Max Verstappen created his own tiny bit of Formula 1 history by becoming the youngest driver to ever participate in an official practice session at a Grand Prix after taking to the track on Friday for the Scuderia Toro Rosso team at Suzuka.
The Dutchman, who only turned seventeen this week, ran twenty-two laps around the Japanese circuit before an engine failure brought his session to a premature end. He set the twelfth fastest time and was less than half a second shy of team-mate Daniil Kvyat’s time.
The FIA European Formula 3 Championship race winner admitted his session in Japan was to gain experience ahead of his full debut in F1 next season. It was the first time he experienced the STR9 having achieved the mileage to obtain his Superlicence using a two-year-old Toro Rosso.
“Today for me it was all about getting experience in the car, especially on a difficult track like Suzuka,” insisted Verstappen. “I was impressed with the engine power. The car is bigger compared to the one I’m used to in Formula 3 and there are a lot more things to think about while you’re driving, so I had to use some laps to get confident with such a different car.”
Verstappen felt he was driving within himself in Japan, and the young Dutchman insists there is more to come. It appears that he will get more practice outings for the team in the final three races of the year in the United States, Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
“I was not taking any risks and I drove within my limits for all the session, doing as much mileage as possible,” said Verstappen. “I have to thank Red Bull and Scuderia Toro Rosso for giving me the possibility to be in the car already this year on Fridays and get well prepared for next year. I find myself very comfortable in this team and I like my working group.
“I hope to drive also in Austin, Sao Paolo and Abu Dhabi. Now that I know what it means to drive a Formula 1 car, I’m looking forward to it even more.”
Chief Race Engineer Phil Charles was full of praise for Verstappen’s maiden F1 practice run, even if his session was halted by the engine failure.
“It was a mixed day, with some positives but also a few negatives,” insisted Charles. “The real positive was Max’s performance as he drove a fantastic first session. We are very pleased with him, as he settled in very well and produced laps times we would not have expected for a first day.
“On the negative side, we had a problem that stopped Verstappen’s car out on track towards the end of FP1.”