Teenager Max Verstappen becomes youngest man to drive a Formula 1 car

Max Verstappen, F1's 17-year-old new sensation. Credit: PA

F1 record-breaker Max Verstappen insists age is just a number after the 17-year-old revealed video games helped him prepare for his debut in Japan this weekend.

The teenager has won eight races in this season's European Formula 3 Championship and has signed a deal for a race seat with Toro Rosso for next year.

But he was given his first official running of a 2014 car in the first practice session at Suzuka, becoming the youngest man to compete in a grand prix weekend in the process. He clocked a creditable time worthy of 12th place.

"I'm not focused on the age, it doesn't matter to me," Verstappen said.

"I think at the end, age doesn't make any difference - if you are ready for it and you have prepared well, age is just a number.

Verstappen, son of former F1 driver Jos, went on to suggest people could race in the sport as young as 14 - but is not looking at early comparisons between himself and four-time world champion Vettel.

"I focus on what I have to do at the moment," he said.

"I have to prove myself in F1 but it is always nice to hear those things."

Verstappen believes the step up from F3 is a big one but is not fazed by the more enhanced technology having honed his skills on a games console.

"There are more people around you and people can control everything," he said.

"But you have to discuss a lot, you do that in F3 but now it is more calculated. "I think an F1 car is never easy to drive. At least it is not easy for me. Once you go on the limit it is never easy to drive a racing car."

"The younger generation grow up with it (complicated technology), you play it many times on the PlayStation and you can see that all the buttons are there so you already have a feel for it."

Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost has confirmed Verstappen will compete in free practice at all of the remaining races, with the exception of the Russian Grand Prix next weekend.

Watch a profile of young Max: