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F1: Max Verstappen claims 'I was in full safe mode' for debut run

Netherlands’ teenager Max Verstappen made history at Suzuka on Friday morning when he became the youngest driver to participate in an official Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend.

The son of former Grand Prix driver Jos Verstappen took over the driving duties of Jean-Eric Vergne’s STR9 in free practice 1 of the Japanese Grand Prix.

F1 Toro Rosso Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen getting ready. (Photo: ToroRosso.com)

Far from being intimidated by the occasion, Verstappen junior, who turned 17 just three days ago said it took him just a handful of laps to start bedding in with the STR9 - adding that he focussed purely on gaining experience rather than chasing headline-grabbing lap times.

“It took me two or three laps to get used to it of course, because I have never driven here before and this was my first time in this type of car,” the Dutch said.

“But in a few laps you feel quite comfortable. It was quite allright - today was just getting used to the first bits of the car. The power and the engine impressed me really. Also the brakes, the steering - everything is completely different. The torque you have is quite a lot so you have to manage that with throttle application. I had to take some laps [to adjust] for that but I think at the end it wasn't not too bad”.

F1 Toro Rosso Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso. (Photo: WRi2)

Max Verstappen finished his day’s work with the 12th fastest time, just four tenths of a second slower than his Toro Rosso teammate, Daniil Kvyat.

“Honestly my feeling was that I was not pushing at all. For the whole session I was driving safe - I didn't want to crash, I just wanted to make laps and that's what I did. I think I was straight away quite okay with the pace, but I was just getting used to the car. I was building up pace and confidence lap by lap. Step by step I am learning everything - and step by step you can push more”,” he explained.

Max event experienced a problem with the Renault power unit a one point.

“I saw some smoke coming out [the rear of the car] and I know what's happening then! You can't change it anyway, so I just stopped the car and walked back’” he explained.

F1 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso Jos Verstappen
Max and Jos Verstappen in the Toro Rosso garage. (Photo: WRi2)

He also talked about his father Jos who was present in the garage.

“I think he was quite nervous and I was calm, so it was quite funny. We have done everything together, so if you accomplish something like this it's a great feeling. He has taught me a lot,” Verstappen junior explained.