MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Max Verstappen may be set to become Formula One’s youngest ever racer when he eases into his Toro Rosso at Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix, but advice from his rivals was in short supply three days before the 17-year-old’s debut.
“Despite the fact he’s still young, he has already experience and he’s quick -- otherwise he wouldn’t be here,” four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel told reporters at Albert Park with a shrug.
“I don’t think he needs much advice.”
The son of Dutch former Formula One regular Jos, a past team mate of Michael Schumacher, motorsport runs through Verstappen’s veins.
Paddock luminaries, including Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko, have queued up to lavish praise on the ruddy-cheeked rookie as a natural, if raw, talent.
He became the youngest driver to take part in a F1 weekend last year when he got behind the wheel in Friday practice at the Japanese Grand Prix, only three days after his 17th birthday.
A replacement for Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne, Verstappen’s signing in August proved so controversial the governing FIA rewrote the rules, making 18 the minimum age for drivers to get a super-license.
Verstappen has taken the attention in his stride but surrounded by more seasoned colleagues during Thursday’s official media conference, he occasionally squirmed like an under-age boy that has snuck into a bar.
“You were born in 1997?” 30-year-old world champion Lewis Hamilton asked in mock wonder. “Jeeeezzz ... I signed my first contract with McLaren in 1997.”
Daniel Ricciardo made the step up to Red Bull last year after a few years with feeder team Toro Rosso and was deemed as the best placed to pass on some pearls of wisdom.
“This is probably more cameras than he’s ever been in front of all his life,” the amiable Australian said.
”They’re pretty friendly, they’re OK, so just go and enjoy it,“ he urged. ”Get behind the wheel and remember that’s the main reason why you’re here is to be on the track Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“So enjoy those few hours and I think the rest will come.”
Verstappen will partner with another rookie in 20-year-old Spaniard Carlos Sainz at Toro Rosso, the pair forming the championship’s youngest team.
Media shyness aside, Verstappen is unfazed about his globe-trotting life as a F1 driver, when most 17-year-olds are chained to school desks.
“To be honest, since I was younger, I’ve never seen something else because my dad was doing it,” he said. “So, it doesn’t feel like anything new, I just deal with it.”
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly