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Top 11 youngest drivers in Formula 1 (F1) history

Published at :March 12, 2024 at 3:01 PM
Modified at :March 12, 2024 at 3:01 PM
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(Courtesy : Formula 1)

Arpit Anand

In the fast-paced world of Formula 1, youth has increasingly become a defining factor. The sport has witnessed the rise of fresh-faced talents who have made their mark on the track despite their tender age. From historic debut races to remarkable career trajectories, the youngest drivers in F1 history have left an indelible mark on the sport’s legacy.

Let’s delve into the annals of F1 history and explore the top 11 youngest drivers to have ever graced the grid, each with their own remarkable journey and contributions to the world of motorsport.

11. Chris Amon- 19 years, 10 months, 20 days

Chris Amon, a 19-year-old Formula 1 driver, made his debut at the 1963 Belgian Grand Prix. He qualified 15th but had to retire due to an oil fire. Despite this setback, Amon had a successful F1 career, competing in 96 races until 1976.

His most successful seasons were 1967, where he achieved four podium finishes for Ferrari, and 1970, where he secured runner-up positions in both Belgian and French Grands Prix. Amon also won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966. He passed away from cancer in 2016, leaving a lasting legacy in motorsport history.

10. Daniil Kvyat- 19 years, 10 months, 18 days

Daniil Kvyat, a former test driver for Toro Rosso, made his Formula 1 debut at the 2014 Australian Grand Prix. His promotion to a race seat came after winning the GP3 series, representing a significant leap in his career. In his debut race in Melbourne, Kvyat qualified eighth, trailing behind teammate Jean-Eric Vergne by two positions. The duo finished the race in eighth and ninth place, respectively.

Kvyat’s impressive performance led to his promotion to the senior Red Bull team in 2015. Despite not winning a race in his first 93 races, he became the highest-finishing Russian driver in F1 with a second-place finish at the 2015 Hungarian Grand Prix, replacing four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull.

Also Read: Top five oldest drivers to race in Formula 1 (F1)

9. Esteban Tuero- 19 years, 10 months, 14 days

The 1998 Australian Grand Prix marked Esteban Tuero’s debut in Formula 1, but his career in the sport was short-lived, spanning only one season. Despite Minardi’s interest in him, Tuero’s lack of experience and credibility hindered his performance on the track. He retired from 12 out of 16 races, including his debut in Melbourne due to an engine failure. 

Tuero decided to return to Argentina after the season to pursue touring car racing. Although he achieved an eighth-place finish in Italy, his F1 career ended abruptly due to neck injuries sustained in a crash in Japan. 

Tuero surprised his team by announcing his retirement from Formula 1 just before the start of the 1999 season.

8. Fernando Alonso- 19 years, 7 months, 4 days

In 2001, Fernando Alonso made his Formula 1 debut with Minardi at the Australian Grand Prix, a team renowned for nurturing young talent like Esteban Tuero before him. Despite starting 19th on the grid, Alonso showcased his potential by finishing a commendable 12th, catching the eye of Renault.

Recognizing his talent, Renault offered Alonso a full-time seat for the 2003 season after serving as a test driver in the preceding year. Over his illustrious career spanning 32 wins, Alonso clinched back-to-back championships in 2005 and 2006, cementing his status as one of the most successful drivers in F1 history.

7. Ricardo Rodriguez- 19 years, 6 months, 27 days

In 1961, Ricardo Rodríguez made his debut at the Italian Grand Prix, showing immense promise after securing a front-row start for Ferrari. However, his race was cut short due to a fuel pump failure while battling for the lead. 

Despite this setback, Rodríguez continued to impress, participating in four races for Ferrari in the 1962 World Championship season. 

Tragically, his promising career was cut short when he was killed in a fiery crash during practice for a non-championship race in his home country of Mexico later that year. Rodríguez, who started his F1 journey as a teenager and was the youngest Ferrari factory driver, left a lasting legacy in motorsport despite his untimely death at the age of 20.

6. Mike Thackwell- 19 years, 5 months, 29 days

In the 1980 Canadian Grand Prix, Mike Thackwell, serving as a test driver for Tyrrell and a Formula 2 racer, was granted the opportunity to drive a third car for the team alongside Jean-Pierre Jarier and Derek Daly. 

