The FIA’s hastily applied Superlicence rules are likely to be questioned further after Max Verstappen’s impressive Formula 1 début in the Australian Grand Prix.
The seventeen-year-old Scuderia Toro Rosso driver performed admirably at Albert Park, hardly putting a foot wrong all weekend, belying his young age and apparent lack of experience, ultimately only retiring when his car expired just after his maiden pit stop whilst running inside the top ten.
In fact, since making his first appearance in a Formula 1 car at the back end of 2014, Verstappen has been virtually error-free, and this makes the reasoning behind the introduction of the new Superlicence rules from the beginning of 2016 seem wide of the mark.
The FIA introduced the Superlicence rules in January, with the idea to clamp down on young and inexperienced drivers such as Verstappen making it into Formula 1. From 2016, a driver will need to be at least eighteen to race in F1, meaning Verstappen is likely to remain the youngest driver in Formula 1 history.
A driver will also have to have raced for at least two years in junior formulae, and acquired a certain number of points based on their championship results over a three-year period. Verstappen’s second year in motor sport is in Formula 1…
However, with Verstappen’s performance, should these new rules be re-evaluated?
Verstappen has proved in just one race that age is just a number, and experience counts for very little if you have the talent behind the wheel. The FIA introduced the change in regulations because they were worried about him being out of his depth, but it is apparent already that he is not.
The Red Bull Junior programme were right to take the Dutchman under their wings, and promote him into the race seat alongside Carlos Sainz Jr. His car control is excellent, and he showed in Australia that he belongs in Formula 1. His level-headiness was also top notch, with his lack of experience not showing due to showing maturity beyond his years.
Many questioned whether the Superlicence rules needed changing in the first place, and now Verstappen has thrown further doubts into the discussion. Modern-day Formula 1 teams are sensible, and won’t take just any driver into their team, and most know that talent of the like of Verstappen only comes around every now and then.
It is already incredibly hard, and expensive, to reach Formula 1, and these new Superlicence rules look set to make it even more difficult. F1 needs talent like Verstappen in its field, yet the FIA look set to limit the opportunities drivers have to reach F1.
Maybe now the FIA should sit down, realise that the old Superlicence rules were working, and maybe revise their plans about the new rules. Verstappen was ready, the FIA just assumed otherwise.