“Drivers of 2014: Max Verstappen”
If Esteban Ocon surprised all-comers with his rookie form in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship, then Max Verstappen’s debut in car racing positively stunned.
With only the short Florida Winter Series and several Formula Renault 2.0 tests sessions behind him, the Dutch racer immediately looked at home at Van Amersfoort Racing in the Dallara F312 machine, with the then 16-year-old scoring his first win at the second round at Hockenheim.
Verstappen hit a brilliant patch of form over the Spa-Francorchamps and Norisring rounds, which saw him score two perfect weekends, followed by victory at the Zandvoort Masters.
That Verstappen showed such form in such a short space of time over a fast, flowing monster track (Spa), an astonishingly tight, wall-lined street circuit (Norisring) and quick, but twisty old favourite (Zandvoort) only served to signpost the teenager’s ability to adapt quickly and be quick.
Within a month, Verstappen was part of the Red Bull driver programme and the shock announcement of his graduation to the Toro Rosso Formula One team came shortly thereafter. Admittedly, Verstappen’s form tailed off slightly once his Formula One commitments began in earnest, but that was to be expected.
Verstappen’s aggressiveness and his continued promise that ‘Overtaking is an Art’ was a joy to watch and one can only hope it is not neutered by Formula One, although there is no doubt that he will find the top level a far tougher prospect than anything Formula 3 presented.
Meanwhile, amongst al his other challenges, Verstappen still has to finish school as he is not due to graduate until next summer and with the young man coming of age, it will be interesting to see how he handles this.
In the end, Verstappen did not finish runner-up to Ocon in the points – that honour went to Tom Blomqvist; however the teenager had made his mark and done so in epic style.