In a sport that holds that if you are good enough, you are old enough, Formula One’s leading designer said he was less worried about age per se and more about what happened to those who failed to make the grade.
“A lot of the drivers in karting and in junior formulas frankly just aren’t going to school,” the Briton told reporters at the Belgian Grand Prix.
“They don’t go to school at all. The parents then hide behind that by saying that they have private tutors but I think in many cases – not all, I’m sure, but in many cases – that’s actually a complete sham.”
Newey, the design genius who was asked to leave private school at 16 for misbehaving but went on to study aeronautics at university, said the exam results of many racing teenagers would probably tell a “fairly depressing story’.
A few might have potentially glittering futures, such as Red Bull’s own four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel who made his F1 debut at 19, but the majority who did not progress faced problems ahead.
“I think for many of those children that don’t quite make the grade, they have spent all that time not going to school, not having a proper tuition and then what happens to them afterwards is altogether another question,” Newey said.
“It’s something which motor racing as an industry urgently needs to look at, because personally I think we’re being irresponsible allowing that.”
Verstappen, who turns 17 next month, still has a year to finish at school but is clearly one of those outstanding talents.