Toro Rosso's recent appointment of 16 year-old Max Verstappen for 2015 was the latest affirmation of a growing trend in Formula One: Grand Prix drivers are getting younger, with Verstappen's headline youthfulness the most obvious illustration of the ever-decreasing average age of the grid.

However, at the same time as Verstappen's signature was announced, Caterham bucked the trend by promoting 32 year-old Andr? Lotterer to a race seat for the Belgian Grand Prix. Lotterer, an established sportscar racer, went straight in as the fifth-oldest man in the field for his F1 debut - which unfortunately lasted only one lap before a gearbox failure.

With the second Caterham seat potentially being auctioned on a race-by-race basis for the rest of the season, Lotterer may not be the last old gun for hire to make their bow in 2014.

Throughout F1 history, many late-blooming drivers have been on the well-seasoned end of their careers when making their Grand Prix debuts - and here salutes six of Formula One's more venerable rookies.


Lotterer's exertions at Spa made him the oldest debutant for almost 20 years, since Giovanni Lavaggi popped up on the grid aged 37 at the 1995 German Grand Prix.

The quintessential embodiment of the mid-90s 'rent-a-driver' craze, Lavaggi was a racer of career long anonymity, better known for his deep pockets and affectionate nickname of 'Johnny Carwash' (a literal Anglicised translation of his name) than his exploits behind the wheel.

The son of an Italian nobleman, Lavaggi's background would doubtless have made him a fine gentleman racer of a bygone age, but the increasing professionalism of F1 in the 80s and 90s demanded stronger credentials to ascend to the pinnacle of motorsport.

Lavaggi may have been of wealthy stock, but his family were against his racing career, so Giovanni's first forays into motorsport were self-financed alongside his studies and a subsequent career in management consultancy. Specialising in sportscars, Lavaggi achieved respectable results through the late 80s, but his long-term goal was single-seater racing, and F1 in particular.

After undistinguished failures in F3000 and CART through the early 90s, Lavaggi openly bought himself a seat for four races with the cash-strapped Pacific team for the 1995 German GP. He qualified dismally and failed to finish any of the four races, with two gearbox failures and two driver errors curtailing his entries.

Without a drive for 1996, Lavaggi went back to biding his time and replenishing his bank balance, until a mid-season call from Minardi to replace their promising junior driver Giancarlo Fisichella saw Lavaggi return to the grid at Hockenheim. Offered a six-race deal, Lavaggi fell foul of the 107% rule three times, but did make the grid in Hungary, Italy and Portugal.

His most notable contribution was baulking Michael Schumacher at Estoril, allowing Jacques Villeneuve the chance to famously slingshot the German around the outside of the Parabolica. At the end of the season, and with his pockets considerably lighter, Lavaggi left F1 for good, although he continued to race sportscars and touring cars well into his late 40s before finally retiring in 2001.


The godfather (or grandfather) of all veteran F1 debutants, Belgian Arthur L?gat was 53 years, seven months and 21 days old when he made his maiden Grand Prix appearance at the 1952 Belgian GP.
Formula One's formative years were primarily an extension of the pre-war gentleman racers era, and indeed many of the same cast members from the cross-country jaunts of the 30s lined up on the grid during the first few seasons of F1 racing.

Indeed, of the 21 Formula One rookies who lined up for the first ever championship Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1950, three had been born in the 19th century. Nino Farina sealed the first world championship at the age of 44, and his successors, Juan-Manuel Fangio and Alberto Ascari were 40 and 35 respectively when they sealed their maiden crowns.

Before considerations like fitness and weight were factored in to elite motor racing, Formula One was overwhelmingly a playground for elder statesmen - and none making their debut came older than L?gat. A garage owner from Haine-Saint-Paul in southern Belgium, L?gat had raced with distinction to win the Grand Prix des Fronti?res at the wheel of a Bugatti in 1931 and 1932, but he was never among the leading lights of the pre-war era.

In 1952, for the third running of the Belgian Grand Prix, L?gat made his return to top-level racing, entering a Veritas Meteor as one of five local Belgian contenders. Legat qualified 21st, a staggering 68 seconds off the pace of pole-sitter Alberto Ascari's time. He didn't fare much better in the race, trundling home five laps down to take the flag 13th out of 15 finishers.

