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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:58 am 
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While reading another thread here, this question popped in my head. Lots of drivers are still very young when entering F1, and thus have a long career ahead. But there are others entering later.

The first driver I'm thinking of is Damon Hill. However, I didn't realise up until now he was that old.
He was already 26 years old when entering F3000, and 32 when he entered F1. Obviously in retrospect Brabham hauled him in with good reason (with Hill clinching the WDC a few years later), but a look at his F3000 results makes you wonder why he was given a drive as they were nothing special (with all due respect).

Are there other drivers that debuted on a higher-than-average age and were still successful?

What were the oldest drivers to make their debute? Narain was 28, he would probably be up there?


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:03 am 
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Go back to the 50's and people were entering races into their 50's! The eldest driver to debut was Louis Chiron at 58 years and 288 days.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:05 am 
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Well, true, I was actually thinking more of "modern" times :)
In this day and age, it isn't really possible anymore for 50+'ers to enter F1.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:09 am 
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Righto, well in recent times... I don't think of any 'old' guys who've made a debut. Wasn't Pastor considered a bit old when he joined the grid? He was only 26 I think.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 11:47 am 
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It is now very rare for a driver to make his F1 debut after the age of 30. There are only two examples this century: Christiano da Matta, who was 30 when he competed in the Australian GP in 2003; and Alan McNish, who had just turned 33 when he made his F1 debut at the same race a year earlier (only to be eliminated in a first lap pile-up).

There was a handful of 30+ debutants in the 1990s, including Damon Hill, who was 32 when he started the British GP in 1992 and Roland Ratzenberger, who was 34 when he started his first and only Grand Prix at Aida, Japan in 1994.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 12:19 pm 
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Gimax wrote:
Christiano da Matta, who was 30
Alan McNish, who had just turned 33
Roland Ratzenberger, who was 34


Thanks for these names, never realized back then the latter two were this old.
da Matta was a special case, since he had been a well established Champ Cars driver.


@jammin78: indeed, 26 these days isn't considered young anymore. Webber also was 26.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 12:32 pm 
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Bourdais was 28 and Ide was 31. Irvine was also about 28 I think De La Ross was 29


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 12:40 pm 
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I didn't realise Bourdais was 28 when he joined, then again with his Champcars experience (4 championships was it?) it should be expected really.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 12:53 pm 
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mds wrote:
The first driver I'm thinking of is Damon Hill. However, I didn't realise up until now he was that old.
He was already 26 years old when entering F3000, and 32 when he entered F1. Obviously in retrospect Brabham hauled him in with good reason (with Hill clinching the WDC a few years later), but a look at his F3000 results makes you wonder why he was given a drive as they were nothing special (with all due respect).
F3000 wasn't a single chassis series back then, and depending on which chassis your team had bought for that year, you could be successful, or hardly noticed. I remember seeing him race at Francorchamps in a Footwork-sponsored, hopeless chassis. He simply always did the best he could. So despite a few mistakes in more successful cars, he did get noticed for sticking with a truly difficult car.

I'm not sure whether an accident McNish was involved in during his F3000 period (at Donnington I believe) made it difficult for him to secure a F1-drive before he actually did. He, like Damon, was definitely worth it.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 1:52 pm 
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Gimax wrote:
It is now very rare for a driver to make his F1 debut after the age of 30. There are only two examples this century: Christiano da Matta, who was 30 when he competed in the Australian GP in 2003; and Alan McNish, who had just turned 33 when he made his F1 debut at the same race a year earlier (only to be eliminated in a first lap pile-up).

There was a handful of 30+ debutants in the 1990s, including Damon Hill, who was 32 when he started the British GP in 1992 and Roland Ratzenberger, who was 34 when he started his first and only Grand Prix at Aida, Japan in 1994.


It seems like cars in F1 and before F1 are getting easier to drive and safer, hence the value of experience is getting to be less and less.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 3:44 pm 
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Ralph Firman was 28 iirc when he joined Jordan in 2003.
He'd been firmly established, and successful, in Japan for half a dozen years prior to this, so 'advanced' age is not surprising.

I like it when this sort of driver gets a chance. Not all drivers get the lucky breaks (or lucky brakes! - sorry about that) to reach F1 earlier in their career.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 3:48 pm 
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Eva09 wrote:
It seems like cars in F1 and before F1 are getting easier to drive and safer, hence the value of experience is getting to be less and less.


Well, they're certainly getting safer, and more capable, but easier to drive they are not (although having single make series, as opposed to what it was like back in the day, does mean there aren't "badly" handling chassis). There are two other factors that maybe explain the trend towards younger drivers.

Firstly that teams don't want to miss out on the "next big thing", they don't want another team to sign someone up who turns out to be the greatest ever, and therefore miss out on titles, just because they wanted to wait and see whether the driver would be good enough, rather than taking a bit of a gamble and putting them into an "affiliated" lesser team.

Secondly, and probably more importantly, these days the vast majority of drivers have been racing since thy were 5, by the time they're getting into F1, they've already had 15 years' experience. There has been an ever increasing trend towards more and more children, and younger and younger children taking up racing in a big way, seriously. So not only does the average age that they begin keep decreasing, but also, because of the increasing amount of competitors, the quality of the competition further down the age rage increases, and therefore so does the quality of the racing education throughout the age rage and various formula. And this trend just keeps escalating, on, and on. As such it's ever more likely that drivers will reach their maximum talent potential at an ever earlier age. They only then need to be able to be physically strong and fit enough to be able to cope with F1. It's better to get them into F1 where there's an opportunity as soon as they attain that level, so that they can learn the nuances of F1, and hone their skills further specifically for F1, rather than to wait.

Well, that's the logic as I see it anyway.

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