Well if he wasn’t in the spotlight before, he certainly is now. On Friday it was announced that Max Verstappen had joined Red Bull’s Junior Team, rejecting Mercedes’ approach. Although his allegiance to Red Bull does now provide him with a clear path to a Formula One seat, it also means that he can not afford any mistakes more than ever. Most people are well aware of Red Bull’s cut-throat attitude when it comes to developing drivers, mainly because there are not enough F1 seats to go around. And even when they get a seat at Toro Rosso, it is no sure thing that their career will be a long one, just ask Jaime Alguersuari.
If there was any pressure on Verstappen at the weekend, he certainly didn’t show it. Progress after a dominant victory in the first race was only halted because of an engine failure in the second race, which incurred a grid penalty for the final leg because of repairs. Verstappen showed his racing prowess yet again by battling from P12 to P3, most of those places made up on the first lap at Turn One following a tangle that involved championship leader Estaban Ocon, whose torrid weekend meant that there is still a slight chance of Verstappen winning his first single seater title in his first year of racing.
Chatter on the subject of Verstappen has certainly increased since the Red Bull partnership, with many F1 personalities and reporters actively talking about his exploits in F3 on Twitter throughout the race weekend. Regardless of whether or not Verstappen overcomes the 75-point deficit from Ocon to win the title or not, it’s now extremely likely that Max will be promoted to WSR3.5 for 2015, most probably to replace Carlos Sainz Jr, who may finally have his wish to claim an F1 drive, with Caterham the more likely target unless Toro Rosso drops Jean-Eric Vergne. This leaves Verstappen just one step off the ladder away from F1, and unless his 2015 season capitulates, a Toro Rosso seat at the age of 18 for 2016 seems quite likely, which would make him the youngest Formula One driver ever.
No doubt the conclusion to this European Formula 3 season will be a dramatic one, in a season dominated by rookie drivers. The next golden generation of F1 drivers is coming more quickly than you think.