Dr Helmut Marko thinks Red Bull has proved that F1 took a wrong turn with its new-for-2016 super licence rules.
Following widespread criticism of the energy drink company’s selection of 17-year-old Max Verstappen for the junior team Toro Rosso, the FIA reacted by introducing a new system for the allocation of super licences from next year.
Dutchman Verstappen, however, added more history to his resume last Sunday by scoring six points, and was the only driver in the field to join the Ferrari, Mercedes and Williams cars on the lead lap at the chequered flag.
Also impressing so far in 2015 has been Verstappen’s rookie teammate Carlos Sainz jr, who is just 20.
“The maturity of our two young drivers is probably no longer in question,” Marko, the architect of Red Bull’s young driver programme, told the Austrian broadcaster Servus TV.
“But it is sad that now a regulation is coming in that would have deprived both Max and Carlos of the licence they need. The sport is over-regulated,” he insisted.
“If you are 17, but you have the maturity of a 22-year-old, then you have to question this strict age rule,” said Marko.
He continued: “We did nothing reckless. We tested him in a 3.5-litre Formula Renault, in a two-year-old F1 car, we put him in the simulator — at every point he was competitive from the beginning.”
Carlos Sainz snr, a world rallying legend, agrees that Red Bull has prepared his 20-year-old son well.
As for Verstappen, he told Spain’s El Confidencial: “Red Bull is not stupid when they do things.
“Undoubtedly there are now the tools to prepare drivers very well, but that is also the case not only in motor sport, but in any professional sport.
“The kids are starting very young and this gives them a maturity at an early age. This is probably one of the biggest differences with sport in the twenty-first century.”
Mika Hakkinen, a former two-time world champion, said after Malaysia: “I was one of those who had the view that he (Verstappen) is too young for formula one.
“I had no doubt that he can drive the cars, but I was wondering if such a young driver can handle everything else that comes with formula one.
“Perhaps it is true that a 17-year-old can handle it now,” the Finn said in his latest Hermes column, “but it is also very early to say that after two races.” (GMM)