By Ollie BarstowF1 Editor Follow @OllieBarstow on Twitter

Even without a crystal ball, there was a sense that history had been created on that sodden afternoon in May 1996.

Michael Schumacher at his superior best in extraordinarily woeful weather conditions driving a Ferrari at best considered 'challenging', at worst dismissed as 'a bathtub', the German may have produced countless imperious performances during his staggering career, but for many this moment remains his zenith.

Max Verstappen has many more days ahead to continue establishing new landmarks on a journey that has barely begun, but while the career path may be in meagre in length it is already sprinkled with milestones. Without a doubt, just as we continue to talk about Spain 1996 in 2016, we will almost certainly refer to Spain 2016 in 2036... and probably 2056.

Whilst it is perhaps rather too 'romantic' to suggest that history has repeated itself this weekend, history was certainly forged as Max Verstappen became the youngest person to win an F1 race aged a tender 18 years and 228 days.

The narrative of Verstappen's emergence, development and now race winning success is a scant but fascinating one, none more so than in the actual week leading up to the race.

Promoted to Red Bull Racing just days before the fifth round of the season in Barcelona, though most agreed Verstappen had demonstrated enough in his young 23-race F1 career that this was simply Red Bull accelerating its ultimate future, the consensus remained that Daniil Kvyat didn't deserve to have been shoved aside for him.

Whilst opinions on the rights, wrongs and maybes of Kvyat being sacrificed differ - and may have changed in the wake of the weekend -, it still opened Verstappen up to yet more intense media scrutiny before he had even had a chance to translate Toro Rosso into English.

He's used to it though. From the moment he was unexpectedly announced as a Toro Rosso F1 driver in 2014, to his much anticipated race debut, to his celebrated maiden points, his first big accident, his first controversial driver spat, his first top five finish, Verstappen has handled pressure from Red Bull, naysayers, fans and the media with remarkable aplomb.

In fact, Verstappen has spent a lot of time in F1 proving people wrong, yet has seemingly wasted precious little energy in doing so.

His demeanour in the pre-Spanish GP press conference, sat directly alongside Kvyat, was typically assured and firm, as we have quickly come to expect from him. From the other side of a TV screen it can admittedly be interpreted as arrogant, but engaging him in person reveals nuances that confirm he is simply confident. You'll often notice his answers are short and to the point, for instance. Why use 50 words when 10 will do?

In fact it's fitting that Verstappen takes his momentum now to Monaco, scene of his most spectacular faux pas last season when he struck the back of Romain Grosjean's Lotus on the run to Ste Devote, prompting more than one driver to use it as an example to justify why they thought he was too young and immature to be in F1.

Though many expected Verstappen, riding a confidence high following some already eye-catching performances in his opening races, to be bruised by the fairly stinging criticism - largely from Felipe Massa -, he instead took it in his stride before raising a few titters by rebuking the Brazilian in person at the following Canadian race for similar incidents during the early stages of his career. Uncouth or not, it was at least a ballsy response.

Indeed, when I interviewed Verstappen earlier this year, he revealed he had to make his voice heard amongst seasoned compatriots during driver meetings, some of which he said didn't seem to take him so seriously because of his inexperience. Now he is just one of nine drivers on the grid to have won an F1 race.

Whilst Dietrich Mateschitz and Helmut Marko will no doubt feel gloriously vindicated by their decision to promote him with immediate vindication, neither could surely have envisaged Verstappen's value when they thrust him into the spotlight in 2014.

After all, while Red Bull is known for placing weighty expectation on young shoulders, given Verstappen's fast-track to F1 spooked the FIA enough to enforce new Superlicence rules and an 18 year old age limit alone, it is truly remarkable to consider how he has evolved rapidly from obscurity to superstardom (or karting to F1) in less than two years. Not only that, he has done it with the composure of someone far older and experienced.

Nevertheless, while the FIA might feel somewhat embarrassed by their knee-jerk reactions in hindsight - even if it pretty much confirms Verstappen will forever remain the youngest race winner in F1 -, it can now bask in the haze of a publicity storm he has whipped up.

Indeed, admittedly competitive racing notwithstanding, the 2016 season has been dulled by negative undertones, whether it is regulation wrangles, conspiracy accusations or disagreements about future direction. However, after much off-track distraction, it is undeniably refreshing to see F1 headlines for the right reasons today.

So what next? Whilst describing his win as a fluke is perhaps too harsh a word, there were admittedly a few fortuitous factors at play in Verstappen's success so don't expect him to emerge as a regular contender just yet (impending engine upgrade notwithstanding).

Either way, the win is simply concrete proof that Verstappen is a very special talent that doesn't come around all too often. Similar words were uttered about Schumacher, Ayrton Senna and Sebastian Vettel when they emerged on the scene and they didn't fare so badly...

Indeed, Max Verstappen's story is already a truly remarkable one, yet the most remarkable part of it is we are still only a few pages in to a tale that has the thrilling potential to become an epic.

To be continued...

 

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