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F1’s Forty-Somethings Make a Stunning Return

Alonso to Shatter Age Record in F1 History

02/06/2024

Fernando Alonso will break a historic age record in F1, echoing Graham Hill’s era, as the sport sees a resurgence of competitive drivers in their forties.

Born on July 29, 1981, Fernando Alonso will celebrate his 43rd birthday in a few months.

Having extended his contract with Aston Martin F1 until the end of 2026, it means he will still be racing in F1 beyond the age of 45.

Thus, Fernando Alonso will become the oldest driver to compete in F1 since… Graham Hill in 1975, who was 45 years and 345 days old when he raced at Interlagos.

Furthermore, at 46 years and 85 days, Hill also attempted to qualify, unsuccessfully, for the Monaco Grand Prix.

The parallels between Hill and Fernando Alonso are striking. Hill is the only driver to have won the Triple Crown (Monaco Grand Prix, 24 Hours of Le Mans, and Indianapolis 500): an achievement Fernando Alonso has attempted to replicate. While he triumphed at Le Mans and Monaco, his attempts in Indiana have been in vain.

Alonso’s advanced age reminds us of another era in F1 when it was not uncommon for drivers to be in their 40s (like Farina or Fangio) or even in their 50s.

Two records date back to the 1950s.

The record for the oldest winner in Formula 1 is held by Luigi Fagioli, who won the 1951 French Grand Prix at the age of 53.

As for the oldest driver to take part in a Grand Prix, it is Monaco’s Louis Chiron, who started the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix at the age of 55 years and 292 days.

Increasingly Rare Forty-Something Drivers But…

Since Hill’s retirement, forty-something drivers have been rare in F1.

This is evidenced by the list of drivers over 40 in F1 in the last 50 years:

DriverAgeYearGrand Prix
Vittorio Brambilla42 years, 308 days1980USA Grand Prix
Mario Andretti42 years, 209 days1982Las Vegas Grand Prix
Jacques Laffite42 years, 234 days1986British Grand Prix
René Arnoux41 years, 124 days1989Australian Grand Prix
Philippe Alliot41 years, 32 days1994Belgian Grand Prix
Nigel Mansell41 years, 279 days1995Spanish Grand Prix
Pedro de la Rosa41 years, 275 days2012Brazilian Grand Prix
Michael Schumacher43 years, 327 days2012Brazilian Grand Prix
Kimi Raikkonen42 years, 56 days2021Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

    Today, the improvement in drivers’ preparation and physical condition seems to advocate for the extension of their careers. Alonso’s current form is a testament to this.

    On the other hand, Lewis Hamilton (39 years old today) is expected to continue in F1 for at least another two or three years with Ferrari, possibly becoming the new veteran on the grid after… Fernando Alonso.

    However, there is also a downside: the lengthening of the calendar, the intensity of the sporting and marketing agendas of the drivers, argue in the opposite direction. This is why Max Verstappen (26 years old today) has hinted that he might retire in 2028, at the age of 30.

    When Did World Champion Drivers Retire from F1?

    Finally, it may be interesting to note the age at which world champion drivers retired (when they did not, unfortunately, pass away suddenly, like Jochen Rindt).

    Some drivers were also exhausted and hung up their gloves quite early: this was the case of Nico Rosberg in 2016, at the age of 31.

    DriverDaysAge
    Ascari13,462 days36 years, 307 days
    Farina17,750 days48 years, 190 days
    Fangio17,179 days47 years, 44 days
    Hawthorn10,784 days29 years, 219 days
    P. Hill14,277 days39 years, 42 days
    Clark11,625 days31 years, 275 days
    Rindt10,347 days28 years, 132 days
    Brabham16,277 days44 years, 212 days
    Surtees14,091 days38 years, 226 days
    Stewart12,507 days34 years, 57 days
    Hulme13,989 days38 years, 159 days
    G. Hill16,781 days45 years, 351 days
    Hunt11,594 days31 years, 244 days
    Scheckter11,207 days30 years, 312 days
    Fittipaldi12,351 days33 years, 301 days
    Andretti15,550 days42 years, 220 days
    Lauda13,403 days36 years, 273 days
    K. Rosberg13,481 days36 years, 351 days
    Jones14,603 days40 years, 13 days
    Piquet14,322 days39 years, 117 days
    Prost14,136 days38 years, 291 days
    Senna12,459 days34 years, 109 days
    Mansell15,254 days41 years, 274 days
    D. Hill14,288 days39 years, 83 days
    Hakkinen12,069 days33 years, 19 days
    Villeneuve12,896 days35 years, 161 days
    Schumacher16,032 days43 years, 297 days
    N. Rosberg11,476 days31 years, 241 days
    Button13,644 days37 years, 209 days
    Raikkonen15,397 days42 years, 67 days
    Vettel12,924 days35 years, 189 days
      F1’s Forty-Somethings Make a Stunning Return

      F1’s Forty-Somethings Make a Stunning Return. F1’s Forty-Somethings Make a Stunning Return

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