Last week's AUTOSPORT magazine contained a remarkable sidebox to the main story. A group of world champions were ranked in order of victories at the age of 24 years, five months and five days (Sebastian Vettel's age as of last Thursday), with each frame further listing grand prix starts, poles and titles won.
Vettel obviously came out on top in all categories, with Jim Clark, for example, having made just four grand prix appearances at that age, each of which had delivered no pole position or wins. By extension, the Scot had no title to his name either.
Just one 1950s champion (Mike Hawthorn) had started a grand prix at that age, while only Clark represented the '60s. By contrast, Jenson Button, Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Vettel all made their debuts in the noughties before they were 24. Spot the trend?
The message is clear: F1 stars are getting younger, almost by the season.
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South African-born Dieter trained as industrial engineer before holding down a variety of senior motor industry marketing and manufacturing positions. At the age of 40 he decided to follow his passion, and became the first and only South African journalist to cover Formula 1 regularly. Dieter joined AtlasF1 at the beginning of 2004 – a year prior to its merger with Autosport – and his regular column offers an intriguing analysis of F1’s politicking and commercial chicanery. Although now also proudly Belgian, he gives his domicile as "Wherever F1 duplicity lurks".@RacingLines More features by Dieter Rencken