In-season and pre-season testing has been severely reduced for the last five years, meaning the new generation of drivers has spent far less time in F1 cars than those who came before them.
On top of that, they have to cope with power units which are vastly more complicated and quite unlike anything they have used in junior racing categories.
But the signs of quality in F1’s latest intake of new drivers has been clear to see. At the first race of the year in Australia Kevin Magnussen began his F1 career with a podium finish.
And Daniil Kvyat beat Sebastian Vettel’s record by becoming the youngest driver ever to score a point in a round of the world championship.
They are the only teenagers to have scored points in F1 so far. Here’s how they did it – as well as the next eight youngest F1 points scorers.
Race: 2014 Australian Grand Prix
Age: 19 years, 329 days
Kvyat’s promotion to Red Bull’s junior team was not widely foreseen and caused a stir when it was announced in October last year. The more experienced Antonio Felix da Costa had been widely expected to move into the seat vacated by Daniel Ricciardo. But Kvyat underlined his credentials by winning the GP3 series after his drive was announced.
Toro Rosso suffered numerous problems with their car and its new Renault V6 turbo during pre-season testing. Kvyat failed to leave the garage at all in his first day of testing in Jerez.
But hit the ground running at the first race weekend of the year. Despite never having driven at Melbourne before or piloted an F1 car in the wet, Kvyat qualified eighth, after an ambitious attempt to set a time on intermediate tyres on a very wet track led to a minor crash.
There was little he could do to prevent Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas overtaking him in the race, but he stayed out of trouble to claim two points for ninth on his debut – becoming the youngest driver ever to do so. He’s already added two more points finishes since.
When the prodigious young talent of Sebastian Vettel would make his first start in an F1 car was only a matter of time in 2007. But while he later gained his first regular drive at Red Bull’s junior team Toro Rosso, he started his first ever race with BMW’s team.
BMW knew all about Vettel’s potential: three years early he obliterated the German Formula BMW field, taking 18 wins, a second and a third in the 20-round championship. In 2006 the Red Bull-backed driver then won both of his first two races in Formula Renault 3.5. He also gained a spot on BMW’s test team, and when Robert Kubica was injured in Canada the following year Vettel was handed his grand prix debut at Indianapolis.
Vettel’s inexperienced showed at the start: he made a sluggish getaway and failed to pick out his braking point for the first corner. That left him skidding across the grass, but he fortunately rejoined without hitting anyone.
From there on he avoided any further incidents and was 17 seconds behind Nick Heidfeld when his team mate dropped out with a hydraulic problem. Then Nico Rosberg stopped with an oil leak five laps from home, promoting Vettel to eighth place and the final point available, making him the first teenager to score in F1.
Race: 2010 Malaysian Grand Prix
Age: 20 years, 17 days
Alguersuari remains the youngest driver ever to start an F1 race, having made his debut for Toro Rosso at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix at the age of 19 – the year after he claimed the British F3 title.
Toro Rosso struggled for points in the latter half of that season but began the following year with a more competitive car. Their cause was also helped by the fact that points were now offered down to tenth place, instead of eighth.
In the third round at Sepang, Alguersuari worked his way up to tenth place then received a bonus when Fernando Alonso dropped out late in the race, and collected his first two points for ninth.
This list is well populated with drivers whose careers were backed by Red Bull’s young driver programme. But while the likes of Vettel went on to enjoy tremendous success, others like Alguersuari found out the hard way what happens when they are thought not to have delivered. He was dropped by the team at the end of 2011, and is now set to race in Formula E for Virgin later this year.
Jenson Button was only two years out of karts when he went up against Bruno Junqueira in a shoot-out for a seat at Williams. He got the drive, but a difficult first weekend in Australia saw him line up on the back row of the grid then retire with an engine problem.
Fortune was back on his side in Brazi, however, where he out-qualified team mate Ralf Schumacher at only his second grand prix weekend.
His more experienced team mate finished ahead, but when David Coulthard was disqualified for a front wing infringement Button was elevated to sixth place, earning a single point, and becoming the youngest driver to do so at the time.
Race: 1962 Belgian Grand Prix
Age: 20 years, 128 days
Button broke a 38-year-old record which had been set by one of Mexico’s most promising racing talents.
Ricardo Rodriguez had made his world championship debut for Ferrari in the 1961 Italian Grand Prix. Team mate Wolfgang von Trips was killed during the race, leaving a void in the team which Rodriguez helped fill the following year.
