Formula 2 drivers, Bahrain, 2024

Is the FIA right to relax the age limit for Formula 1 drivers?

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Eight years since announcing Formula 1 was closed to anyone under the age of 18, the FIA has softened its position.

In updated rules issued this week, the sport’s governing body is now allowing 17-year-olds to race in the series. However they must have “recently and consistently demonstrated outstanding ability and maturity in single-seater formula car competition.”

Whether they meet these criteria will be determined “at the sole discretion of the FIA”, the updated rules specify.

The announcement comes after the FIA received a request to alter its rules in order to allow Mercedes junior driver Andrea Kimi Antonelli to race in the series before he turns 18 in August.

It’s a somewhat ironic development, as the original 18-year age limit was originally imposed in reaction to another 17-year-old making their F1 debut: Max Verstappen in 2015.

Should the FIA have stuck to the limit in the first place? Was it never needed to begin with? Or has their latest change hit the right balance?


Formula 1 is the fastest form of circuit racing there is. It is demanding and potentially dangerous, and young drivers need the chance to develop their skills before being rushed into it.

Imposing an age limit therefore makes sense. However, drivers mature at different rates and the age limits on junior categories can vary between countries. The FIA is therefore correct to give itself the opportunity to allow those in who will turn 18 during a season.

The qualifications for new drivers to come into F1 are already tough. They must compete and succeed in sufficient high-quality series to gain at least 40 superlicence points. Achieving this is hard enough that softening the 18-year age limit is unlikely to result in an influx of young drivers in the series.


The 18-year age limit was never needed in the first place. It was a knee-jerk reaction to the arrival of Verstappen, and the huge success he has enjoyed is the best proof anyone could ask for that age limits aren’t needed.

F1 teams should always want to pick the best driver available for them. They are best suited to judge whether a driver is capable, fit and mature enough to compete.

The FIA’s role should only be to ensure a driver is competent enough to compete in F1. Once any driver demonstrates that, they should be allowed to race, regardless of how old or young they are.

I say

Whether the limit is 18, 17 or something else matters less to me than having clear regulations. And this is the problem I have with today’s announcement.

The FIA now has the power to arbitrarily decide whether a driver should be able to race in F1. True, it only applies to a small cohort of drivers, but even so it marks a move away from the rigid qualification system used previously.

Rules like this inevitably lead to accusations of favouritism – founded or unfounded – when some drivers are approved and others are not. This happened many times in the past when the FIA had greater discretionary powers to award super licences. So for me, this latest change feels like a step backwards.

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You say

Should there be an age limit for F1 drivers – and if so what should it be? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments:

Which is the right age limit for F1?

  • No opinion (4%)
  • 2024-: 18-year age limit with discretionary dispensation for 17-year-olds (11%)
  • 2016-24: 18-year age limit (38%)
  • Pre-2016: No age limit (48%)

Total Voters: 82

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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45 comments on “Is the FIA right to relax the age limit for Formula 1 drivers?”

  1. Lol my vote is 100% of all voters and i have said no agelimit as before.

    Btw Max did a frree pratice when he was 16 that was Japan 2014 i think? And the engineers were impressed.

  2. I think it’s nannying rubbish. F1 is pretty safe; it’s not like you’re sending them over the top of a trench.

    Verstappen didn’t struggle, and it’s in the interest of teams to choose decent drivers, especially since the ‘arrive and drive’ days of no-hoper teams before the minimum qualifying percentage.

    Re: 16 or 17 year olds coming in to the sport after a whole childhood of realistic sim racing and karting… in days gone by you’d have had people in their 20s with less experience joining the grid.

    1. Verstappen didn’t struggle,

      The Red Bull repair bill probably says different. He had quite a trail of collisions with barriers and other cars.
      Someone will jump up and deny that, but the info is out there if you care to look.

      in days gone by you’d have had people in their 20s with less experience joining the grid.

      For certain periods, you would probably be able to find instances of drivers of almost any age with less experience, that doesn’t make it a good thing.

