The ages of the 2021 grid when Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso made their F1 debuts in 2001.
• Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso both made their F1 debuts 20 years ago.
• Almost half of the 2021 grid weren’t in school yet in 2001.
• Yuki Tsunoda was 9-months-old when these two legends debuted.
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This past weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix marked an extraordinary milestone in Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso’s careers. It was the anniversary of both drivers’ first race 20 years ago at the Australian Grand Prix. Debuting for Sauber and Minardi, respectively, both drivers would soon find themselves signed to leading teams, with Alonso winning the Formula 1 drivers’ championships in 2005/6 and Raikkonen doing so in 2007.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the 20-year anniversary is the age of their on-track rivals. Posted on their Instagram page, the official F1 account listed the ages of Raikkonen and Alonso’s 2021 rivals when they made their debuts in 2001.
In 2001, Lewis Hamilton was 15-years-old, followed by Vettel (13), Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez (all 11-years-old). Wunderkind Max Verstappen was three-years-old at the time of their debut. Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri driver and one of three rookies in 2021, was nine-months old.
After his debut year with Sauber, Raikkonen was drafted to McLaren-Mercedes as team mate to David Coulthard in 2002. His speed impressed immensely in 2001, which saw the British team making a move to acquire his services. For the next few years, Raikkonen would challenge Alonso and the great Michael Schumacher for the drivers’ championship, but would always lose out due to his car’s reliability issues.
In 2007, he joined Ferrari as replacement for Schumacher and won the championship in his first year with the team. At the end of 2009, he was replaced at Ferrari by Alonso and would try his hand rallying for a few years. In 2012, he returned with Lotus and rejoined Ferrari in 2014 until 2018, before returning to Sauber (now Alfa Romeo) in 2019. His last win came at the 2018 US GP.
Widely regarded as the best driver of his generation, Alonso is as cunning as they come. His racecraft is almost peerless, and his ability to extract performance from his car is one of his best attributes. However, he could never make the right decisions when signing with the ‘right’ team. In 2007, after double championships with Renault, he signed with McLaren and was left frustrated with newcomer Hamilton getting preferential treatment. In 2010 he signed with Ferrari, despite an offer to race for Mercedes-AMG being on the table. Red Bull also came knocking, but he turned them down, too.
In 2015, Alonso resigned with McLaren, who entered a new engine partnership with Honda. That, too, turned out to be one of Alonso’s worst decisions as the team struggled to make heads or tails of their dire situation.
Alonso quit F1 at the end of 2018 but returns in 2021 to race for the Renault team, now rebranded Alpine F1.