Despite starting last on the grid, Thackwell’s race ended abruptly at the first corner due to a multi-car pile-up involving his teammates. Although he technically participated in the race, the event was red-flagged, and Thackwell was replaced by Jarier for the restart. 

Thackwell’s only other F1 race start came in the 1984 Canadian Grand Prix for the RAM team, where he encountered mechanical issues. While his official F1 debut is recorded as 1984, Thackwell’s earlier participation in the 1980 race remains an asterisk in his racing career.

5. Jamie Alguersuari- 19 years, 4 months, 5 days

In the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, Jaime Alguersuari made history as the youngest driver to ever compete in Formula 1 when he stepped in for Sebastien Bourdais at Toro Rosso. Despite starting 19th on the grid, a position influenced by Felipe Massa’s injury during qualifying, Alguersuari showed promise by finishing 15th, with only teammate Sebastien Buemi behind him.

Following a solid 2011 season, where he achieved seven points finishes in 11 races, Alguersuari’s full-time motorsport career came to an end after being dropped by Toro Rosso. Since then, he has transitioned to a new chapter as a DJ, leaving behind his racing days to pursue a music career in Spain.

4. Lando Norris- 19 years, 4 months, 4 days

In the 2019 Australian Grand Prix, Lando Norris made his Formula 1 debut for McLaren alongside teammate Carlos Sainz after the team parted ways with Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne in 2018. Despite Sainz being knocked out in Q1, Norris impressed by qualifying eighth. However, he slipped back to 12th during the race.

Throughout the 2019 season, Norris competed in 19 out of 21 races before turning 20 just days before the Brazilian Grand Prix. Despite his young age, he showcased his talent with impressive performances, including sixth-place finishes in Bahrain and Austria. By the end of the season, Norris had secured 11th place in the F1 drivers’ standings.

Notably, Norris achieved his first F1 podium finish in Austria in 2020, marking a significant milestone in his career. He continues to race for McLaren in the 2020 season.

3. Oliver Bearman- 18 years, 10 months, 5 days

Oliver Bearman, a British teenager, made history by debuting for Ferrari at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix 2024 as the youngest British Formula One driver. Bearman, aged 18 years and 305 days, also became the Italian team’s youngest ever rookie. His journey started in karting, where he showed exceptional talent before progressing to single-seater racing and winning championships in ADAC F4 and Italian F4.

Joining the Ferrari Driver Academy, he made waves in Formula 3 and Formula 2, impressing with his professionalism during FP1 outings for Haas. Despite limited preparation, Bearman’s unexpected call-up to Ferrari reflects his potential and adaptability. As he gears up for his first Formula One race, all eyes are on Bearman to see if he can shine on the big stage.

2. Lance Stroll- 18 years, 4 months, 26 days

At the age of 18 years and 4 months, Lance Stroll debuted in Formula 1 at the 2017 Australian Grand Prix. Supported by his family’s financial backing, he quickly transitioned from winning the F3 championship to F1 with Williams.

Despite starting at the back of the grid and facing a brake issue, Stroll showcased promise by securing a podium finish in just his eighth race at Azerbaijan. Now with Racing Point (Aston Martin), partly owned by his father, Stroll continues to prove his talent with additional podium finishes and over 60 F1 starts. He’s also participated twice in the 24 Hours of Daytona.

1. Max Verstappen- 17 years, 5 months, 15 days

At just 17 years, 5 months, and 15 days old, Max Verstappen made history as the youngest Formula 1 driver at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix. Recognized for his exceptional talent, Red Bull Racing’s adviser, Helmut Marko, saw potential in the Dutch prodigy, son of former F1 racer Jos Verstappen. 

Since his debut, Max has amassed an impressive record, with 102 starts, 8 Grand Prix victories, and 31 podium finishes. 

Notably, he clinched his maiden win at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, becoming the youngest winner in F1 history at just 18 years and 227 days old. Now approaching his 23rd birthday, Verstappen continues to shine as one of the sport’s brightest stars.

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