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Saturday August 23, 2014 MYT 1:07:07 AM
Saturday August 23, 2014 MYT 1:07:47 AM
by alan baldwin
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS Belgium (Reuters) - Max Verstappen is sure to be making schoolboy errors when he becomes Formula One's youngest ever driver next year.
The Dutch 16-year-old, who turns 17 in September but has already been announced as a Toro Rosso driver, still has a year to go at school and faces the prospect of mixing racing with homework and exams.
"I still need to plan how we are going to do that. We will see," Verstappen told reporters at the Belgian Grand Prix on Friday in his first news conference at a Formula One race.
The son of former grand prix driver Jos, 'The Boss' who competed against the likes of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, will at least have obtained his regular driving licence and race superlicence by then.
He will remain too young to buy a beer in some countries but that will not be a concern, even if Dutch brewers may be disappointed.
"I don’t like alcohol," he said. "So that’s maybe a good thing for the moment. But I go out with friends and have fun. I think that’s also important."
The prospect of Verstappen's arrival at the Red Bull-owned team that catapulted four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel to success has been the talk of the Spa paddock.
While the majority of drivers say they would not have been ready at his age, they also agree that they too would have seized the chance to drive anyway.
Verstappen, who also interested championship leaders Mercedes after shining in European Formula Three, had no doubts and shrugged off the media attention with a composure that belied his years.
"I was always (taking) big steps. From karting to F3 was obviously a big step," he said, likening his driving style to that of Ferrari's Alonso.
"It was a bit of a different environment for me because he (Jos) was an F1 driver, he was really close to me and we did everything together. So it’s a bit different for me. I think I am ready for it.
"At the end, the age is just a number and it’s on the track where you have to show. I think driving-wise it shouldn’t be a problem. It’s more everything around it. What is the most important is that you have to be fast on the track."
The youngster will be given some Friday practice sessions this year, with Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne set to leave at the end of the season anyway to make way for him, and he said the schedule was in the process of being worked out.
"We are finding now a good day to start driving an old F1 car, just to get the superlicence. From there on we are also seeing which Friday days I can do," said Verstappen, who will smash the record as the youngest F1 driver by two years.
The previous youngest, Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari, also made his debut with Toro Rosso but was discarded just two years later.
Verstappen preferred to look at a more recent example, with Australian Daniel Ricciardo graduating from Toro Rosso to Red Bull as Vettel's team mate this year.
He recognised he would need to earn the respect of the other drivers but rejected a suggestion he might recruit a 'mind coach' to help deal with the pressure.
"I think if you start to need a mind coach that wouldn’t be a good thing. You need to have a strong head as well," said the youngster, whose father had a reputation as tough and uncompromising.
"I don’t see any problems about that."
(Editing by Rd Osmond)
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