Karun Chandhok. Photo: Malcolm Griffiths/Getty Images.

5 drivers with the shortest Formula 1 debuts

In Formula 1's seventy-year history, there have been 770 drivers from 40 different nationalities who have competed in a Grand Prix event. Some drivers have had fabulous debut performances such as Yuki Tsunoda and Lando Norris whereas others struggle to perform. After Nikita Mazepin’s nightmare first-lap crash in Bahrain, we look back at some other first-time drives that did not go to plan.

Formula 1's shortest debuts:


#1 Karun Chandhok (Two laps)

Karun Chandhok's debut in Formula 1 ended rather prematurely. During the second lap of the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix, his Hispania Racing car had a jolt on the circuit, which made it spin and resulted in significant damage to the front wing. The team was forced to retire the car, and the Indian enjoyed a debut that lasted just over two laps. Chandhok is now an essential part of the track commentary team for Formula 1. Working with Sky Sports, the Indian has made himself an indispensable member of the paddock.

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#2 Andre Lotterer (One lap)

Andre Lotterer. Photo: Dan Istitene/Getty Images.

Racing for Caterham at the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix, Andre Lotterer became the oldest driver to debut in Formula 1 since 1995. At the age of 32 years, despite his great success at events such as Le Mans, the race was to be his only chance in Formula 1 and it was short-lived. The Belgian-German suffered an issue on the first lap of the race. The team suspected that Lotterer's aggressive manner of taking the kerb at the Blanchimont corner caused a mechanical problem in the car. Caterham retired the car, cutting his debut in the series to just one lap around the majestic Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

#3 Michael Schumacher (Five corners)

Michael Schumacher. Photo: Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images.

Schumacher’s debut famously ended on the first lap of the Belgian Grand Prix when his clutch failed just after Raidillon. The German started the race in P7 and had already made his way up to P5 in the preceding corners. However, to stop a snap of understeer on his Jordan, Schumacher lifted his clutch in a sudden motion which shattered it, thus ending his debut race in Formula 1. The seven-time world champion had already made a great impression during qualifying and was given a drive at Benetton later that season. His career has since been engraved in Formula 1 history.

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#4 Marco Apicella (400 meters)

Marco Apicella. Photo: Darrell Ingham/Getty Images.

Apicella's Formula 1 career lasted less than a lap. The Italian took part in his home race after impressing Eddie Jordan in the junior categories. However, his race ended on the very first corner of the first lap when he was caught in a pileup at the back of the field. This was Apicella’s only Formula 1 start, which means his entire Formula 1 career lasted about 400 meters.


#5 Ernst Loof (Two meters)

Ernst Loof's debut came at his home race of the German Grand Prix in 1953. At the start of the race, he had a fuel pump failure. The car rolled two meters from his starting position and had to be retired. The event went down as the shortest Formula 1 debut and career in the sport's history. However, Loof will be more fondly remembered as a car designer, having contributed to the BMW 328 in the late 1930s.

Edited by
Utathya Ghosh
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