F1: who is the youngest of them all?
Promising embryo Lando Norris is young. But he’s not the youngest F1 pilot ever…
IN THE DAYS BEFORE forensic data analysis and NASA-spec simulators, drivers needed time-tempered experience to be fast in F1. Technology is making it possible to get quicker faster, but as this countdown shows, the presence of teenage drivers in F1 isn’t a 21st-century phenomenon.
1. Max Verstappen
Debut Grand Prix: Australia, 2015
Age: 17 years, five months, 15 days
The youngest of F1’s early starters: super-aggressive Verstappen is the sport’s only 17-year-old driver to date. He’d already raced in 14 GPs by the time he passed his road-car driving test.
2. Lance Stroll
Debut Grand Prix: Australia, 2017
Age: 18 years, four months, 26 days
Like Norris, a wealthy background has greased the wheels of Stroll’s F1 career but he has an enviable record in junior formulae, including titles in F4 and F3. He was initially spotted by a Ferrari talent scout.
3. Jaime Alguersuari
Debut Grand Prix: Hungary, 2009
Age: 19 years, four months, three days
A member of the Red Bull young driver academy from the age of 15, but lost his Toro Rosso seat in musical chairs before 2012. Many felt he deserved more time in F1.
4. Lando Norris
Debut Grand Prix: Australia, 2019
Age: 19 years, four months, four days
A protege of McLaren CEO Zak Brown, the Bristol-born 18-yearold has a glittering record in racing’s lower echelons, with titles in Formula Renault and F3. He’ll be 19 when he makes his GP debut – the previous youngest Brit to start a Grand Prix was Jenson Button at 20. For now he’s tussling for the F2 title with Mercedes junior driver George Russell. Alonso’s retirement has catapulted him into F1 early, but McLaren will need to make a huge leap this winter if Norris is to be at the sharp end next year.
5. Mike Thackwell
Debut Grand Prix: Canada, 1980
Age: 19 years, five months, 29 days
So precocious was Kiwi driver Thackwell’s talent that he was still a teenager when he got his first F1 break, but Lady Luck never allowed him more than a handful of GP drives. He was still in his twenties when he walked away from F1.
6. Ricardo Rodriguez
Debut Grand Prix: Italy, 1961
Age: 19 years, six months, 27 days
One of the tragedies of motorsport’s most lethal years, Rodriguez lost his life aged only 20 in a crash at his home Grand Prix in Mexico. The younger brother of fellow F1 hero Pedro, he’d already finished second at Le Mans.
7. Fernando Alonso
Debut Grand Prix: Australia, 2001
Age: 19 years, seven months, four days
Lando Norris will sit in the recently vacated McLaren left by the combative Spaniard. Already testing F1 cars at the turn of the millennium, Alonso turned heads by wringing fine results from an underdog Minardi in his debut season. Seventeen years later, he’s of.
8. Esteban Tuero
Debut Grand Prix: Australia, 1998
Age: 19 years, 10 months, 14 days
Argentine Tuero didn’t exactly ‘do an Alonso’ when he too debuted for Minardi as a 19-year-old. The Faenza team reportedly planned to run him for a second year before he unexpectedly announced his retirement.
9. Daniil Kvyat
Debut Grand Prix: Australia, 2014
Age: 19 years, 10 months, 18 days
Toro Rosso driver Kvyat graduated to Red Bull in 2015 when Vettel upped sticks to Ferrari, but was demoted back to the junior squad mid-season in 2016 after a run of crashes and poor form. Still one of F1’s youngest drivers to score a podium, he’s currently a reserve driver at Ferrari.
10. Chris Amon
Debut Grand Prix: Belgium, 1963
Age: 19 years, 10 months, 20 days
Can you imagine a more intimidating F1 debut than the old Spa circuit, in the wet? Amon retired after an oil fire. Considered one of the sport’s unluckiest drivers, many reckon Amon had the talent to be a world champion.
11. Esteban Ocon
Debut Grand Prix: Belgium, 2016
Age: 19 years, 11 months, 11 days
To put the Force India driver’s youthfulness in context, F1’s current oldest driver, Kimi Raikkonen, was nearly 17 when Ocon was born.
12. Sebastian Vettel
Debut Grand Prix: USA, 2007
Age: 19 years, 11 months, 14 days
The pointy-fingered winning/moaning machine was still a teenager when he stood in for BMW’s injured Robert Kubica at Indianapolis, finishing in the points in the process.