F1's youngest ever lineup confident of success

Kimi Raikkonen is old enough to be Max Verstappen's father, and when the Formula One season gets underway at the Australian Grand Prix, the teen prodigy will be racing against the seen-it-all veteran.

At 17, Verstappen will become the youngest driver in F1 history.

He was only 3 1/2 years old when Raikkonen made his F1 debut at the Australian GP in 2001. In that race, Raikkonen finished sixth - four places ahead of Verstappen's father, Jos Verstappen.

Raikkonen, who will be 36 in October, is fading away from the spotlight, but Verstappen's time in F1 is just beginning.

The Dutch teen has a senior teammate on the Toro Rosso team - but hardly by much.

He will race alongside 20-year-old Spaniard Carlos Sainz Jr., whose father also drove cars professionally - except not the same ones and more successfully than Verstappen's dad.

While Verstappen's father secured only two podium finishes in more than 100 races, Sainz's father - Carlos Sainz - won 26 races and secured almost 100 podiums along with his two world rally titles.

Sainz Jr. has more success to live up to than his junior teammate, but the media glare on Verstappen will be far more intense when the new season starts.

Both are level-headed, softly-spoken yet outwardly poised and confident.

On the final day of three rounds of pre-season winter testing, Verstappen proved steady again with the fourth fastest time. It was no surprise, given that he was consistent at all three test events, clocking 2,834 kilometers (1,757 miles) overall for the third highest amount of any driver.

Not too far behind was Sainz Jr., with the sixth most.

''We put them through a massive program, aimed at giving them as much track time as possible, going through all the procedures that need to be well rehearsed for Melbourne,'' Toro Rosso technical director James Key said. ''They have both done a competent job and we are encouraged by their attitude and approach.''

They are the youngest lineup in F1 history - and they look ready.

Toro Rosso certainly has great faith in them, with team principal Franz Tost boldly demanding a top-five finish in the constructors' championship.

''They have definitely grown as drivers in a very short time, showing a good learning curve as well as growing in confidence,'' Tost said, rebuffing any suggestions that Verstappen is too young. ''This is a new driver generation. They were most of the time out on a car track, not in a school yard. I'm convinced we will not have any problems.''

Verstappen has only one season's experience racing in the European Formula Three championship - finishing third overall last year when he won 10 of 33 races. His hiring prompted governing body FIA to ban under-18 drivers from F1 next year.

However, Verstappen appears completely unfazed.

''I'm only 17. But I've always wanted to be a Formula One driver, and I have a chance. I can't wait,'' Verstappen said. ''I'm not here to drive for 14th or 15th position. You want to be a race winner, you want to finish in the top 10 all the time.''

Verstappen is not unique in following his father into F1.

If he needs any advice before the opening race on March 15, he can always turn to Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, last year's runner-up, whose father Keke Rosberg won the 1982 title.

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