Under-18 drivers banned in Formula 1 from 2016

PARIS (AP) Formula One drivers will have to be at least 18 years old from 2016, motorsport’s governing body announced on Tuesday.

The FIA’s new rules, which aim to make it harder for inexperienced drivers to appear on the biggest stage, followed the Toro Rosso team’s decision to hire 17-year-old Max Verstappen for this year’s championship.

From 2016, drivers will also need to have accumulated a certain amount of points in other motorsports series over a three-year period, to have completed at least 80 percent of each of two full seasons in junior categories, and hold a valid road driver’s license to become eligible for F1.

”The driver must be judged by the FIA to have consistently demonstrated outstanding ability in single-seater formula cars,” FIA said.

Under the new super license points system adopted in December at a World Motor Sport Council in Doha, drivers will also need to successfully answer questions on F1 regulations. Their teams will need to prove that they have ”driven at least 300 kilometers in a representative Formula One car consistently at racing speeds over a maximum period of 2 days.”

Verstappen became the youngest driver to take part in an F1 Grand Prix weekend when he drove a Toro Rosso during a practice session at the Japanese Grand Prix last year, just three days after turning 17.

The Dutchman, whose father Jos Verstappen competed in 106 F1 races from 1994-2002, was more than two years younger than the previous record holder, Jaime Alguersuari, who was 19 years and 125 days when he contested the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix.

Only five championships – IndyCar, the World Endurance Championship, the F3 European Championship, the GP2 Series and the Future Formula 2 – will provide the 40 points needed to apply for a super license in just one season – another safeguard against the arrival of inexperienced drivers in F1.

Verstappen finished third in last year’s F3 championships and would therefore have been ineligible for a super license, even if he had been 18.

Once a license granted, debutants will ”be on probation for a period of 12 months during which the Super License will be held provisionally and subject to review at any time,” FIA said.