Formula 1

Max Verstappen & fellow rookies mocked status of F1 in Australia

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Remember when everyone was up in arms following Red Bull's decision to promote a 17-year-old to F1 after just a single year in open-wheel racing?

Well in Australia all those concerns were made to look rather silly as Max Verstappen and the other rookies on the 2015 grid made racing in F1 look like a walk in the park.

There may have been the odd moment getting caught out when being lapped by another car and some may have had the occasional spin but there was nothing that occurred in Melbourne that far more experiences drivers haven't done themselves.

Indeed in the race Sauber's débutante Felipe Nasr finished fifth, holding off a man some now see as one of the best pound-for-pound racers on track in Daniel Ricciardo without really breaking into a sweat. Carlos Sainz also scored points in ninth after having impressed throughout the weekend and as for Verstappen, he may have retired from the race after a mechanical problem but he showed skills and a mental attitude far beyond his tender age.

Gap between F1 and lower formulas shrinking

It was the Dutchman's promotion from European F3 straight to Formula 1 kick-started a debate that suggested modern F1 cars were too easy to drive and that they should have more power etc.

Certainly if you think that, in the case of Sainz, he came into the F1 season after just six days of testing, it shows that yes perhaps more needs to be done to make the challenge of driving an F1 car harder but also consider how much better prepared the younger generation of drivers for F1 as they learn their trade in lower formulas.

Also the gap between GP2 or Formula Renault 3.5 to Formula 1 really has shrunk if you look at car performance and comparative lap times it is only five-to-ten seconds difference between the categories at most circuits.

Simulators making step up easier

One of the reasons the new drivers are better prepared is because a lot of that work that previous generations of drivers had to learn out on track can now be done back at base.

The need to learn a new racetrack, as Albert Park was to all three rookies, has been made a lot easier by simulators and heck even me and you know the track inside out after driving it on computer games! Also, so sophisticated now are these virtual reproductions of the current layouts nowadays that even bumps, the nature of the kerbs and other little things can be put onto a simulator.

And it is not just learning the tracks, yes the current generation of cars are incredibly complex with all the switches on the steering wheel and DRS etc. but because they can replicate the on-track scenario in the simulator a driver can learn where everything is, how it all works and program it into their brain so that when they do hit the track for real it all comes naturally.

Then there's fitness regimes with diets and workout schedules which for the most part can get any proposed driver in peak condition to cope with the high G-forces and the mental strength needed to drive an F1 car.

Making an immediate impact

Is it wrong that these drivers step up into the sport and are immediately capable of producing stellar performances worthy of any veteran?

No, because at the end of the day if Formula 1 is (usually) about the 20 best racing drivers in the world battling it out then they should be able to step up and instantly produce good results. But given the honour and prestige that is usually associated with being an F1 driver shouldn't the early days be about establishing yourself rather than stepping in and instantly beating the top guys on the grid? 

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Felipe Nasr
Max Verstappen
Carlos Sainz Jr.
Formula 1

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