At Spa-Francorchamps he took fourth place in the wheeltracks of the other Ferrari of Phil Hill, picking up his first three points.
But tragically, F1’s youngest points scorer had less than five months to live. He could not stand to miss his home country’s non-championship grand prix in November, so when Ferrari decided not to enter he drove a Lotus run by Rob Walker instead. During practice he crashed at the Peraltada, suffered horrible injuries, and was killed.
Race: 2009 Australian Grand Prix
Age: 20 years, 154 days
Like Alguersuari, Buemi made an early start in F1 with Toro Rosso but lost his race seat at the end of 2011. Unlike his former team mate, Buemi has remained with Red Bull as a test driver.
With three laps to go in his first F1 race Buemi seemed destined not to begin his F1 career with a points haul. He was running tenth, two places outside of the points, when the Australian Grand Prix ended amid drama.
First Vettel collided with Kubica, putting both out and bringing the Safety Car onto the track. Then Lewis Hamilton and McLaren made a fateful decision to let Jarno Trulli past during the Safety Car period.
This was eventually ruled to have been an error, one which the team did not confess to, and when Hamilton was thrown out of the race four days later Buemi was confirmed in seventh.
Early in his career Rosberg had shared a kart team with Hamilton and also went up against him in F3. But he arrived in F1 one year before his rival.
It looked like Rosberg’s promotion to Williams’ race squad might have been premature when he collided with Heidfeld at the first corner, damaging his front wing. But after making an early pit stop Rosberg went on a charge, setting fastest lap on his was to an impressive seventh place.
That raised hopes for what he could achieve later in the year. But it proved his best result of the season, as a series of technical problems and a few more run-ins with his rivals kept him from finishing any higher.
Race: 1964 Dutch Grand Prix
Age: 20 years, 314 days
Teenage racing drivers were a rare thing when Amon made his F1 debut in 1963. He didn’t score during his first season driving a Lola for Reg Parnell, but came close at Reims and Silverstone, finishing seventh on both occasions.
The team switched to a Lotus 25 the following year an Amon brought the car home fifth in the first race he started that year at Zandvoort. At the time it would have been hard to imagine this bright young talent would spend another 13 years in F1 yet, through a combination of poor luck and poor timing, never win a race.
Race: 2002 Malaysian Grand Prix
Age: 20 years, 331 days
Felipe Massa had a hard act to follow in 2002 when he succeeded Raikkonen as Peter Sauber’s ‘next big thing’.
Massa was clearly a rough diamond – incident-prone yet clearly very quick. That said he was blameless in the multi-car shunt which ruined his F1 race before it had started in Australia. Next time out in Malaysia he brought the Sauber home in sixth.
He got himself in trouble a few too many times during the rest of the season, however, and was benched for one race after collecting a grid penalty for colliding with Pedro de la Rosa during the Italian Grand Prix.
Sergio Perez should have joined F1’s ranks of first-time points scorers when he crossed the line seventh at his first race in Australia at the beginning of the 2011 season. But he and team mate Kamui Kobayashi were disqualified due to a rear wing infringement.
He made amends at round five in Spain, bringing the car home ninth. But at the very next round, Monaco, he crashed heavily and missed the race and the following event in Canada due to injury.
Top ten youngest F1 points scorers
|Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||2014 Australian Grand Prix||19 years, 329 days|
|Sebastian Vettel||BMW||2007 United States Grand Prix||19 years, 354 days|
|Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso||2010 Malaysian Grand Prix||20 years, 17 days|
|Jenson Button||Williams||2000 Brazilian Grand Prix||20 years, 72 days|
|Ricardo Rodriguez||Ferrari||1962 Belgian Grand Prix||20 years, 128 days|
|Sebastien Buemi||Toro Rosso||2009 Australian Grand Prix||20 years, 154 days|
|Nico Rosberg||Williams||2006 Bahrain Grand Prix||20 years, 263 days|
|Chris Amon||Reg Parnell||1964 Dutch Grand Prix||20 years, 314 days|
|Felipe Massa||Sauber||2002 Malaysian Grand Prix||20 years, 331 days|
|Sergio Perez||Sauber||2011 Spanish Grand Prix||21 years, 121 days|
F1 top tens
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Images © Red Bull/Getty, Williams/LAT, Sauber