Last week it was announced that 18-year-old infant Lance Stroll will race for Williams in Formula 1 next season alongside Valtteri Bottas.
When he debuts in F1 at next year’s Australian Grand Prix, he’ll be the second-youngest driver to start a race in the series’ long history.
Canadian driver Stroll will also be the first 18-year-old to line up on an F1 grid, so that got us thinking, just who are the youngest drivers to ever race in F1?
Debut: 2015 Australian Grand Prix
Age: 17 years and 166 days
You may recognise that name. Verstappen’s swift move up to F1 after just one full season racing in the European Formula 3 series caused a huge amount of controversy. When he started the 2015 Australian Grand Prix at the age of just 17 years and 166 days, he took the world record for the youngest ever F1 driver by quite some margin.
Was it all too early? Well, he’s certainly proved all of the haters wrong. Sure, the Dutch driver is a little rough around the edges, but now in his second full F1 season (and at Red Bull too, after his mid-season promotion from Toro Rosso), he’s an F1 race winner and is unsurprisingly being tipped for big things.
Debut: 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix
Age: 19 years and 125 days
Like Verstappen, Alguersuari was another driver to get moved into an F1 seat at Toro Rosso at a young age. He wasn’t quite on the same level as Verstappen though, but at the time he became F1’s youngest driver at 19 years and 125 days old.
Alguersuari showed flashes of speed for Toro Rosso during his time there, having debuted at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix as a replacement for the “meh” Sebastien Bourdais. He scored 10 points-scoring finishes in his F1 career but was not retained for 2012. He’s since raced in Formula E and launched a career as a DJ.
Debut: 1980 Dutch Grand Prix
Age: 19 years 182 days
Thackwell’s first attempt at racing in F1 at the 1980 Dutch Grand Prix was an unusual one. As a test driver for Tyrrell, he was at the race but was approached to drive for Arrows before practice. He failed to qualify but then debuted in F1 at the age of 19 years 182 days at the Canadian Grand Prix later on.
He started the race but a big shunt on the first lap meant he was forced to give up his third car to one of the team’s other drivers for the restart, so he was classified as a retirement. Thackwell made only three more F1 appearances, failing to qualify for two and retiring at the Canada GP in 1984. He then went on to race in Formula 3000, Formula Two and endurance racing.
Debut: 1961 Italian Grand Prix
Age: 19 years and 208 days
When Rodriguez was given a guest drive for Ferrari at the 1961 Italian Grand Prix, he became F1’s youngest driver at the time. It was an unusual for a driver to start an F1 race at such a young age back then, with Rodriguez being 19 years and 208 days old. He actually challenged at the front of the field until a fuel pump failure ended his race.
Rodriguez raced for the Prancing Horse four times in 1962 and also finished second in the non-championship Pau Grand Prix, then being entered in the 1962 Mexican GP with Rob Walker Racing. Sadly he died in a crash during practice after his Lotus car suffered suspension failure.
His older brother Pedro also raced in F1, with 54 entries between 1963 and 1971 and two wins. He died in a sports car race at the Norisring in 1971.
Debut: 2001 Australian Grand Prix
Age: 19 years and 218 days
Alonso? Who’s that. We kid. The Spaniard went on to become a two-time world champion and is regarded as one of the best F1 drivers of all time, but his career all started from humble beginnings at the age of 19 years and 218 days with beloved backmarkers Minardi in 2001. Despite an uncompetitive car Alonso, still managed to shine.
After a year as a test driver for Renault, he stepped up to race for the team in 2003, becoming one of F1’s youngest ever winners in Hungary. He then took the 2005 and 2006 world titles, before moving to McLaren. When that quickly soured, he returned to Renault and then switched to Ferrari.
Alonso came close to a third title several times during his stint at the Scuderia but it wasn’t meant to be. For 2015 he moved back to McLaren but as we all know, that hasn’t gone too well so far.
Debut: 1998 Australian Grand Prix
Age: 19 years and 320 days
Martin Brundle once said Tuero had “zilch credibility” after he picked up a F1 race seat with Minardi for the 1998 season at the age of 19 years and 320 days. He didn’t meet many of the super license requirements, didn’t have much F1 experience and had enjoyed only minor success in feeder championships.
Nevertheless the Argentinian driver was granted permission to race and retired from most of the races. His F1 career ended abruptly when he (unbelievably) hit the throttle instead of the brakes during the Japanese GP and launched over Tora Takagi’s Tyrrell. The debris ended up giving Michael Schumacher a puncture, which presented Mika Hakkinen with the title. He suffered a neck injury and never raced in F1 again.