Lando Norris is now the youngest British F1 Podium finisher in history, after his heroics over the last fortnight in Austria (or should that be Styria?). But that got us wondering, who are the youngest people in different disciplines to go one step further and clinch a win?
The youngest race winners in history
Youngest Formula 1 winner – Max Verstappen, 18 years and 228 days
No real surprise here. Max Verstappen was catapulted straight from finishing third in the European Formula 3 Championship in 2014 into a Formula 1 car in 2015, at the age of just 17. Just a season and four races later he was parachuted into the second seat at Red Bull Racing, replacing Daniil Kvyat after a lacklustre opening to the season. He promptly won his first race for the big team, in Spain, at the age of 18 years and 228 days.
Verstappen also holds records for youngest driver to lead an F1 lap, youngest driver to set a fastest lap, youngest driver to score points and youngest driver to finish on the podium. In fact, pretty much the only youngest record that eludes him now is that of youngest champion. That is currently held by Sebastian Vettel, who was a comparatively ancient 23 years and 124 days old when he won his first title in 2010 (166 days younger than Lewis Hamilton’s 23 years and 300 days in 2008). Time would seem to be running out for Verstappen to add that record to his list though, given that he turns 23 in September, and will be 24 by the time the 2021 season finishes. So it’s this season or never for the young Dutchman. Can he do it?
Youngest WRC winner – Jari-Matti Latvala, 22 years 313 days
Jari-Matti Latvala seems like he has been around the WRC since the beginning of time now. And that’s pretty much because he has. Latvala made his debut 18 years ago at Rally GB in 2002, when he was just 17 – fittingly he finished 17th in a Mitsubishi Evo. Rally drivers are normally older than their racing cousins when they make it to the top level of competition, so for Latvala to be in a top line WRC drive five years later with Ford by the age of 22 was impressive.
When he then clinched a maiden victory on the 2008 Swedish rally (aged 22 years and 313 days) you would have been completely fair in thinking that Jari-Matti was about to launch an incredible career, littered with WRC titles. But for some reason it was never quite there. Latvala has finished second in the championship three times – once in 2010 to Sébastien Loeb by over 100 points, then twice to Volkswagen team-mate Sébastien Ogier in also dominant defeats in 2014 and 2015 – and third twice. He’s continued to win rallies, and in fact now stands tenth on the all-time list of winners with 18, but has never quite managed to make that next step. Now aged 35 and without a full-time WRC drive it’s probably never going to happen, and given that his replacement at Toyota, Kalle Rovenpera, is claiming podiums aged just 19, it might not be long before his WRC record is gone. But we can always remember those early days, when Jari-Matti was the future of rallying.
Youngest Le Mans 24 Hours winner – Alexander Wurz, 22 years and 91 days
Another man who seems to have been around forever. Alexander Wurz was considered very young when he first stepped into a Formula 1 car in 1997 aged 23 (which just shows how young Max Verstappen is) – but by that point he’d already claimed the biggest prize in endurance racing. At the time you would not have really know who Wurz was, let alone expected him to win the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The news in 1996 was all about Porsche stretching the rules to near breaking point with their new 911 GT1. A racing car to all intents and purposes, but pretending to be a road car in enough volume that it could be entered in the less restrictive GT1 class rather than having to conform to prototype regulations. But rather than this new development, or the McLaren F1 GTR that had clinched a surprise victory the year before, it would be a Frankenstein of a prototype that grabbed the headlines. The WSC-95 was a Jaguar XJR-14 shell, with the roof chopped off, and the engine from the Porsche 962 dropped in. This sort-of Porsche clinched pole in the hands of ex-F1 driver Pierluigi Martini. Early on in the race Wurz’s team-mate Davey Jones passed Martini for the lead, and the trio of Austrian Wurz, American Jones and German DTM legend Manuel Reuter were never headed for the rest of the race. Wurz was just 22 years and 91 days old and wouldn’t win the great race again until he was 34. Those two Le Mans victories remain the high points of a career that’s now moved into driver coaching.
