The pressure is mounting on Max Verstappen after Helmut Marko likened him to Ayrton Senna and stated “we expect him to be competitive from the first race”.
Having signed 16-year-old Verstappen to the Red Bull programme, the energy drink company later confirmed that the Dutchman would make his debut next season with Toro Rosso.
Verstappen’s signing opened the debate over the right age for a driver to enter the sport as well as the necessary experience given that he will be just 17 when he lines up on the 2015 Australian GP grid and will have just one year of single-seater racing under his belt.
Red Bull, however, insist Verstappen – the son of former racer Jos – has what it takes.
“He is an exceptional talent that comes along only once in decades…” Red Bull advisor Marko said in an interview with the official F1 website.
Asked to compare him to another driver, Marko paid the 16-year-old the ultimate compliment – and racked up the pressure – when he likened him to triple World Champion Senna.
He said: “Most likely Ayrton Senna.
“And in such a case you must not look at his age. He has been talking with people who are experts when it comes to the development of youngsters and they all say that (in terms of) his mind he is more like 22 than 16.
“And regarding his skills behind the steering wheel, he has been racing since he was four years old – professionally.”
He added: “So we expect him to be competitive from the first race. We are not playing the lottery – we know what we are doing. And success proves us right.”
Marko, though, did concede that the team would have to work “intensively” with Verstappen ahead of his debut but again downplayed his age.
“As I said: mentally he is past 20 years old! And yes, we work with him intensively. He will do some Friday runs.
“Not long ago he did a 400 km test in Italy, he’s in the simulator whenever possible and he’s working on his physique and psychology with top experts. Yes, some things became visible that we will have to address for the 2015 season.
“Having said that, he is getting the perfect ‘schooling’ before he gets on the grid.”