Lotus to test Jeffri…is 16 too young?

Lotus Racing has announced a new driver for the “young driver development” program. The official announcement:

Lotus Racing has today confirmed its commitment to embracing young talent with the announcement that Nabil Jeffri, the 16 year old Malaysian karting prodigy currently competing in Formula BMW Pacific with Eurasia Motorsport, will be driving for the fastest new F1â„¢ team at an aero test the team will be running in early September at an undisclosed location in the UK.

The 16-year-old is currently running fifth int he Formula BMW Pacific Championship and is slated to take part in straight line tests. Jeffri is part of the AirAsia ASEAN Driver Development Program which is focused on increasing motorsport in the region through young talent development.

Jeffri said:

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to drive for Lotus Racing in the aero test. It’s a big privilege to gain driving experience with the most promising new F1™ team. Driving the Lotus Racing car will definitely be a priceless exposure to the F1™ driving experience, and I’m looking forward to many more similar opportunities to arise as a result of being part of the AirAsia Driver Development program.”

How do you feel about the march toward youth in F1? Is 16 too young to be strapping into a F1 car for testing? Was Jamie Alguersuari too young? Would another year or two in a feeder series have played well in the development of Alguersuari?

Some argue that youth is the key to moving forward but we’ve seen maturity and experience become issues with drivers like Vettel, Hamilton, Alguersuari and Sutil. They are all good drivers in their own right and I am not marginalizing what they have been able to achieve; don’t get me wrong. Hamilton is a world champion for heaven’s sake so it’s not that youth is a recipe for failure. But is it a recipe for success and could drivers like Vitaly Petrov or Nico Hulkenberg have done well to stay in GP2 another year or two?

time is the essence and opportunity is fleeting. A driver has to seize the moment and there is such a limited, expensive window of opportunity in F1, you can hardly blame them for pushing to get into F1. Some youngsters break the mold (Hamilton) and others suffer the consequence of mediocrity and the historic quick rise and decline of performance that young drivers usually experience.

So how young is too young? If Jeffri is quick, can Lotus put him in the car in 2011 at 17? If he has pace and can be on par with Heikki, Jarno and other F1 drivers, is age a limitation? What do you think?

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