Max Verstappen, Toro Rosso, Singapore, 2015

2015 F1 driver rankings #6: Max Verstappen

2015 F1 season review

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Max Verstappen

Beat team mate in qualifying7/16
Beat team mate in race5/10
Races finished15/19
Laps spent ahead of team mate514/885
Max Verstappen 2015 form guide

It is amusing to note how the FIA’s opinion of Max Verstappen’s merits as an F1 driver has changed over the past 12 months.

First, they did everything they could to stop drivers like him gaining a place in F1 again: rushing in age and driving licence restrictions and topping it off with a vast new superlicence bureaucracy.

Once they’d seen him drive, the FIA’s next response was to shower him with awards – for Rookie of the Year, Action of the Year and Personality of the Year – exposing their knee-jerk rule making for what it was.

Verstappen’s performance, not his age, is the issue at hand when it comes to assessing his place among the drivers of 2015. Without doubt he stood out from the pack by making more passes than anyone else, which were often executed them with the same laudable verve that characterised his Formula Three campaign last year.

An engine failure prevented him from starting his F1 career with a points finish, but he put that right next time out in Malaysia, producing an excellent pass on Daniel Ricciardo of sister team Red Bull on the way. But his qualifying lap that weekend hinted at the depth of his talent: taking sixth on his first visit to the circuit and with little prior experience of driving an F1 car in the wet.

He was kept honest all year long by capable team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr, at least on the infrequent occasions when both their cars were running at the same time. Verstappen had to give best to his team mate in Spain but Monaco – always an excellent barometer of ability – was another indication the youngster is something special.

He stunned by setting the second-fastest time in his first session at the track, but took perhaps a little too much confidence into the race. Having already put a superb pass on Valtteri Bottas, he left too little margin while scrapping with Romain Grosjean and the result was a sizeable crash. He also collected his first penalty points: further infractions saw him accrue more than any of his rivals by the season’s end.

This did little to discourage future bold attempts at overtaking, which included a fearless move around the outside of Felipe Nasr at Spa. In Hungary he capitalised on a hectic race to grab an excellent fourth, and he repeated the result when rain at Austin presented another chance. This was more than just opportunism – Verstappen showed maturity while racing at the sharp end in the closing stages of the race.

Even by the end of the year he hadn’t fully eclipsed Sainz, who put one over him in Abu Dhabi. But it was partly because Verstappen had faced such a capable team mate that his season impressed so highly.

View race-by-race notes on Max Verstappen

Australia – Lost most of the second practice session due to a battery problem, but going into qualifying it was nip-and-tuck between him and Sainz for who would be quickest. A mistake at turn four on his last lap in Q2 kept Verstappen from reaching the top ten. In the race he ran as high as fifth during a long first stint on medium tyres, but the possibility of scoring points died along with his engine following his pit stop.

Malaysia – Despite having little experience of how an F1 car handles in the wet, Verstappen took a fine sixth on the grid. He looked cautious at the start, however, and by lap two had fallen to tenth, one place ahead of his team mate. Toro Rosso split their strategies when the Safety Car came out: Verstappen pitted and so by the end of the race he was battling Sainz for position. He prevailed, and seventh place made him F1’s youngest ever points-scorer.

China – A lock-up in qualifying cost Verstappen a place in Q3, by his own admission. Made up two positions at the start despite contact with Kvyat before gradually making his way into the points, pulling off a series of stunning and aggressive overtakes on the two Saubers and Sergio Perez along the way. Was running in eighth before his car ground to a halt along the pit straight.

Bahrain – Toro Rosso reliability remains poor and Verstappen has borne the brunt of it. He hoped the understeer-prone set up which confined him to 15th in qualifying would help him in the race, but as he was unable to run full engine performance and later suffered an electrical failure it proved irrelevant.

Spain – Shared the third row with his team mate but out-dragged him to turn one. Couldn’t keep Raikkonen behind on the first lap, though. Both Toro Rosso drivers were passed easily on the straight by cars with better straight-line speed, but with four laps to go Verstappen lost out to his team mate and he finished just outside the points.

