Verstappen speeds past another milestone

Max Verstappen (Twitter/@Max33Verstappen)
Max Verstappen (Twitter/@Max33Verstappen)

London - The first 17-year-old to race in Formula One became the sport's first 18-year-old driver on Wednesday and Toro Rosso's Max Verstappen is happy to reach the milestone.

"For me it's good. Once you're 18... I think people see it as a big step," the Dutch teenager said after scoring points in Japan last weekend with ninth place at Suzuka from 17th on the starting grid.

"Then you have your driving licence and they stop talking about it. I hope I get it," he had told reporters with a laugh. "You never know. If I go too fast or you don't use the indicators..."

Verstappen, who made his debut in Australia in March, is the only driver on the Formula One starting grid without a regular driving licence but he is now old enough to rectify that.

He passed the theory test before the season started - "only three mistakes" - and now has to do mandatory lessons with an instructor at home in Belgium when his packed schedule permits.

"I didn't have the time yet. I still need to find the date to do it, especially now with a lot of overseas races. So it will be a bit difficult," said the son of former racer Jos.

On track, Verstappen has disarmed his critics entirely in just 14 races.

Those who said he was too young, and pushed for the super-licence qualifying criteria to be changed to prevent anyone under 18 racing in Formula One, now have to admit he is a phenomenon.

The youngest driver ever to score points - seventh place in his second outing in Malaysia - Verstappen has a string of other records in his sights and plenty of time to achieve them.

No teenager has ever led a race or set a fastest lap and no driver under 21 has ever started on pole position, stood on the podium - though Verstappen came close with fourth in Hungary - or won a grand prix.

The youngest world champion was Sebastian Vettel at the grand old age of 23.

Red Bull and sister team Toro Rosso have yet to secure an engine supplier for next season, with Ferrari the most likely candidate, but Verstappen's future looks bright regardless.

Already there has been speculation about where he might end up and how soon.

The Italian media and others have linked him to Ferrari, who are likely to have a vacancy in 2017 when Kimi Raikkonen reaches the end of his contract, possibly as part of a deal for competitive engines.

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