L?gat returned a year later, again qualifying over a minute down before gearbox failure ended his race on the very first lap. At 54 years and 232 days the entry makes L?gat the third oldest man to have started a Grand Prix, behind Philippe ?tancelin and Louis Chiron - who was 55 years old when he finished sixth at the 1955 Monaco GP, and a staggering 58 years old when attempting to qualify at Monaco in 1958. Suffice to say, with the age of gentleman racers long gone, neither L?gat's nor Chiron's records will be under threat any time soon.


From footnotes to front-runners, the case of Damon Hill shows that coming late to Formula One needn't necessarily be a barrier to success.

As the son of a two-time World Champion, Grand Prix racing may have been in Hill's DNA, but Graham Hill's death in a plane crash when Damon was just 15 years old left the younger Hill without either the silver spoon backing nor the scope of racing opportunities that one may have expected.

Hill's racing career started relatively late with a foray into motorbikes in 1981, and, initially supporting his efforts by working as a labourer, he progressed steadily through to British Formula Ford and British Formula Three to find himself racing in International Formula 3000 by late 1988. Although Hill was competitive he never won a race during four seasons in F3000, and he had to supplement his single-seater efforts with sponsorship-chasing entries in sportscars and touring cars. Having dovetailed the 1991 F3000 season with test-drives for Williams, Hill secured a full-time test-driver role with Williams for 1992.

Early in the 1992 season Hill got his break, parachuted into the ailing Brabham team to replace the floundering Giovanna Amati after the struggling Italian had qualified five seconds off the pace of team leader Eric van der Poele in Brazil. The Brabham was appallingly slow, with neither Hill nor van der Poele qualifying until the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. At his sixth race entry, Hill finally made his debut two months short of his 32nd birthday, sneaking on to the grid in 26th and last place and finishing 16th, five laps down as the last man to cross the line.

Considering that Hill was older than many drivers on the grid, including three-time champion Ayrton Senna, clearly his career needed a jump-start were he to make up for lost time. Two further entries with Brabham yielded a second start in Hungary, but the team folded abruptly following the race - leaving Hill once again without a drive.

However, Hill was surprisingly offered a race seat at Williams for the 1993 season, chosen to partner Alain Prost ahead of more experienced candidates such as Mika H?kkinen and Martin Brundle. Hill repaid the team's faith almost instantly, winning three races in his first front-running campaign to take third place in the championship - and ultimately racking up 21 race victories for Williams across four seasons, culminating in victory in the 1996 World Championship.

Hill retired aged 39 at the end of the 1999 season, bringing the curtain down on a comparatively brief 115 race F1 career - but his success and impact certainly more than compensated for such a late start.


1970 is widely regarded as year zero for modern Formula One; the point at which cars took on their established look of wedge-shaped winged billboards, and the dawn of the age of television and superstar drivers being regarded as commercially-viable professional athletes.

The oldest debutant in the modern age is George Follmer, an American hired by the Shadow team to race as number two to Jackie Oliver for the 1973 season. Hired as a genuine season-long entrant rather than a one-off, Folmer was 39 years, one month and four days old when he made his debut at the 1973 South African Grand Prix.

Follmer enjoyed a successful career on the American racing circuit en route to Formula One, winning the US Road Racing Championship sportscar series in 1965 and the Trans-Am and Can-Am series in 1972. He also intermittently entered the Indy 500 in the late 1960s, but his single-seater results were not on the level of his sportscar and GT achievements.

Nevertheless, Follmer's F1 career started with a bang, taking a sixth place on his debut before delivering a career-best third place in only his second race at the Spanish Grand Prix. Both the Shadow team's and Follmer's results dwindled away after a bright start, and the American would fail to trouble the scorers again for the remainder of the campaign.

Follmer dovetailed his commitments in Formula One with further success in Can-Am, coming second in the 1973 championship, and with further Formula One opportunities failing to materialize, Follmer returned to the North American circuit full-time from 1974.