Monaco – Raised eyebrows with the second-fastest time in first practice, then in qualifying was narrowly beaten to eighth place by his team mate and Maldonado. He passed the Lotus driver early in the race, but a slow tyre change spoiled his race. Put an opportunistic pass on Bottas but then collided with Grosjean, incurring a five-place grid penalty for Canada.

Canada – Arrived in Montreal with a five-place grid penalty from Monaco, then copped another ten-place penalty for an engine change, which turned into a ten-second penalty in the race when it couldn’t be applied in full. He made it into the points places by staying out late, but the inevitable penalty dropped him out of contention again.

Austria – On his first F1 race weekend at a track where he has raced before Verstappen got into Q3, qualified seventh, and picked up another place at the start. After that it was a question of how many Mercedes-powered cars could he keep behind. Bottas got him early on, and by the time Maldonado was on his tail Verstappen was having trouble with his tyres, so he had to settle for eighth.

Britain – Very pleased with his car after final practice but was caught out at Village in Q1, spinning off. The team later identified a throttle torque calibration problem which was blamed for his Q2 elimination. He was the only driver to start the race on the hard compound tyres, but after the restart he spun into retirement at Farm.

Hungary – An electrical problem confined him to the garage halfway through Friday practice, but he bounced back to become Toro Rosso’s only representative in Q3. He started poorly, falling to 13th, but after passing Alonso a well-timed pit stop moved him up to ninth. When the Safety Car came out he had not long since changed to mediums, and switching back to softs put him in a strong position at the restart. However he broke the speed limit under the Safety Car period and had to serve a drive-through penalty. Without that, he might have had his first podium finish. Instead he was fourth, his best result so far, though he was fortunate to escape a penalty after tangling with Bottas.

Belgium – Intended to drop out in Q2 due to his impending engine change penalty, but then suffered a power unit problem which forced him out anyway. Gained six places at the start and used a three-stop strategy to maximise his time on the faster soft tyres. That put him in a strong position at the end of the race: he managed to pass Bottas but a last-lap move on Raikkonen didn’t work out, and he finished eighth.

Italy – Went into the race knowing he would have to take a drive-through penalty after his team sent him out in qualifying without securing his engine cover fully, which shattered as he accelerated towards the Curva Grande. Nonetheless in his first Monza race he produced more of his late-braking flair as he recovered to finish 12th behind his team mate.

Singapore – As in Monaco, Verstappen looked instantly at home on a true street track that was new to him. Despite running very wide at the final corner he split the Williams drivers for eighth on the grid. He stalled at the start and lost a lap, but gained it back during the first Safety Car period. A switch to super-softs for the final stint allowed him to make a run into the points, and he resisted his team’s call for him to let Sainz through to have a go at Perez.

Japan – A three-place grid penalty for stopping on the racing line when he car broke down in qualifying seemed harsh given his car could easily be seen by other drivers and there was nowhere he could have stopped which wouldn’t have brought out the yellow flags. That left him 17th on the grid, but within four laps he was 13th and an early first pit stop helped him gain more ground. He got ahead of his team mate in his final sting for ninth place.

Russia – The 18-year-old was left to solider on alone in qualifying after Sainz’s crash, but he made it to Q3 and claimed a decent ninth place on the grid. He was caught up in the Hulkenberg/Ericsson tangle at the start, however, and floor damage hindered his efforts to recover. Having taken the chequered flag in 11th he was promoted to the final point by Alonso’s penalty.

United States – Ran in the top ten for the entire race and got as high as third as he tried to coax a set of soft tyres throughout the entire second half of the race. He was aided by a spate of interruptions – just seven laps of green flag running between laps 27 and 46 – but nonetheless he held his own among some of F1’s biggest names.

Mexico – Headed first practice, crashed at the start of the second, but was Toro Rosso’s only representative in Q3. He managed his cooling-troubled car to ninth place in the race.

Brazil – Got into Q3 for the ninth time this year, which he hadn’t expected. He did his usual combative work in the race to make up for the Toro Rosso’s lack of punch on the straights – his pass on Perez in the Senna S was a particular highlight. Ninth place was his reward after Massa’s penalty.