Youngest Indy 500 winner – Troy Ruttman, 22 years and 79 days
Troy Ruttman is not a name familiar to those of us on this side of the Atlantic. It’s also not massively familiar to IndyCar fans. He only entered 58 IndyCar races from his debut in 1949 until he withdrew from a race at Milwaukee in 15 years later. In fact Ruttman is far better known in dirt racing Sprint and Midget circles. There he clinched three championships in three-and-a-half seasons – in fact he was already a double AAA Sprint Car Champion by the time he won the Indy 500 in 1952. That victory, in a Kuzma-Offenhauser, came from an extraordinary 18th on the grid, and made him not only the youngest winner of the Indy 500, but also the youngest winner of a race in the World Drivers’ Championship, as Indy was included in the calendar then. That record would not be beaten until Fernando Alonso won the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix – 51 years later.
Ruttman only ever won one more IndyCar race, another oval race two rounds later at Raleigh, and only ever stepped on the podium three more times. But his Indy 500 record remains to this day, as does the fact that he beat the great Alberto Ascari and Ferrari to that win – which was enough to see him finish seventh in the F1 standings at the end of the season.
Youngest MotoGP winner – Marc Marquez, 20 years and 63 days
The youngest MotoGP race winner, youngest MotoGP champion, most wins in a single season, most wins in a debut season, most podium finishes in a season, most points in a season, most pole positions, most pole positions in a season, most pole and win doubles like him or not, Marc Marquez is a phenomenon. Even today, a six-time MotoGP champion, he is just 27 years old, and his debut victory came in just his second ever top level MotoGP race.
Then the reigning Moto2 Champion, Marquez had arrived on the scene with an impressive third place in his first MotoGP race, in Qatar in 2013. But when the circus headed to the Circuit of the Americas he confirmed what many had hoped, or feared: that he was a champion in waiting. Marquez showed maturity beyond his years to hold off team-mate Dani Pedrosa and former champ Jorge Lorenzo and take the first of six victories in his debut season. He was just 20 years and 63 days old when he won that race, and then just 63 days older when he won the championship that year. He backed it up by winning the opening 10 rounds of the following season and has won five of the following six championships. It would be a very brave person to bet against him breaking every record there is – if he races as long as the legendary Valentino Rossi, he still has another 14 seasons at least to do it in.
Youngest BTCC winner – Tom Chilton, 19 years and 55 days
Now 35 and with 14 BTCC and seven WTCC wins under his belt, Tom Chilton is another veteran on this list. But in 2004 he was a fresh-faced youngster, ready to take on the world in privateer Honda Civic. Given his age – just 19 years old – it was perhaps apt that his black Civic was sponsored for the whole season by the Lego Star Wars game for PlayStation 2. But this was actually Chilton’s third full season in the BTCC, having been a full works driver the season before and, while obviously young, he already had podium finishes and 84 BTCC points on his record before he started the season.
The BTCC had moved to a three-races-per-round setup that season, with the second race starting with a reversed-grid and the third the results of the second. Chilton would start the third race at Silverstone in 10th, working his way up to third by lap six. He stayed there for the following seven laps of Silverstone’s old northerly International Circuit, before moving to first on lap 14 of 16. Aged just 19 Chilton was the youngest winner in BTCC history. Senna Proctor came within a few days of beating Chilton’s record in 2018, and Aiden Moffat has smashed the record for youngest ever driver, but Chilton retains his crown and now, 16 years later, he is still a regular BTCC race winner.
Youngest WTCC winner – Pepe Oriola, 19 years and 272 days
Pepe Oriola won his first World Touring Car Championship race seven years ago. The fact that today he is only 26 will tell you just how young the Spaniard was when he took that win, on the streets of Marrakesh, in 2013.
Oriola had taken a pair of second places the season before, at the age of 18, both in reversed-grid races, but just hadn’t quite managed to convert that into a win. But in Morocco, in another reversed-grid situation, nothing was going to stop him. Finishing eighth in the first race of the day meant he was to start near the front of the grid in race two. It took Oriola only one lap to be in the lead, a lead which he would not relinquish on the tight Marrakesh circuit. It was Oriola’s only win in the WTCC before the championship was replaced by the World Touring Car Cup in 2018. Oriola moved to World TCR racing in 2015, clinching eight victories in the following three seasons, and finishing second in the championship in 2015. Now racing in China he continues to take regular wins in TCR racing, but probably isn’t a name you’re likely to hear on the world stage any time soon.
Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.
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