MONACO (Reuters) - Too young to rent a car, or drive unaccompanied on public roads, 17-year-old Formula One prodigy Max Verstappen had his bosses purring with a sensational performance in practice for the Monaco Grand Prix on Thursday.
The fresh-faced Dutch rookie stole the show after lapping second fastest to Mercedes’ world champion Lewis Hamilton around an intimidating and unforgiving street circuit he had never driven before.
Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost was impressed.
“He went out in the morning and from run to run he improved his lap time without making any mistake. No locking, nothing. His car control and his feedback during the run was really extraordinary,” he said.
“I’m very happy that he is in the team and convinced that he will show some other great runs, hopefully in qualifying,” added the boss, who predicted a top five finish for the youngster before the end of the year.
Verstappen, son of former racer Jos, has already finished seventh this season to become the sport’s youngest ever points scorer.
“I thought it was super. For a guy that can’t rent a hire car yet, it’s enormously impressive, at 17 years of age,” commented Christian Horner, principal of Toro Rosso’s senior team Red Bull Racing.
“I think the two Toro Rosso drivers actually have done a wonderful job this year,” he added. “I think it’s one of the positive stories in Formula One at the moment, those two young rookies that Red Bull have given a chance.
“They’re here on merit and it shows that the junior program is most definitely working.”
Verstappen, whose Spanish rookie team mate Carlos Sainz was fifth fastest in the same session, recognized it had been a memorable day.
“I built it up slowly in the first practice because it was all new for me, but I felt really good in the car immediately,” he said.
“This gave me a lot of confidence and to finish the morning session in P2 (second place) made me feel great.
“In the afternoon it was a bit of a shame that it rained as we couldn’t complete as many laps as we wanted, but to still finish P7 is not bad.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Justin Palmer