Abu Dhabi – Lost tyre temperature in traffic before his final run in Q2 so his last lap wasn’t quite up to scratch and he missed the cut. A heavy lock-up at turn eight forced an extra pit stop which damaged his chances of finishing in the points. He then picked up a justifiable five-second penalty for gaining a position on Button by going off the track, and a rather harsh drive-through for not responding quickly enough to blue flags when being lapped by Hamilton.

Over to you

He got rapidly better as his experience grew, yet made few mistakes and many, many great overtakes. Wonderful driving standards from a 17-year-old rookie. Surprise of the year.

What’s your verdict on Max Verstappen’s 2015 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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51 comments on “2015 F1 driver rankings #6: Max Verstappen”

  1. Beat team mate in race 5/9
    Races finished 14/19

    I know I’ve made the remark before, but I have to repeat. Verstappen did not finish in China.

    As for the penalty points he received: he has been treated unfairly by the marshals in my view. He has received penalty points for things other drivers didn’t, for example. All in all the marshals have been very inconsistent with penalties this year, and Max should not be in a position in which he has to fear for his super licence.

    1. @mattds I’m pretty sure you mean the stewards. Marshals are the people trackside who pick up debris, wave flags etc.

      1. @mashiat @optimaximal Yeah I meant stewards. The marshals seem to have done a great job – apart from that one marshal during the GP2 Bahrain race who waved the red flag for a short while because of a minor crash in the pit exit :)

  2. If ever an article explained why Verstappen is sensational, and why frankly, sixth is still too low (should be fourth, IMO),
    What a future we have before us.

  3. I really hope Max Verstappen joins a top team in 2017, simply because if he’s able to get a good car, he’ll have 17 years to win a title; maybe even more.

  4. Where is Ricciardo? I really don’t think Ricciardo are better than Kvyat (rank #10) this year let alone 5 rank higher. He was beaten by his teammate on point and that fact make it harder to see why Ricciardo are better than Verstappen.

    1. @ruliemaulana Ricciardo performed better than Kvyat this year. Not all races, but most of them. Being beaten on points does not mean performing less, not if the point losses are not your fault.

      Ricciardo and Perez will probably occupy places 4 and 5 (not sure of the order though).

      1. It will matter if Ricciardo gets beaten on points next year as well. He has a 50% win record on points against his teammates which is not a great indicator of a future champion, if he losses again next year I hope he is replaced by Verstappen. In the end to be a champion you need to have the most points and a silly smile will not help him if he loses next year as well.

        1. @markp:

          It will matter if Ricciardo gets beaten on points next year as well.

          It won’t matter one bit if the reason he gets beaten on points is the same as this year: mechanical problems and breakdowns.

          1. It will matter if he is beaten on points next year as Verstappen is more promising and Ricciardo would then have lost 60% of his seasons in F1 to his teammate.

          2. If you honestly believe RBR will hold the driver accountable for mechanical problems, then I have nothing more to add.

            Ricciardo outperformed Kvyat this year. Having less points doesn’t change that.

      2. @mattds if being beaten on points does not mean anything, I can only see that Sainz had better performance than Ricciardo too…

        1. This ranking is an author’s opinion on drivers. Of course one can wonder, how is it possible to rank RIC in a top 5, a driver who failed in almost every area this season. ;)
          A driver who made bold statements and ended clearly outshined by Verstappen.

          1. Did you eveb watch f1 2015? Ricciardo had a stellar season that was desroyed by bad luck, hr lost points due to things that wearnt his fault in like half the races this season.

            Ricciardo can beat Vettel by miles and he is red bulld only chance of taking it back to the top, to say hes in fesr of replacement just because he lost half his points for things out of his control is insane.

          2. o man

            Ricciardo can beat Vettel by miles and he is red bulld only chance of taking it back to the top, to say hes in fesr of replacement just because he lost half his points for things out of his control is insane.

            Vettel lost ludicrous points last year for things that were out of his control as well.

          3. @david-a Vettel did lose a lot of points, but Ricciardo was the better driver last year. One should be able to admit that. I certainly can – and I have been a fan of Vettel for years.

        2. @ruliemaulana I didn’t say it doesn’t mean anything. I said it isn’t equal to performing less if the point losses are not your own fault. Which was very much the case for Ricciardo – he made less errors than Kvyat, but his machinery let him down on more than one occasion.

