Who is the youngest F1 world champion, and can Max Verstappen break the record?

Jake Nichol December 12, 2021
Who is the youngest F1 world champion, and can Max Verstappen break the record?
Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images


There are now 34 F1 world champions, but who is the youngest of all? And can Max Verstappen beat it if he wins the 2021 title?

How many world champions are there?

Since the world championship was incepted in 1950, 34 drivers have become world champion.

Giuseppe Farina was the first in 1950 for driving Alfa Romeo.

The most recent driver to become world champion for the first time was Nico Rosberg in 2016.

That was until Max Verstappen’s triumph in the 2021 season-finale in Abu Dhabi.

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F1 2021 | October Free Content Updates Trailer

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He beat Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to the crown in a season-long battle, and then retired.

Hamilton and Michael Schumacher have a record seven apiece, with the Briton hoping to eclipse the German this season.

Mercedes driver Hamilton currently trails his title rival Max Verstappen by 19 points with four grands prix left in the 2021 season.

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Who is the youngest F1 world champion?

The current record holder for youngest F1 world champion is Sebastian Vettel.

In 2010, Vettel was just 23 years, 134 days old when he claimed the title in a four-way shootout in the Abu Dhabi finale.

Vettel, who went on to claim a further three titles, took the record from Hamilton.

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Then at McLaren, Hamilton took his first title in 2008.

He was 23 years, 300 days old – meaning Vettel pipped him by 146 days.

Interestingly, the record for youngest world champion was broken three times in just six seasons in the 2000s.

The first driver to do it was Fernando Alonso.

In 2005, he ended Schumacher’s dominant run to become the youngest world champion in over 30 years.

The Spaniard was 24 years, 58 days old when he won the title in Brazil.

Youngest five F1 world champions

  • 1. Sebastian Vettel – 2010 – 23 years, 134 days
  • 2. Lewis Hamilton – 2008 – 23 years, 300 days
  • 3. Fernando Alonso – 2005 – 24 years, 58 days
  • 4. Max Verstappen – 2021 – 24 years, 73 days
  • 5. Emerson Fittipaldi – 1972 – 25 years, 273 days
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Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

What about the oldest?

Whilst the record for the youngest ever F1 world champion may some day be beaten, it is likely the record for the oldest will stand the test of time.

In 1957, Juan Manuel Fangio became world champion for the fifth time – he was a remarkable 46 years, 41 days old.

Photo by Bernard Cahier/Getty Images

Driving was less physical back in the 1950s and 1960s, meaning drivers routinely raced into their late 40s.

Indeed, the three oldest drivers to win the title all did so in their 40s.

Oldest five F1 world champions

  • 1. Juan Manuel Fangio – 1957 – 46 years, 41 days
  • 2. Giuseppe Farina – 1950 – 43 years, 308 days
  • 3. Jack Brabham – 1966 – 40 years, 155 days
  • 4. Graham Hill – 1968 – 39 years, 262 days
  • 5. Nigel Mansell – 39 years, 8 days

Should Hamilton want to take this particular F1 record, he would have to win the 2031 world championship.

Can Max Verstappen break the record for youngest F1 champion?

One dream Red Bull had when it signed Max Verstappen was to make him the youngest world champion in history.

However, Verstappen is now 24 years old and cannot break Vettel’s record.

To do have done so, Verstappen would have needed to win the title in 2020 or earlier.

Should Verstappen win the 2021 title, he will slot in between Alonso and Fittipaldi as the fourth youngest F1 world champion.

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Jake can usually be found writing about or watching anything to do with motorsport – from Formula 1 to NASCAR to British Truck Racing. His work as a motorsport journalist has been published by the likes of Autosport, Motorsport.com and Motorsport News – all highly respected names. Away from racing he is a keen amateur astronomer, podcast listener and enjoys long walks in the park with his three dogs.