The first in a new series of articles profiling young drivers from around the world, as they progress through the ranks to a possible seat in a major series and future stardom.
Neil Verhagen was born in Ridgefield, Connecticut and like most young drivers cut his teeth in karting. After starting at an indoor track at the age of 7, it became a family operation as his parents took both he and his brother, Alex, to events all over the USA. As Neil got more successful his grandparents became part of the operation, too.
In 2011 the brothers attended the Indycar race at Baltimore and a meeting with Will Power (who incidentally took the win, pole and fastest lap at that race) convinced young Neil that he wanted to be a professional driver.
A couple more seasons of karting followed before Neil entered the 2014-2015 Skip Barber Winter Series, then competing in both F1600 and F2000 events. For 2016 the youngster, still only 15, signed on with the K-Hill Motorsports team and won the F1600 championship taking 9 wins, 15 podiums, 4 pole positions and 6 fastest laps in 21 races.
Enter Red Bull
This got the attention of the Red Bull Junior Team and he was invited to contest the final round of the Asian MRF Challenge series in Chennai, India alongside Dan Ticktum (who recently won the Macau GP for a second time). His performance there led to Red Bull Junior Team offering a spot in the program starting in 2017. This meant a huge transition as he moved to the Netherlands and drove for MP Motorsport in the highly competitive Euro Formula Renault 2.0 series, as well as contesting a couple of rounds in the F.Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup, winning his first race at Assen. The 2017 Eurocup was more of a struggle but Verhagen scored a podium at the Hungaroring on his way to 11th in the standings.
The young American moved to the Italian Tech 1 Racing team for 2018, again competing in Formula Renault 2.0. As well as all the rounds of the Eurocup, he also contested 5 of the 6 Northern European Cup rounds, but the season was frustrating. After a promising start Verhagen had a run of 6 races without scoring points, though he did bounce back strongly at the final two rounds to again finish 11th in the standings.
His plans for 2018 have yet to be announced with a move to Formula 3 or another season of Formula Renault 2.0 being possibilities for the American. We’ll be following his progress here at MCZ F1.