Home - The Official Formula 1 Website Skip to content

Out with the old, in with the new - the youngest-ever F1 drivers 25 Jul 2009

Mike Thackwell(NZL) retired after 1st lap accident. He was the youngest Grand Prix starter Canadian GP, Montreal, 28 September 1980 Mike Thackwell (NZL)failed to qualify the Tyrrell 012. German Grand Prix, Hockenheim, 5 September 1984 Ricardo Rodriguez (MEX) Ferrari 156, front row of the grid on Grand Prix debut. Italian Grand Prix, Monza, Italy, 10 September 1961. Fernando Alonso(ESP) European Minardi PS01 Australian Grand Prix Melbourne, Australia 2nd-4th March 2001. World © Batchelor/Sutton Local hero Esteban Tuero (ARG) Minardi during the drivers' parade. Formula One World Championship, Rd3, Argentine Grand Prix, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 12 April 1998.

Before he even crosses the finish line in Hungary this weekend, Toro Rosso’s new signing Jaime Alguersauri will already be a record breaker. At 19 years and four months old, on Sunday he will become the youngest driver in Formula One history to start a race. We take a look back through the history books to find out more about the other youngsters to have graced the Formula One grid…

Mike Thackwell
Debut - 1980 Canadian Grand Prix
Age on debut -19 years, five months and 29 days
Race result - DNF (qualified in 24th)
Career tally - race appearances: 5, starts: 2, DNF (x2), points: 0

New Zealander Mike Thackwell made his first appearance at the 1980 Dutch Grand Prix. But after failing to qualify in the Arrows, he had to wait another month to make his race debut at the 1980 Canadian Grand Prix. Having qualified in 25th in the Tyrrell, he was aged 19 years and 182 days old when he took to the Montreal grid. It didn’t all go as planned, however. A crash on the first lap forced organisers to temporarily stop the race and, as Thackwell was involved, he wasn’t able to restart and in the stats is officially recognised as a ‘non-starter’. After failing to qualify for the subsequent German event, he wouldn’t officially record an F1 start until four years later when he was back racing in Montreal in the RAM. Widely considered as one of the sport’s great lost talents, Thackwell never crossed the finish line of a Formula One race. He did, however, enjoy more success in Formula Two and Formula 3000.

Ricardo Rodriguez
Debut - 1961 Italian Grand Prix
Age on debut - 19 years, six months and 27 days
Race result - DNF (qualified in 2nd)
Career tally - race appearances: 6, starts: 5, best result: 4th, points: 4

Twenty years before Thackwell’s escapades, young Mexican driver Ricardo Rodriguez debuted for Ferrari at the 1961 Italian Grand Prix, aged just 19 years and six months. Although he had already made history a year earlier, becoming the youngest driver to stand on the Le Mans podium, nobody expected much from the youngster. Astounding them all and outclassing Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Stirling Moss to name a few, he qualified in second. A fuel pump problem three laps into his debut, ended his race early, and with a subsequent crash ending the life of team mate Wolfgang von Trips and 15 spectators, his story was ultimately overshadowed. He was taken on as a Ferrari driver for the 1962 season and took several promising results including a fourth place at the Belgian Grand Prix. He was robbed of the chance to live up to his potential, however, after being killed during practice for a non-championship race in Mexico later that year.

Fernando Alonso
Debut - 2001 Australian Grand Prix
Age on debut - 19 years, seven months and three days
Race result - 12th (qualified in 19th)
Career tally - race appearances: 132, starts: 130, best result: 1st (x21), points: 564

It’s hard to imagine two-time world champion Fernando Alonso as a rookie, but all established drivers have to launch their F1 careers somewhere, and his starting point was the 2001 Australian Grand Prix. Drafted in by Minardi, who had been impressed by his F3000 performances, Alonso was just 19 years and seven months old when he graced the Melbourne grid. Although the PS01 was not the fastest car, Alonso displayed instant star quality, qualifying over two seconds ahead of team mate Tarso Marques. In the race he crossed the line 12th, and while he was two laps down on the Ferrari of winner Michael Schumacher, it was a commendable performance nonetheless. The rest as they say is history. Two world championships, 21 race wins and 564 points later, he’s remains the real deal.

Esteban Tuero
Debut - 1998 Australian Grand Prix
Age on debut - 19 years, 10 months and 14 days
Race result - DNF (qualified in 17th)
Career tally - race appearances: 16, starts: 16, best result: 8th (x1), points: 0

The son of a racing enthusiast, Argentine driver Esteban Tuero started his motor racing carer at the tender age of seven in karts. Twelve years later he landed his first Formula One seat at Minardi for the 1998 season, but with just 13 single-seater races under his belt, there were plenty who thought him too inexperienced for the drive. The worries were largely unfounded and on his debut at the Australian Grand Prix he qualified well in 17th, outpacing team mate Shinji Nakano. He even looked like he could take a strong midfield finish until an engine failure ended his race. He saw out the season with Minardi, chalking up a best finish of eighth at the San Marino Grand Prix, before returning to Argentina to continue his career in smaller series.

Chris Amon
Debut - 1963 Belgian Grand Prix
Age on debut - 19 years, 10 months and 20 days
Race result - DNF (qualified in 15th)
Career tally - race appearances: 108, starts: 96, best result: 2nd (x3), points: 83

The second New Zealander in our five-man list, Chris Amon made his official debut at the 1963 Belgian Grand Prix for Reg Parnell Racing. He had been set to start the preceding round in Moncao, but when his team mate’s car developed a fault, he had to relinquish his machine and was forced to sit out the race. Two weeks’ later at Spa he made his first bona fide appearance. Although he started strongly from his 15th-place grid slot, his car soon developed an oil fire and he was forced to retire on Lap 10. It was an unlucky start to his career and the poor luck continued for much of his debut season - he finished just two races that year. Amon enjoyed more success over the rest of his career, taking 11 podium finishes, but a race win remained illusive.