 2015 he did finish in seventh position in the Drivers’ Championship, one ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
In the Chinese Grand Prix 2016 he finished third, with Ricciardo behind him in fourth. It is no surprise therefore that Kvyat was disappointed by the decision by Red Bull to demote him to Toro Rosso.
As he said in the press conference shortly after, “it was a bit of a shock”, and “I feel like I did everything for the team, bringing in the points, doing development work.”
“The differing levels of F1 experience between the two drivers could be crucial in maintaining a friendly relationship.”
He claims he wasn’t given an explanation for the move, “just words”, which clearly rattled him; he finished tenth in the race following the announcement, while Verstappen and Ricciardo finished in first and fourth position respectively.
On the other side of the camp, Verstappen was undoubtedly happy to be given the opportunity to race for Red Bull: “I’m racing for a top team now and that is always what I wanted to do. The team has given me a lot of confidence and I’m going to enjoy it”.
He was sensitive to Kvyat, however, as he said that it was not his responsibility to say whether Kvyat deserved to be demoted. This did not break the tension in the F1 camp, however, as Kvyat’s face expression was one of disappointment throughout the conference.
Talking about his new teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, Verstappen said that he “has a lot of experience and I will try to learn a lot from him”. The differing levels of F1 experience between the two drivers could be crucial in maintaining a friendly relationship. We have seen that, when teammates are both very experienced, tension can follow, such as with Hamilton and Rosberg in the past two years.
The Spanish GP proved a frustrating weekend for Ricciardo amongst all the controversy of Verstappen and Kvyat, as he appeared on course for a race win following Hamilton and Rosberg’s crash, but only managed to finish in fourth.
However, regarding the promotion of Verstappen to his team, Ricciardo seemed to see the positives: “Max is a serious F1 driver, and that’s really good for me. It’s definitely good motivation. Max is the newest challenge for me, and he is a big one”.
However, we will have to watch to see if any of the old rivalries within Red Bull surface from the days of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, where the German was often seen as having preferential treatment over the Australian.
Ricciardo will be hoping history doesn’t repeat itself, but if Verstappen continues on his flying form, Red Bull could be challenging Mercedes and Ferrari for the Constructors Championship, as they were from 2009 to 2014.
“Horner clearly feels like his team made the right decision to promote him in place of Kvyat, a decision which was vindicated by Verstappen’s win in Spain”
Red Bull boss, Christian Horner, definitely supported the change in his team as he was quoted as saying, “Make no mistake, Max is one of the hottest properties in Formula One. At such a young age, what he’s achieved in his time at Formula One so far has been exemplary”.
Horner clearly feels like his team made the right decision to promote him in place of Kvyat, a decision which was vindicated by Verstappen’s win in Spain.
Although the Monaco Grand Prix ended with Verstappen crashing out of the race (as did Daniil Kvyat), he was consistently within the top five in the three practice sessions. Clearly, Verstappen has the capacity to battle with the best drivers, such as Hamilton, Rosberg, Vettel and Ricciardo week after week.
He is currently in sixth position in the championship after 6 races, but with 15 still to go, Verstappen could quickly climb up the drivers’ standings if he continues to finish well.
This is all dependent on mechanical successes and failures, and the weather conditions during each race. However, after showing such a promising start to his Formula 1 career, in a few years Verstappen could become the youngest World Champion in the sport.
Words by Hannah Kitching
Featured image courtesy of continental-circus.blogsport.com.br
Article images courtesy of Alex Rushton via ‘flickr’ and pronostics-forumle1.fr
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