      I’m fully in agreement with Keith’s sentiment regarding the apparent, totally arbitrary nature of being allowed into F1.
      Unless the FIA spokesperson “misspoke” and forgot to mention the “recently and consistently demonstrated outstanding ability and maturity in single-seater formula car competition.” bit is demonstrated by accumulating 40 points within a specified period as currently is the case.

  3. The relaxation of the age limit is one thing, but giving the FIA unfettered discretion to approve or refuse a 17-year-old’s superlicence application demonstrates that the ‘points’ system is no longer fit for purpose.

    If a driver can obtain 40 superlicence points, they should have amply demonstrated that they are fit to drive an F1 car. This applies whether they’re 17, 18 or 45. But the FIA thinks that an additional ‘discretionary’ barrier needs to be placed in the way of drivers under 18. Why is this? Are they worried that undeserving or immature drivers are going to luck into achieving 40 points by accident? And does this risk disappear entirely as soon as they reach their eighteenth birthday?

    Clearly the FIA does not have enough trust in its own system to weed out unsuitable drivers. Which should call into question the purpose of the whole system, not just its application to younger drivers.

    1. It’s almost as if the points system was just a way of forcing drivers to do certain FOM-supported series rather than a genuine attempt to make sure drivers were experienced enough and good enough to race in F1…

    2. Charlie Racing
      14th June 2024, 16:48

      @Red Any: 2 words: Lance Stroll

  4. What frustrates me is the FIA constantly put rules in place, and then relax them when they feel they need to. Either have a rule and enforce it without any exceptions, or don’t have a rule in the first place! Why change the rule as soon as a 17 year old might race in F1? It just gives the impression there are no actual rules, it’s just politics and who can put pressure on who to get what they want.

  5. Given the huge pressures and media intrusion as well as the very real danger of F1, I don’t think it’s appropriate for children to be exposed to all that. You have to cut off somewhere to enforce that and 18 seems a fair cut off point. Will some 18 years old be more ready for F1 than others, of course, everyone develops at different rates but when you start allowing subjective review to decide who to choose then it can be unfair.

    To me it feels like the only people that will get this special dispensation for F1 are the chosen few of certain manufacturers or those with wealth backing them. That seems completely contrary to the supposed goals of getting people in F1 from a broader background if you just allow those with the money to push their drivers through.

  6. I’d put an upper limit too.

    1. I’d put an upper limit too.

      “Clear anti-Spanish bias” says Alonso


  7. It’s a bit crazy to me that they want to unban the ban the first new “talent” comes around the corner. Let’s see when next time a 16year old rich kid comes around with less talent but enough points. Let’s be honest, that 40 point system is all bogus. If a Sargent and goatifi. We all know its all off… let them solve that issue first then we don’t need to look at ages at all.

  8. I think anybody turning a specific age in the calendar year (let’s say) 18 should be allowed because Antonelli might be unfairly punished by a late birthday.

    1. This approach would be good.
      Turning 18 during the season or the same year as a certain season is close enough to actually being 18 anyway.

      1. “Turning 18 during the season or the same year as a certain season is close enough to actually being 18 anyway”


        So on my 18th birthday, I was ‘close enough to actually being 18 anyway’?

        Good one, occy…

        1. Simon You know what I mean, which is mental level-wise.

  9. Probably not a popular idea, but I think there should be a minimum age to get into F1… Even though security is nowadays very good, it remains a dangerous sport – you don’t want to have a 15 year old kid been killed live in front of 90m pair of eyeballs…

    Not sure what the right age limit is, but 18 seems a rather logical choice.

    I also understand the need of a bit of flexibility sometime… Not being able to put the driver of your choice for a few missing days / weeks can be ridiculous… So at the end of the day; having a rule that says: “minimum age is 18y old, but you can ask for an exception from 17y old that will be judged by the FIA” does not seem bad to be. Pragmatic, for once…

    As for the license point – we’ve already seen that the system has his merits, but also limitation. My bet is in this case that Antonelli will fair better than Logan…

  10. If you think in terms of road cars, I don’t want, say, 13 year olds to be allowed to drive on the roads. This isn’t a question of skill, because for sure there will be some 13 year olds who have been driving on private land since they were old enough to see over the steering wheel and can parallel park far better than I can. But for all their skill, I don’t believe most 13 year olds have the maturity of attitude to drive safely all the time. When we were 13 we thought we were indestructable, we’d push the limits way too far, and we didn’t understand the consequences.

