September 24, 2014 / 6:19 PM / 6 years ago

Verstappen is a talent like Senna, says Marko

LONDON (Reuters) - Dutch teenager Max Verstappen is a rare talent comparable to the late Ayrton Senna, according to Red Bull’s Formula One consultant Helmut Marko.

Verstappen, who turns 17 next week, will become Formula One’s youngest ever driver in 2015 when he makes his debut with Red Bull’s sister team Toro Rosso.

The son of former racer Jos Verstappen had his first test in a 2012 car only this month and could take part in Friday practice at next month’s Japanese Grand Prix.

His signing has been controversial but Marko, who is close to Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz and has been influential as a talent spotter in the past, said Verstappen was ready.

“He is an exceptional talent that comes along only once in decades,” the Austrian told the website on Wednesday.

Asked who he could be compared to, Marko mentioned the triple champion many consider the greatest of them all.

“Most likely Ayrton Senna. And in such a case you must not look at his age,” he said.

“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.

“He has been racing since he was four years old — professionally. So we expect him to be competitive from the first race,” added Marko.

“We are not playing the lottery — we know what we are doing. And success proves us right.”

Verstappen’s team mate will be 20-year-old Russian Daniil Kvyat, who this year became the sport’s youngest ever points scorer.

Other talents to have come through the Red Bull junior program include four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel and his current Australian team mate Daniel Ricciardo.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond

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