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.
12. Sebastian Vettel
Debut Grand Prix: USA, 2007
Age: 19 years, 11 months, 14 days.
The pointy-fingered winning machine was still a teenager when he stood in for BMW’s injured Robert Kubica at Indianapolis, finishing in the points in the process.
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.
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.
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’ll return to racing duties in 2019 with the team he started at.
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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.
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 off.
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, Ricardo remains the youngest Ferrari driver in history.
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.
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-year-old 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 (who joins Williams next year). 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 in 2019.
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.
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.
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.