How good can Max Verstappen become?

Max Verstappen

Dutchman Verstappen’s win came in his first race for the Red Bull senior team

Max Verstappen has just set a record that will almost certainly never be broken.

His victory in the Spain on Sunday makes him the youngest driver in history to win a Formula 1 grand prix – by two years and 210 days. He is 18 years and 228 days old.

He has broken the record set by his predecessor at Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel. And the reason no-one is likely to surpass it is that so young was Verstappen when he made his debut last year that F1 has since set a minimum age of 18 for entry into the sport.


Sebastian Vettel was two years and 210 days older when he won the 2008 Italian Grand Prix

That record in itself marks Verstappen out as remarkable, but it was the manner in which he achieved that really stands out – and which suggests that, at least in his case, the need for a minimum age was misguided.

The Dutchman’s win was in his first race for the Red Bull senior team, to which he was promoted from Toro Rosso after four races of this season. He had never driven the car until Friday’s first practice on the Circuit de Catalunya – even if he had managed two days in the team’s state-of-the-art simulator.

Watching him out on track in those first minutes, there were a couple of wobbles as he adjusted to the increased grip of the Red Bull compared with the Toro Rosso he had been driving until then. But even so his first flying lap was an impressively fast 1:27.5 and he ended the session within 0.1secs of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

From there, Verstappen was stunning, even if Ricciardo ended up beating him in qualifying by 0.4secs with a quite stupendous one-off lap at the death.

“Max’s performance has been exemplary,” said team boss Christian Horner.

Listen to Max Verstappen taking maiden win


Max Verstappen held off former world champion Kimi Raikkonen for 30 laps to secure his first win in F1

“The biggest aspect has been his calmness. He has a lot of capacity when driving the car. He is a young man completely in control of what he was doing. He has not put a wheel wrong all weekend.”

There were a few questions flying around the paddock after the race as to exactly how and why Verstappen found himself in the lead of the race.

Some scented conspiracy, and said they did not understand Red Bull’s decision to switch Ricciardo – who had led from the start – to a three-stop strategy, forcing him to overtake three cars to regain the lead.

Track position is critical at Barcelona and Ricciardo had it, only for Red Bull to surrender it for him, their explanation being that they were worried about the threat from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel behind and felt they had to split their options.

What cannot be denied, though, is that Verstappen – whose new contract with Red Bull, negotiated as part of his promotion, lasts until 2019 – was flawless in his defence of the lead when he got it.

It is very early days and as Jenson Button said on Saturday, you cannot judge an F1 driver on one qualifying session, or one race.


Kimi Raikkonen, who finished second on Sunday, raced against Max Verstappen’s father early in his career. He finished fourth in his F1 debut at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix (pictured), with Jos finishing sixth. Max was three at the time.

But what is already clear is that Verstappen is a rare talent, who can make inspirational overtaking moves, is unusually mature for his age and has the world at his feet.

Will he prove to be better than Ricciardo? That remains to be seen. Is he a potential world champion? Without doubt. Both are.

As Horner put it, this sort of performance is “usually the sign of a very bright future”.

How does he compare?


Against the world champions: Michael Schumacher (left) was 23 when he won his first race in F1, the 1992 Belgian Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton (middle) was 22 when he claimed his maiden F1 win at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix.


Max Verstappen’s first win came in the 24th race he has started, although it was his first for new team Red Bull. It took Sebastian Vettel 22 races to record his first win, Michael Schumacher 18 and Lewis Hamilton six.

‘Brilliant. Just brilliant’


Jordi Cruyff, son of late Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff, believes his father would have been proud of compatriot Max Verstappen’s achievement


Nigel Mansell, who won the 1992 F1 world title, was in awe of the teenager’s display


Former Arsenal striker Lukas Podolski was full of admiration for Max Verstappen


His performance also caught the eye of nine-time MotoGP winner Valentino Rossi

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