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16-year-old Verstappen to race in Formula 1

Wed, 20 Aug 2014

TEENAGER Max Verstappen is confident he can handle the pressures of the world of Formula One and insists he is not worried about the sport's dangers.

The 16-year-old is set to become the youngest driver in F1's history after joining Toro Rosso for the 2015 campaign.

Verstappen - 17 in September and currently competing in Formula Three - will replace Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne at the Red Bull-owned team.

Regarding the media attention he is getting and will receive in the future, the Dutchman, son of ex-F1 driver Jos Verstappen, told the BBC: "I am a relaxed guy, so I think I will handle it.

"I hope to offer a lot of action (on the track) of course.

"But I think, in the end, I am quite relaxed. For sure you have to work hard for it, but at the same time you can also have a little fun."

When then asked about the dangers of the sport, Verstappen said: "I'm not that worried about it. The cars are really safe.

"I think it's more dangerous to cycle through a big city than to race in an F1 car."

He added: "It is really exciting. It was always my dream since I was seven years old. In the beginning I couldn't believe it.

"The biggest step I had already was from karting to F3, and I think from F3 to F1 will be a smaller step.

"Of course (the physical pressure of F1 racing) is something we will have to work on, but for sure, at Red Bull, we will work it out.

"I think you have to be yourself all the time, and that is the most important thing. Only then, I think, you will succeed."

Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost has stressed his belief that Verstappen has the ''mental strength'' to cope with life in F1 and described the former karting world champion as ''one of the most skilled young drivers of the new generation''.

Meanwhile, former McLaren assistant team manager Tony Jardine, who also worked with Brabham and Lotus, feels the news about Verstappen will not be greeted warmly by some of the drivers who will be lining up on the grid with him next year.

Jardine told Sky Sports News: "What the senior drivers will think about it - don't ask them, because they won't like it."

Jardine is also in no doubt Verstappen has plenty of talent.

"This kid is good," Jardine said.

"He has been racing karts since he was around eight or nine years of age, he has won eight times already in the Formula Three series. So they decided to take him into the Red Bull junior team and he is going to replace Vergne.

"He looks like a wonder-kid, but he is going to be the youngest-ever on a Grand Prix grid.

"In the Netherlands, where he comes from, the age is 18 to get your driving licence, so it is going to be a huge story for the Dutch media.

"But the point is, he has been racing since he was a little boy, like Lewis Hamilton.

"He will already have quite a few years of experience racing by the time he gets to the grid."

By Press Association reporters