    So I definitely think there should be some lower limit for driving a car on the roads. In the UK that limit is 17, and I have a lot of reservations about that too because once they get a license, they can get a high performance car and jam it full of drunken friends. Australia seems to have a more measured approach to young drivers.

    Extending this to F1, yes there may well be young highly skilled drivers, but do they have the maturity to drive that car safely alongside other crazily fast F1 cars? I don’t know how you measure this, but if you said there shouldn’t be a lower age limit, take it to an extreme, and ask yourself if would you be happy to have an eight year old on the grid. If not eight, then what about nine, ten,…..? Where would you draw the line?

    An age qualification isn’t ideal, but still I think I would be okay with, say, a 20 year old limit on F1, and maybe 18 on F2, and without exceptions just because someone is superfast or marketable. It is important to send out a message that drving cars fast also carries a lot of responsibility. It isn’t a playstation game where the worst that can happen is that you spill your cola over the console.

    1. At a minimum I’d have a 16 years old limit, apart from that, since verstappen was allowed at 17, I’m ok with antonelli and others being allowed, though would rather that the fia had no say in the matter, as in if you’re 17 and got the points, you get in, no matter what they say.

      1. At a minimum I’d have a 16 years old limit, apart from that, since verstappen was allowed at 17, I’m ok with antonelli and others being allowed, though would rather that the fia had no say in the matter, as in if you’re 17 and got the points, you get in, no matter what they say.

        I don’t have a fixed view on the actual age, but like you, I’m very much against the FIA giving themselves the power to vary the rules on a whim.

      2. @esploratore1 The key difference is that no age limit existed when he entered F1, so apples to oranges comparison.

        1. Yes, we know! Greengrocer Jere’s in town everybody and he’s letting you know ALL about apples and oranges

          1. Simon You again.

  11. Stick with the 18-year-old age limit. I understand teams desperately want a new “Verstappen-story”, because you get better social media attention than hiring some unknown 20-something F2 champion. So it’s basically a monetary decision, rather than a driver quality decision. Stories sell.
    Mark my words, soon they will relax the superlicense points limit to allow female/Indian/Saudi drivers to enter F1.

  12. Stephen Taylor
    14th June 2024, 16:39

    Some journalists haven’t read the rule update properly. Keith the rules only changes only allow Antonelli to participate in Free Practice session before his 18th Birthday not a race. Please ensure you report this story accurately.

    1. Keith the rules only changes only allow Antonelli to participate in Free Practice session before his 18th Birthday not a race.

      No, the rules change allows him to compete in races as well as practice sessions. There are separate clauses in the regulations for each.

      1. Reflecting – it would be lovely if you could add links to the rules in a rule-based (or rule change) article like this one, so we can go take a look ourselves.

  13. Stephen Taylor
    14th June 2024, 16:50

    The the key criteria change which helps Anonelli is removing the need for a road going driving licence.

  14. You either have an age limit or you do not. To say the FIA has “sole discretion” only sets up the claim of discrimination when one driver is alowed and another is not. I don’t care what age limit the FIA sets, but it should be set, not “well this, unless we say otherwise”.

  15. Are superlience points requirements even necessary now?
    F1 teams know full well whether or not a driver is good enough to be in their car.
    And in the budget cap era, I doubt there’ll be as much of a focus on pay drivers.

    But I’m not sure how I feel about the desperate rush to get a fast kid in the car asap.
    Its not like there’s a very small window for a driver to stay in F1. Alonso made his F1 race debut over two decades ago, and even this year outlets were trying to link him to a possible move to top teams.

    So in theory I don’t mind the idea of an age limit.

    Take some of the pressure off the kids, if there’s time for them to show their development/potential.
    Maybe have time to develop themselves personally.
    And those who are certified talents could maybe take the time to grow a fanbase by turning up race events outside the F1 bubble. Trying their hand at other series to flesh out their skills.
    Instead of the tunnel vision mindset or prescribed route dictate by the FIA.

