When Toro Rosso made the announcement in 2014 that they would hand a Formula One debut to a 17-year-old for the 2015 season they faced much criticism. 12 months on, the decision by Franz Tost and Helmut Marko to give Max Verstappen a race seat seems an inspired one.
Making his Formula One race debut at just 17 years and 166 days old, many considered Verstappen to be far too young and inexperienced to deserve a drive.
However, amongst all of the negativity surrounding the sport throughout 2015, Verstappen impressed throughout. The talented teenager ended the season on 49 points - 31 points ahead of his teammate, Carlos Sainz Jr - including two fourth place finishes in the USA and Hungarian Grand Prix’s.
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However, the 2015 season was not all plain sailing for the 18-year-old. After suffering from an engine failure in the opening race of the season in Australia, Verstappen dramatically announced his arrival into the sport with an impressive sixth place during qualifying in Malaysia, ahead of both Williams drivers and the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen.
Bogged down by several retirements in the first half of the season, it was after the summer break when the son of former Benetton driver, Jos Verstappen, started to show his true potential with a consistent run of six top ten finishes between the Singapore and Brazilian Grand Prix’s.
Verstappen also continued to show his raw pace in qualifying after securing two eighth place starts in Mexico and Singapore, despite competing in a car that only finished seventh in the Constructors Championship.
During his debut season in Formula 1, Verstappen has become known for his daring overtaking manoeuvres: The highlight being a breath-taking wheel-to-wheel move around the outside of Blanchimont on Felipe Nasr at Spa.
Verstappen’s skill and audacity have led to him being on the receiving end of much praise from fans and drivers alike, former Benetton and McLaren driver Martin Brundle said: “He is showing all the hallmarks of a Senna, of a Schumacher” – high praise for an 18-year-old. The young Dutchman also received over 50% of the votes in a recent Twitter poll in which fans voted for their star driver of the season.
It appears that Verstappen could be the most talented driver to have risen through the ranks at Toro Rosso since the four times world champion, Sebastian Vettel.
Who do you think is the most exciting prospect in Formula One? Leave your opinion in the comment box below!