Verstappen wouldn't have had early F1 chance away from Red Bull

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Max Verstappen would not have gained his Formula 1 chance so early had he not chosen the Red Bull program, says Jacques Villeneuve.

The Canadian made the claim while talking about the Dutchman's progression during his career, which saw him join Toro Rosso at just 17 years old, a record that now won't be broken under new superlicence rules.

While later explaining why he thinks Max was wrong to be given the seat so quickly, with just a year of single-seater racing to his name, Villeneuve understands why Verstappen took it.

"It's clear that if you are offered the opportunity to drive in Formula 1, you take it with both hands," he was quoted by

"As a young driver, you never know what a season in Formula 2 will bring you, so choose F1 when you have the option."

That solo year in a junior category came in European F3, where he would finish third, behind champion Esteban Ocon and Tom Blomqvist.

It was during that season that he joined the Red Bull program and was announced as a Toro Rosso driver for 2015 just six days after signing.

"If he had driven for another team, I don't think he would be around for so long," Villeneuve noted.

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The 1997 world champion can't argue that Red Bull was right with the now 21-year-old and believes great success is just around the corner.

"Max has done well in recent years, but let's face it, he is no longer the driver of three years ago," he said.

"In the form that he is now showing, he could compete for the title with a good car.

"That chance may not come to pass this season, but in the coming years I think he is ready as a person."

It was Verstappen's arrival though that led to an overhaul of the superlicence structure which now means almost every driver looking to reach F1 has to pass through F2.

Something that Villeneuve agrees with.

"It's not about my opinion about Max, but about Formula 1 as a whole, that drivers who enter Formula 1 must be immediately ready to compete. That means that you must have learned a lot in the preliminary phase," he said.

"As far as Verstappen goes, that's how he should have been when he made his debut in F1, but he got the chance to get in much younger and with a lot less experience and I can understand that you take that opportunity because you take it simply cannot refuse."