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The youngest world champions – Where does Verstappen rank alongside Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton? – Formula 1

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12 December 2021
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Max Verstappen won his first Formula 1 World Championship in a title showdown at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and, at the age of 24 years and 66 days, became one of the youngest-ever champions. But how does he compare to the likes of Emerson Fittipaldi, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel?
Sebastian Vettel entered the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 15 points shy of Fernando Alonso but emerged the youngest-ever Formula 1 world champion with his fifth victory of the season. Incidentally, he then became the youngest-ever double (then triple then quadruple) champion in the following years.
That’s not all: in 2007, he had already become the youngest-ever F1 points scorer for BMW Sauber at the US Grand Prix, following that up in 2008 by becoming the youngest-ever polesitter and race winner at Monza.
PODCAST: Listen to Sebastian Vettel reflect on his career and life outside F1 on Beyond The Grid
Lewis Hamilton delivered his first title in his sophomore F1 season after kicking off a ferocious rivalry with McLaren team mate Fernando Alonso in 2007, in which the pair were level on points behind champion Kimi Raikkonen by season’s end.
The nailbiting, tearjerking 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix went down in F1 history as Hamilton passed Timo Glock in the dying laps to become the youngest Formula 1 world champion at the time, at the age of 23 years and 300 days old.
If he clinches another title in 2022 for Mercedes, he will be the oldest F1 champion since Alain Prost, who won the title in 1993 at the age of 38 years and 215 days.
READ MORE: From Interlagos to Silverstone – Ranking Hamilton’s best wet-weather drives, from 10 to 1
One of F1’s most youthful debutants back in 2001, Fernando Alonso had the toughest of opponents in Michael Schumacher and Ferrari in 2005, but won over the establishment to end the German’s dominant spell. It was no mean feat: just look back at the stunning 2005 San Marino Grand Prix for evidence of their toe-to-toe battle.
The Spaniard followed that up in 2006 (becoming F1’s youngest double champion at the time), taking seven wins to Schumacher’s seven – but crucially with 134 points to the latter’s 121 points.
The following year, Alonso moved to McLaren – only to meet the mighty challenge of Hamilton…
READ MORE: From Suzuka to San Marino – Ranking Alonso’s best Renault wins
The youngest to ever start a Grand Prix at 17 years and 166 days, Max Verstappen surpassed Vettel as Formula 1’s youngest Grand Prix winner back in the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, but amidst a period of Mercedes hegemony he didn’t quite have the chance to become F1’s youngest champion.
In 2021, he put an end to the Silver Arrows’ stunning run and – at least, for now – quashed Hamilton’s hopes of taking a record eighth drivers’ title with an emphatic performance in Abu Dhabi. This was the first time since 1974 that the protagonists were equal on points going into the final round.
READ MORE: Brilliant Verstappen claims maiden title after victory in Abu Dhabi season finale following late Safety Car drama
And it proved to be a fight for the ages, Verstappen taking victory at Hamilton’s expense in the very final lap of the race. Afterwards, the Dutchman remarked on his achievement and what comes next.
He said: “Of course I will continue driving but of course, in terms of achievements, I have achieved everything in Formula 1 now. So everything that comes next is just a bonus.”
Emerson Fittipaldi secured the constructors’ championship for Team Lotus and became the youngest world champion in 1972.
As our Hall of Fame opus reads: "His strengths included a delicate touch and calm approach that kept him out of trouble, and an analytical mind that made him accomplished at tactics and strategy."
What that translated into on track was five wins in 12 Grands Prix to immortalise the beautiful black-and-gold Lotus 72, including a brilliant display at Monza, and a final points tally of 61 over runner-up Jackie Stewart’s 45.
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