The Bicester-based Toro Rosso team have signed 16-year-old Max Verstappen for the 2015 FIA F1 World Championship as replacement for Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne.
The Dutchman will become the youngest driver ever to compete in Grand Prix racing when he starts his F1 career at the beginning of next season.
Verstappen has been racing in the FIA F3 European Championship this season for the Dutch Van Amersfoort team, scoring numerous victories. Only recently was he recruited to the Red Bull Junior team, and the announcement of his graduation to the sport’s number one category has come as a shock.
Franz Tost, boss of Toro Rosso, said: “Max is a rare talent and we are very excited to be able to offer him the chance to make his Grand Prix debut with us.
“Red Bull and Toro Rosso support great sporting talents and we see Max Verstappen as a potential world champion and we are very excited to help him start his Grand Prix career - 2015 is going to be a very exciting year indeed.”
Speaking about his step up to F1, Verstappen said: “I would like to thank everyone who has made this jump possible. My Dad, Jos, himself a F1 driver, has never been far from my side and his help and drive has made this possible.
“I am really excited about what is going to happen and it would not have been possible without the help of my sponsors and everyone who believes in me.”
Verstappen will team-up with yDaniil Kvyat in the Toro Rosso team next year, making the part Bicester-based squad one of the most exciting and youthfull teams on the F1 grid.
Twenty-year-old Kvyat has already attracted much praise for his driving skills this year from within the sport, including Red Bull Racing’s team principal, Christian Horner.
The Russian said: “Max Verstappen is a great driver and I am looking forward to having him as my team-mate at Toro Rosso next year.”
Verstappen’s signing has, however, left current Toro Rosso racer, Jean-Eric Vergne, out in the cold for next season.
The Frenchman, who currently leads Kvyat in the standings, said: “I am now looking at all my options for 2015 and will start to think about other possibilities within Formula 1 and other leading categories.”
The Toro Rosso team added: “We hope we can give Jean-Eric a competitive car for the remainder of the season and allow him to score results that enable him to explore other opportunities and will allow him to stay in F1 next season as a graduate of the Reb Bull Junior programme.”