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F1 Belgian Grand Prix: Raikkonen backs Verstappen chance

Kimi Raikkonen is one of many drivers who believe Max Verstappen will have a good chance of succeeding in F1 when he makes his debut next year
Kimi Raikkonen believes Max Verstappen will have a good chance of succeeding in F1 when he makes his debut next year.

Verstappen will be racing at the age of 17 for Toro Rosso after being confirmed as Daniil Kvyat's team-mate for 2015 earlier this week. With Verstappen currently competing in his first season of single-seaters, obvious comparisons have been drawn with Raikkonen – who made his debut for Sauber after just one season of Formula Renault – and the 2007 world champion believes his own experience shows Verstappen can be successful.

“I don't know how much he has done or what he has done,” Raikkonen said. “I did one full year, I only had 23 car races so he's probably going to have more than I had. Obviously I was a bit older than him but I did well.

“Time will tell how he will do but obviously it's more simple now than it was in the past; more people get points… I think you can prepare yourself more easily now than in the past so I don't think there will be issues but obviously time will tell. Hopefully he will do well for himself.”

Having competed against Verstappen's dad – Jos – in the early part of his F1 career, Raikkonen says he isn't concerned by who he is racing. However, asked how he feels to be competing against two generations, Raikkonen replied: “Old!

“He's very young so for me it doesn't matter who I race against, it's supposed to be the top guys in here. Obviously from year to year some guys go, some guys come back and there's some new guys. So to win you have to beat everybody, the name doesn't make so much difference.”

Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso agreed with Raikkonen that age and experience doesn't define whether a driver can be successful at the top level of motor sport.

"We need to see how he does next year,” Alonso said. “Right now all we can do is welcome him and wish him good luck. Sometimes you are ready for Formula One at 17, sometimes 29, or sometimes you are never ready. It depends on the character, personality. So we need to wait and see.

"We are all drivers, and there is a lot of experience you get over the years, with championships on your shoulders. Sometimes arriving early is a good thing, sometimes not. You don't have the experience at times to cope with the demands of Formula One.

“In many ways Red Bull what they want because today all the questions are about Verstappen, so good coverage for them media-wise."

Jenson Button is the most experienced driver on the current grid having made his F1 debut in 2000 at the age of 20, and he says he hopes Verstappen is ready but understands why every driver has to take an F1 seat when the opportunity arises.

“I don't know Max at all, I obviously know his dad who I raced against back in 2000 who was always fun to race with and fun to have around the paddock,” Button said. “I don't know Max's situation – I really don't know what he's done in his career either – but someone obviously thinks he's ready so they've given him the opportunity.

“When I was 20 I wasn't ready for Formula One, I was probably ready when I was 23 but people are ready at different times in their career. Also, if someone comes to you and says 'Are you ready for Formula One? I'll give you a drive…' what are you going to say? You're not going to say no are you, because there might not be another opportunity.

“That's what happened with me with Frank at Williams. Frank said to me – when I was in the pub with my mates drinking beer and eating sausages and bacon – he said to me 'Are you ready for Formula One?' I said no, initially, and then my dad said 'I can't believe you just said that, phone him back and tell him you are ready'. So I did and then I got the test drive and the race drive.

“You've got to take the opportunity because you never know if it's going to come again. So, as a driver, as a dad, as a manager, you'll always say you're ready to race in Formula One and I hope he is.”



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