          Not that Kvyat didn’t have a great season – he did, and it was only his second season in F1. But for the most part Kvyat did not have the pace of Ricciardo yet had luck more on his side.

    2. @ruliemaulana No way was Kvyat better than Ricciardo this season. Only in a select few races was he faster, but Ricciardo generally had the measure of him in both qualifying and the race. Ricciardo also had the lion’s share of bad luck in Red Bull; he retired from 4th in Spa, a problem with the car and Hulkenberg cost him 4th in Austin, Hamilton and then Rosberg cost him a potential victory in Hungary. That an easy something between a +42 to +49 points whereas Kvyat benefitted by around 10-15 points from that. Not to mention Ricciardo made fewer silly errors like Kvyat did in Austin. So yeah, Ricciardo deserves at least 4th in the driver rankings.

  5. Driver A is in his 12th season as a race car driver and his 5th in F1, and drives a faster car. Driver B is in his second year as a race car driver and his first year of F1, and drivers a slower car.

    Now on track you can find both of them battling each other on many occasions while the more experienced guy with the faster car actually should be comfortably ahead…

    …Pérez got flattered by an underperforming Hulkenberg and improving Force India car (which improved to the level of Williams and Red Bull in the second half of the season, way ahead of Toro Rosso)…one thing is sure, Verstappen should never be ranked lower as Pérez.

    1. Age and experience aren’t taken into account in these standings I believe.

      Even taking this onto account, I think Verstappen deserves to be ahead of Ricciardo and Perez. Let’s wait and see, I’m curious how Keith will justify his top 5.

      (And the gap between Kvyat and Ricciardo in these standings is disturbing, Ricciardo was wildly underwhelming this year and doesn’t deserve a spot in the top 5 IMHO. )

      1. It wasn’t only about the experience thing, but you expect a higher rated driver to be faster with a faster car as a lower rated driver with a slower car, which wasn’t the case on many occasions.

        An underperforming team mate doesn’t instantly mean the other driver is all of sudden much better, there’s simply more to it. Pérez was 15th at the mid season ranking, and he also wasn’t that brilliantly in the second half to put him so high up (or at least higher as Verstappen).

        The Lotus and Toro Rosso cars were roughly of the same speed in the second half of the season, while the Force India car was in terms of speed faster as both of them. Now let’s see, Grosjean 3th Belgium, Pérez 3th in Sochi and Verstappen 4th in Austin. In Belgium Vettel had an exploding tyre, in Sochi Rosberg had a DNF and Kimi had to take out Bottas before Pérez was able to climb on the podium, and in Austin Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel all finished…in my opinion, both Grosjean and Verstappen were more impressive in those occasions.

        In Singapore Verstappen was on the tail of Pérez, in Japan ahead, in Austin ahead, in Mexico Verstappen wasn’t able to challenge Pérez because of a serious overheating car, but nonetheless he finished not far behind, and in Brazil Verstappen was all over the back of Pérez (when he still wasn’t having engine problems)…so I fail to see what was so spectacular relative to Verstappen to have him ranked higher.

        1. These rankings are always partly/largely subjective. We cannot keep arguing over someones personal opinion.

          1. The thing is, the Force India car being faster (after the introduction the B-spec) to the Toro Rosso car isn’t subjective, and neither are the positions of the drivers on track during the races…now I can understand a high ranking of Pérez, because he did well in the second half of the season, but higher as Verstappen simply doesn’t make any sense given he wasn’t comfortably ahead of him many times.

            It seems Keith puts way too much emphasises to the relative underperformance of team mates (and also an improved car in the case of Force India), and not enough emphasises to the actual driver performance relative to the rest of the grid.

        2. You’re only looking at the positives from Verstappen’s first season, but also look at the mistakes he made like Keith mentions he collected more penalty points than anyone else, and that scary crash with Grosjean is a big no no in my book. Pérez’ only negatives of the year was being slow at the begining of the year, but by the end that was gone…

          Good news though, is that Max will eventually eliminate all those rookie mistakes and hopefully become one of the best drivers in F1, but for now #6 is a pretty good start.

