Helmut Marko has all but confirmed that Toro Rosso ace Max Verstappen is in frame for a promotion to parent team Red Bull Racing in 2017.
The Dutchman took Formula One by storm during his 2015 rookie campaign as he became the youngest ever driver to start a grand prix and score championship points at the tender age of 17. Verstappen then went on to deliver impressive performances including a pair of fourth-place finishes in Hungary and the US.
Although this year’s opening race in Melbourne was marred by expletive-laden radio messages and hot-headed behaviour on track, the teenager has confirmed his enticing potential by scoring points in all three grands prix held in 2016.
“Very good drivers have always spent a maximum of two years with Toro Rosso and then moved up," Marko, who has been overseeing the Red Bull junior programme for years, told German publication Auto Bild. “And Verstappen is extremely good.”
Should Verstappen make the switch to Milton Keynes, this means he will replace either Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kyat. A three-time grand prix winner, the Australian is off to a very strong start in 2016 as highlighted by his giant-killing performance in the recent Chinese Grand Prix where he challenged the likes of Mercedes and Ferraris.
Speaking of Maranello, Ricciardo’s name was reportedly on the Italian team’s short list last summer when rumours about Kimi Raikkonen’s future were swirling around.
“That Ferrari was already interested in Daniel in 2015 is no secret,” added Marko, with Auto Bild reporting that the 26-year-old has a watertight contract with the energy drinks company until the end of 2017.
His Russian team-mate Kvyat has experienced a more challenging first couple of races but his Shanghai podium will do his chances of retaining his seat no harm, bearing in mind that he also outscored Ricciardo during their first campaign together last year.