The golden oldie wasn't done though, and he was still winning Trans-Am races as late as 1981, aged 47. His final swansong came at Le Mans in 1986, when, aged 52, his debut at the Circuit de la Sarthe saw Follmer take third place for Porsche alongside John Morton and Kemper Miller.


The tradition for local drivers being favourably parachuted in to race in their home Grands Prix is as old as Formula One racing itself, often as a money-spinning attempt on the part of teams and marketing men to boost attendances and appease local sponsors.

The Japanese Grand Prix has been no exception, with the first Japanese race in 1976 attracting no fewer than four local entrants. By the early 90s, Japanese drivers had become more credibly established in F1, with Aguri Suzuki's podium in front of his home fans in 1990 the pinnacle of Japan's achievements.

The late 80s and 90s would see many other Japanese drivers of variable suitability making their F1 bows, but all were united by a common trend: comparative seniority. From Shinji Nakano (26) to Take Inoue (31), and Ukyo Katayama (28) to Satoru Nakajima (34), the distant proving ground of Japanese junior Formula and relative lack of visibility on the European scene often meant drivers from the Land of the Rising Sun were comparative latecomers to top-line international racing.

Oldest of them all, and the oldest debutant since Follmer, was Toshio Suzuki (no relation to Aguri), who made his entrance at the 1993 Japanese Grand Prix at the age of 38 years, seven months and 14 days. A veteran sportscar racer, Suzuki replaced Philippe Alliot at Larrouse for the final two races of the 1993 season.

Suzuki's impact in Formula One was negligible at best, trundling round at a respectable pace yet still finishing last on the road at Suzuka before an embarrassingly poor show at Adelaide - qualifying last and four seconds off the pace of his team-mate Erik Comas before finishing a distant 14th, five laps down and two laps adrift of Comas.

Unsurprisingly, it was the last F1 would see of Suzuki, although a category win at Le Mans in 1999 for Toyota alongside Katayama demonstrated his enduring class in sportscars.


Clay Regazzoni is one of Formula One's great cult heroes, an extroverted, maverick and moustachioed Swiss who enchanted the paddock throughout the 1970s - casting a particular spell over the Tifosi during six fruitful seasons racing for Ferrari.

With motorsport outlawed in his native Switzerland, Regazzoni's belated first forays into competition came in his early twenties when entering club races over the Italian border in 1963 and 1964. When Regazzoni first took part in open-wheeled races in European Formula Three in 1965, results were encouraging, and improving form through subsequent years saw the Swiss enter Formula Two for the first time in 1968.

A partnership with Tecno proved productive, and Regazzoni claimed the European Formula Two title in 1970. By then though, the Swiss was also making waves in Grand Prix racing, after being promoted from Ferrari's sportscar team to the Formula One team for the Dutch GP.

Having started the season with only one entrant, for Jacky Ickx, Ferrari added a second car from the Belgian GP. Regazzoni's debut, aged 30, came at Zandvoort a round later, and the Swiss driver was an instant sensation, qualifying sixth and taking a stirring fourth place. Regazzoni initially alternated the second car with Ignazio Giunti, but further impressive results demanded that Regazzoni keep the seat permanently.

At only his fifth race, Regazzoni won the Italian Grand Prix for Ferrari, delivering the Scuderia's first home victory since 1966 and immortalising himself in Tifosi folklore. Regazzoni would ultimately claim third place in the championship during his rookie campaign - despite entering only eight of the 13 rounds.

Five further wins followed over ten seasons in F1, with his finest year in 1974 seeing Regazzoni lose out on the championship to Emerson Fittipaldi at the last race of the season. In his twilight racing years, Regazzoni also had the distinction of taking Williams' first GP win at the 1979 British GP, before a violent accident at Long Beach in 1980 curtailed his F1 career, leaving the Swiss paralysed from the waist down.

Regazzoni would go on to prove a pioneer of hand-powered high-performance vehicles, and competed in sportscars and rally racing with some degree of success - paving the way for disabled people to compete in high-level motorsports. Having cheating death on the track, Regazzoni's luck tragically ran out on the road when he was killed in a car accident in December 2006.