It is a rapid ascension that has surprised Williams Martini Racing driver Massa, who says that while he believes Verstappen is ‘amazing and fantastic’ he lacks experience in certain areas to be competing at this high level so early in his career.
“To be honest, I think he is amazing,” Massa told Crash.net in an exclusive, wide-ranging interview. “He is a fantastic driver. He has won in everything he did until now, but it’s too early [to be in F1]. We cannot move things so quickly like that – he hasn’t got even a driving licence.
“I think Verstappen can be quick in the car, no problem, but I think that experience counts, maybe in some details where he could cause some accidents or cause some problems, but I hope it won’t happen to him.”
As a driver that made his F1 debut in 2002 with Sauber after making a similarly large leap from European F3000, Massa – who was dropped at the end of that year only to return in 2004 following a season as a test driver – feels he would have benefitted from at least one more year in the junior ranks before stepping up
“When I started I was 20. It was too young. I think if I’d have started maybe one year after, it would have been better for me, just to have had one more year’s experience.”
Massa also believes the FIA’s new Superlicence regulations – which will effectively prevent any other driver from mirroring Verstappen’s sizeable move – is flawed, suggesting it should include the youngster if the rules are a direct reaction to his arrival in F1.
“I think so,” Massa replied when asked whether the ruling should include Verstappen. “Whether they’re planning to change or not, the FIA should put him inside [the ruling] because why now just because the guy is starting at 17? They allow him to Toro Rosso, then they change the day after.
“Honestly, I think they need to work to improve the categories. If the driver goes from the go-kart to F3 one year and then to F1, why do we have GP3, GP2…? They need to work to have the drivers in these categories for this experience. That’s why maybe they’re planning to change the rules also to help with the other categories otherwise it doesn’t count, it doesn’t matter. I think there needs to be a limit in terms of age to start as well.”