The FIA, Formula 1’s governing body, have just released details of an overhaul of the sport’s Super Licence qualification rules.
These new rules could be seen as a direct response to ‘fast-tracking’ and the age debate sparked by Toro Rosso's signing of 17-year-old Max Verstappen for the 2015 season.
Few doubt Verstappen’s potential but jousting wheel to wheel at up to 220mph before even gaining a driving licence does raise the question of whether it is too much too soon for the rising star.
While the new criteria will not come into force until 2016 and so won’t affect Verstappen, had they been enforced in the 2015 season then Toro Rosso would’ve had to look elsewhere for a driver to partner Carlos Sainz Jr.
The new Super Licence rules also would have kept both Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo from making their respective debuts as soon as they did.
Beginning in 2016, drivers will have to build up 40 points over a three year period. Points are allocated for achievements in other racing series, weighted on the level of the series.
A GP2 champion would collect 50 points down to five points for the winner of a Formula Renault series. Max Verstappen, son of F1 veteran Jos Verstappen, has only one season under his belt. His third place finish in 2014’s F3 European championship would award him 20 points, just half of the Super Licence qualifying total.
Fortunate for Verstappen
Other key new requirements mean drivers must be at least 18 years old, have at least two years’ experience in junior single seater classes and hold a valid road driver’s licence.
Verstappen, would fail all three of these additional requirements at present. Having just turned 17 in December, he is still a good year off of the 18-year-old driving age in his native Netherlands.
The new Super Licence will halt the trend towards younger and younger drivers on the grid. Certainly good news for Verstappen as it looks as if he will be holding a lot of the age related Formula 1 records for the foreseeable future.