          1. Most of those penalty points were ludicrous. As an example, Verstappen gets penalty points because the team said it’s ok to do something (SC Hungary), while Verstappen himself was initially saying it wasn’t ok. Grosjean gets penalty points for the team giving him an unsafe release, while Bottas doesn’t get any points when the team gives him an unsafe release…all 3 times it’s the teams fault.

            The two most aggressive drivers on track (Kvyat and Sainz) have zero and only 2 Penalty points, that says it all…the stewards are a complete joke lots of times.

            Verstappen actually hasn’t made many mistakes, it says enough that Monaco is being brought up all the time. You do realize all drivers make mistakes from time to time (and they always have done so (both Prost and Senna had accidents every 9 or 10 races on average))?

            Verstappen did the by far most overtakes and also the most daring ones ( in F3 also), and yet he had only 1 crash in those two (first) seasons, that says enough if you realize someone like Vettel was called the crash kid in F1 at first.

          2. …and btw, how many first lap contacts did Pérez actually had this season it ?…more as Verstappen.

            The only ones Verstappen actually had were, Kvyat trying to push him off the track in China (only just some wheel banging) and Hulkenberg spinning in Sochi which was unavoidable for him.

          3. penalty points of the steward where mostly wrong given,max did make two mistakes and that is Monaco and silverstone but a f1 driver who gets 4 award in his first year is realy awesome !!!!!! a other point,max told that he had problems in the first half of the season, the car was more driving with him than contrariwise,the second half he was driving the car how he likes it,you can see that in qualifying against his teammate sainz.

          4. @To the Max !: it’s so obvious, why don’t people want to accept it or even see it?

            It indeed get’s quite frustrating when i read people stating Verstappen made ‘mistakes’, what mistakes? Look at Sainz’ overtaking in Singapore, that was not problem for none of the stewards, but it should!

  6. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
    16th December 2015, 11:53

    I have to agree with many here. Max has been stronger than Ric this year. We have to consider Max is a rookie and didn’t race in some of these tracks before. That a few times he managed to overtake his teammate and also more powerful cars. And those overtakes were often without DRS and in “impossible” places. He made a couple of silly mistakes, but all the other drivers too. Maybe he needs to improve his quali against Sainz Jr. But he looks much better than Ric so he could easily be fifth on this ranking

  7. Wow, Rosberg made a huge leap from 12th to the top five (and we are yet to know where exactly he are) I wonder how 3 wins in a row affect the ranking, TBH I expect him to be 6th or 7th…….

  8. A rookie of the year gts 6th? I actually thought he would be 3rd or even 2nd.. However, I thnk this is slightly correct for him to be in 6th…

    1. @krichelle

      Rookie of the year doesn’t really mean much since it was only ever going to be contested by the two Toro Rosso drivers. Sure Nasr had a decent start but as the Sauber development dropped back so did he. Sainz Jr kept Verstappen more than in his sights so I think 6th is certainly fair.

  9. As good as Verstappen is, its still not right for a 16 year old to drive an F1 car in my opinion so I’m pleased they made a change in this area. I think had the monaco crash been worse (it could easily have been), we would probably all have a different view. This isn’t to be confused with the crazy superlicence points system.

    1. An age limit would have sufficed. But it must have been too simple for the FIA.

    2. Good thing he was 17 then.

  10. I think Max is ranked too low.

    This time 2jr’s ago Verstappen had just won the Karting World Championship and never even driven a car before….

    He skipped regular entry level categories straight to Euro F3. He was stunningly good with outragious overtakes and increddible racecraft but reliability and an occasional mistake cost him the championship.

    Now this year Max skipped regular feeder series straight to F1. He was stunningly good with outragious overtakes and increddible racecraft but reliability and an occasional mistake cost him a top 10. We are talking F-freaking-1 here!

    This is an insane resume if you think about it. What’s even more insane to think about is that he would have still been the yougnest ever in F1 had he’d been making his debut in 2016 or even 2017….. by the time it’s 2018 he’s probably fighting for DWC’s if he chooses the right team.

    Really there aren’t words enough to discribe how incredible this is really, eventhough at times at sick of the ‘Verstappen-hype’ myself. It’s not hype really, it’s more than justified praise but it’s just an overkill.