    But I know that’s just pie in the sky thinking.
    Even if it was possible, F1 teams would rather have a prospect sat in the back of the garage than participate in anything outside of their control.

    1. Having some form of age limit, rule theory passing, & 300 km minimum F1 car driving at proper racing speeds would suffice as super license eligibility requirements.

      1. What, no apples and oranges?

        1. Simon Only a general reference.

  16. I don’t think we should allow under 18s in the sport.

    My reasoning for this was my gut reaction to Alonso’s 2012 crash at Spa. I was standing at the Bus Stop that day, in full red, next to an 8yo Spanish kid. When the crash happened, the crowd had no idea of the severity – and pre halo – were concerned that Alonso wasn’t moving. That crash pre dates Bianchi and De Villota, and a large portion of the crowd were concerned it was a head knock given how recently we had seen Massa, Surtees and Coulthard and Wurz in the previous seasons.

    This event formed my opinion on the halo, which likely saved Leclerc at the same corner – ironically with Alonso – 6 years later. I felt a death to the championship leader would have been incredibly difficult for a modern sport to move on from. If that driver had been a child – I dread to think of the reaction.

    Modern F1 fans are much more risk averse than my generation. A serious accident between adults is tragic but accepted. A Grosjean Bahrain incident to a 17 year old isn’t. Of course, these events can happen in junior formula – but the big difference is that F1 is most widely watched, most commercial and expected to be most professional. All of that goes out the window with a fatality of a minor in my opinion.

    1. Very good post.

    2. I absolutely agree with all you said. Also, I am not in favour of such a huge global sport to promote giving millions of dollars to a child (even if the parents are in charge of the money, that’s irrelevant). It just reeks to me on a moral level.

  17. I voted for the 2016-24 hard limit, but this caveated limit allowing for dispensation under given circumstances will be okay as long as everyone in wholly comparable situation gets treated equally, as double-standard treatment has zero place in the world.
    Btw, I couldn’t disagree more with the ‘Against’ portion because if the 18 limit never came following Max’s entrance to F1, teams could’ve used the opportunity to try & get younger & younger drives over these 8 years, not to mention could still try if the pre-2016 zero limit situation returned.
    Simply put, drawing the line somewhere is necessary & justified, so zero arguments in favor of having nothing.

    1. “zero arguments in favor of having nothing”


      1. Simon Again, you know what I mean & I’m not even the only one.

  18. Why should the FIA points system not be sufficient to cover all ages? If you’re capable of gaining the points to be eligible, you deserve the chance.

    1. Points system doesn’t mean a driver is mentally ready to compete on the highest level.

  19. I don’t think there should be any age limit. But then I also don’t think there should be the super-licence points system either.

    If your given an opportunity to test an F1 car & show that you are good enough the a team should be allowed to sign you to race regardless of age or what series you came through.

    1. I agree about not having the points system, but age limit in at least some form is definitely justified in any case.
      Your ‘regardless of age’ reference could mean several years below 18, which would be excessively risky mental readiness & liability-wise.

  20. I think there should be an age limit purely because I think drivers should spend some time in the lower series before F1. F1 drivers should arrive not to learn but to apply what they have learnt in their careers for the final flourish. They shouldn’t be learning media duties on the job as well.

  21. There should be no age limit but it’s not right to change the rules suddenly now because they want a specific driver to get a seat.

  22. I have to chuckle at these “no age limit” couch cowboy comments.
    Here’s a question for you all … what if Papa Stroll had put Lancey into F1 when he was 16?
    Or perhaps a Grosjean or a Maldonado …

    My big issue with this case is that we’ve seen nothing from Antonelli in F2 that suggests he is special enough to justify a rule change. He’s certainly not the obvious talent Max was, nor the original Kimi. If Michael Schumacher could wait for a F1 debut beyond 18yrs old, Antonelli certainly can.

    This also seems like another case of special treatment for Mercedes Benz.

Comments are closed.