Record Breakers: F1’s youngest ever drivers

Date published: March 24 2020 - Finley Crebolder

Five drivers have held the record of being the youngest in the sport to start a race, but how did they do after breaking it?

Logic would suggest that if a driver is talented enough to be given a chance so young, they’ll go on to enjoy a successful career, but that hasn’t always been the case.

And just to clarify, we’re talking about the five that initially held or actually broke the record of youngest driver when they joined the grid, not the five youngest outright, hence the lack of Lance Stroll and Lando Norris.

Troy Ruttman 

Once upon a time, the Indy 500 was part of the Formula 1 calendar, and many drivers would compete solely in that race and no others. One such driver was American Troy Ruttman.

Ruttman was just 22 years old when he started his first in the sport’s inaugural season in 1950, becoming the youngest driver to do so. He finished in P15 out of 33 drivers.

Two years later he returned and became the youngest ever winner of the iconic race, a record he holds to this day but, in Formula 1 terms, he was eventually succeeded by one Fernando Alonso when he became the youngest winner at the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix.

He went on to compete in six more F1 races, including four Indy 500s, but finished just one, a P10 finish at the 1958 French Grand Prix.

Ricardo Rodriguez 

11 years later, Ruttman lost his record to Mexican driver Ricardo Rodriguez. The younger brother of double race winner Pedro, Ricardo was just 19 years old when he drove the 1961 Italian Grand Prix for Ferrari, although he failed to finish it.

He was re-signed by the Italian team for the 1962 season and scored points in four of the five races he drove, with a P2 finish in Pau being a highlight.

However, he tragically died in a crash during the first day of practice for his home Grand Prix, driving for Rob Walker as the Scuderia opted not to enter. To this day, he’s the youngest ever to drive for Ferrari in the sport.

Mike Thackwell 

Thackwell’s inclusion in the record books is a controversial one. While he did start the 1980 Canadian Grand Prix when 19 years and five months old, the race was red-flagged and, before the restart, he was instructed to give his car to a team-mate who had crashed out at the start. Still, he did start it, so we’re counting it.

Things didn’t get much better for him in the sport after this. He entered three more races that season but failed to qualify for two and retired from another. No team opted to sign him for the following year.

After a successful few seasons in Formula 2, F1 teams began to show interest in bringing him back to the grid in 1984.

However, this interest only resulted in two race weekend appearances; he retired from one and failed to qualify in the other.

Jaime Alguersuari 

The fact that Alguersuari just turned 29 makes us feel really, really old. The Spaniard had only just hit 19 when he drove his first F1 race, the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, replacing Sebastian Bourdais for Toro Rosso. Despite finishing just two of the following seven races, he was retained for the 2010 season.

After another mediocre year, which saw him finish in the points just twice, he enjoyed more success in 2011, scoring 26 points and finishing as high as P7 in two races. Despite this, he was dropped in favour of Daniel Ricciardo for the following year.

His post-F1 life has been unconventional, to say the least. Following a season in Formula E, he retired from motorsport altogether in 2015 to focus on his – wait for it – DJ career. No, really. If you’re ever clubbing in Spain and come across one called Squire, that’s him.

Max Verstappen 

The most well-known and successful driver on this list by quite some way. Verstappen smashed Squire’s record when he drove the Australian Grand Prix in 2015 at the age of 17. He quickly silenced those who claimed he was too young by scoring 49 points in his debut season.

Things have only gotten better since. After being called up to Red Bull in 2016, he won his first race there to become the youngest ever race-winner in the sport and has gone on to stand on the top step of the podium seven more times.

If he can get himself in a capable car, he looks set to win a title one day. Even if he fails to become the youngest driver to do so, we can’t see anyone breaking his record of youngest driver for quite some time. I mean come on, 16-years-old in F1? Surely not…

Follow us on Twitter @Planet_F1 and like our Facebook page.