    I personally fail to see how Rosberg was better than VES for example. ROS got beaten more comprehensively by HAM than last year. when HAM clinched the championship he led ROS 10-3 in race wins and 11-4 in poles. ROS 3 wins on the bounce was impressive but too little too late…

  11. I don’t think it’s fair to single out the FIA for doing a complete 180 on their opinion of Verstappen – most fans did it too.

    1. I think it was more about what would happen is Verstappen would do really well…other teams might have wanted to sign up young talent also too quickly (there are some talents who have really rich dads and teams who need money).

  12. Wowza, what is this talk of 17 yearold driving… He is 18 now.

    And what an epic rookie season. Only thing slowing him down is physics.

    Why #6? Why not higher? Hard data does not lie. He did not destroy his teammate, lost many a position in DRS zone and finished many a race behind them top 5 drivers.

    He is good, but based on race results top 6 is high enough.

    1. You should not underestimate his team mate in one lap pace (race pace is also not that bad). A lot of people don’t think that highly of Sainz because his third and fourth junior years weren’t that impressive (due to problems with combining school and racing), but his fifth year was much better as most think.

      I was more impressed with the qualifying of both the Toro Rosso rookies than I was with the rest of the teams on the grid (including Mercedes) as a whole. How many times the Mercedes guys fail to improve on their “banker” laps ?…Verstappen was plagued by mechanical problems and grid penalties with qualifying, but both did really well when they didn’t have any problems most of the time.

  13. He has a good racing brain I can tell you that. I always knew that racing is more about talent than experience. Once the experience comes along he will be one of the “Big three” someday.

  14. ILuvSoundtracks (@)
    16th December 2015, 14:58

    Get in there Verstappen. Next year you’ll be in the Top 5 at the rankings.

    1. Doubt he knows what the F1 Fanatic driver ranking is or even cares. He looks like in a few years time he will be in a class of 1.

  15. It has been many years since I was as impressed by a rookie driver, through both success and adversity, as I have been by the young Verstappen. Bottas and Ricciardo both need to look over their shoulders. He has time and talent on his side. Hopefully Stoffel Vandoorne gets a chance in F1 too, so that we can really get some action in the next decade!

  16. I don’t think a good later part of the year in the best car in the field, having been unable to match Hamilton for 8 months, basically, puts Rosberg ahead of Verstappen.

    I’d have put Rosberg 6th: the rest of the guys did better than him during the whole year considering the car they had.

    1. I think it really comes down to how hard it is to almost match Hamilton (i.e. come close behind him) when Lewis is on a wave of self confidence, good vibes and gelling with the car @fer-no65. I am not sure a Vettel or Alonso would have done much better agains Hamilton on top form.
      Honestly, who would have expected him (Rosberg) to be even mentally capable of digging even deeper and finding that edge towards the end of the year to beat Hamilton for poles and then for wins too? I had pretty much expected him to sink further into the second driver role after the thorough beating he took from his teammate in the first half of the year.

  17. I see many people disagree with the ranking saying Verstappen should be higher up. But I think its pretty apt. Remeber, we are not rating one’s potential here, but the reality of how they did.

    And while Verstappen was impressive, amazing and exhilerating at so many times this season, he still did make some rookie mistakes that he has to (and I have no doubt he will) iron out. Getting overconfident at a few times, making a few misjudgements etc. He still is the most impressive rookie we have seen for quite a few years though, and we can surely expect more of him.

  18. I’m still undecided on Max. His talent is right there to see, his mental strength too, but… I don’t really like him. I don’t find him interesting, the way he’s been groomed for this by a pushy dad… Hopefully he’ll grow and I’ll warm to him. But he deserves a place on the grid, and his presence makes things interesting, and interesting is good.

    One thing though: that fastest time in practice in Mexico? Why wasn’t that deleted for track limit infringement? Was it marketing reasons, hmm, FiA?

    1. Times get only deleted when a driver gained an advantage by it. At Abu Dhabi you can go off the track at certain places and it still doesn’t matter, while at other places you can’t go off the track without the time being deleted because it gives and advantage. So if they decided he didn’t gain any time with going off track, the could leave the time as it was (and besides, he did another lap after that which was also the fastest time).

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