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Rosberg rivalry ‘like poker’: Hamilton Dutch’s Verstappen, 16, to become youngest F1 driver

MILAN, Aug 19, (AFP): Sixteen-year-old Max Verstappen will become the youngest driver in Formula One history next season after being unveiled as Toro Rosso’s new signing. The Dutch teenager, son of ex-F1 driver Jos Verstappen, currently races in Formula Three with the Van Amersfoort Racing team having cut his racing teeth on the karting circuit. He will partner Russian Daniil Kvyat in the Red Bull feeder team with 24-year-old Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne deemed surplus to requirements. “Ever since I was seven years old, Formula One has been my career goal, so this opportunity is truly a dream come true,” Verstappen said on the team’s website. Verstappen, who turns 17 next month, will beat by almost two years the age record currently held by Spain’s Jaime Alguersuari, who was 19 years and 125 days when he made his debut at the Hungarian GP in 2009, also for Toro Rosso.

He won the world go-karting championship last year and has topped the podium in eight out of 27 races since graduating to the highly competitive Formula Three Championship. “We’ve all worked tremendously hard to reach Formula One and I will give my absolute best to be successful in the pinnacle of motorsport,” Verstappen said, thanking his father for his support. “With the return of the Verstappen name to Formula One, I hope we can relive old memories and I’m hoping to see many fans at all the Grand Prix circuits.”

Verstappen played down the step up to Formula One, saying that he thought he had already made the hardest transition. “I think the biggest step I had was karting to F3. I think F3 to F1 will be a smaller step,” the teenager told BBC Radio 5 live. “I’m not that worried about it. The cars are really safe. I think it’s more dangerous to bike through a big city than race in an F1 car.” Verstappen is following the path of four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who were also members of the Red Bull Junior Team. Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost said that despite his youth, Verstappen’s skill levels and maturity indicated he could cut it in Formula One. 
 
Meanwhile, former world champion Lewis Hamilton has likened his tussle for this season’s Formula One title with Mercedes colleague Nico Rosberg to a game of poker. Rosberg currently has an 11-point lead over his British team-mate with eight races of the season remaining and their rivalry has become increasingly heated over the course of the year. Hamilton disobeyed team orders by refusing to allow Rosberg to pass him during last month’s Hungarian Grand Prix, and he admits that there is an edge to his relationship with the German.
 
“The battle does feel a lot more intense this year,” said Hamilton, who was speaking at an event for Mercedes’ team partner Puma. “When I was racing against Kimi Raikkonen (in 2007) and Felipe Massa (in 2008), they were in a different team and their cars had different strengths and weaknesses to my car and, in my team, it was just me that was really competing with them. “Now I’m racing against a guy who has the same car as me. We both have access to exactly the same data and feedback, so it is really hard to try and be ahead. “It’s a little bit like playing poker. You have a set of cards and the other guy is not supposed to know what you’ve got, but Nico and I can see each other’s cards, so then it’s more difficult to beat each other.”
 
While the relationship between the pair has appeared strained at times, Hamilton says that he is enjoying the competition. “It is definitely more challenging (than competing against someone from another team), because you have to find ways to create small margins,” said the 29-year-old, who won the world championship in 2008. “And so what you do is bring your skills, things that you’ve learnt, things you can put into the mix. And you always have to move forward. “You can’t just be good and that will be enough — you have to keep pushing the boundaries, because every time you take a step forward the other guy makes an equal step, so you have to keep doing it.”

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