Hamilton, Senna, Yoong: The best & worst rookies in Formula 1 history


F1 2021 is just over a week away and, as always, there are new faces to watch on the grid.

Haas sees both Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher behind the wheel of an F1 car for the first time in their young careers, whilst at AlphaTauri the impressive Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda will be looking to build on strong test pace.

The trio, all in Formula 2 last season, will be looking for successful years with Tsunoda in the strongest car available to the three and, whilst we wait to see how they do, we thought it a good time to look back at debut seasons from years gone by.

Here, then, are three of the best and, more importantly, three of the worst F1 rookies in the sport's history...

The Best

3. Ayrton Senna

For many, the greatest F1 driver of all-time. The three-time world champion was electric, the ultimate qualifier, and the most ruthless of racers in a period of time where many suggest F1 was at its strongest in terms of the leading drivers.

It all started in 1984 for Senna at Toleman, a team expected to run around in midfield and, in all truth, make up the numbers.


Senna, though, had other ideas with three podiums in his first season - the only top-three finishes Toleman ever had.

His standout performance came at Monaco as he mastered wet conditions to take the fight to the likes of Keke Rosberg, Niki Lauda, Nigel Mansell, and Nelson Piquet before Alain Prost won the race on countback as it was suspended with Senna leading but not completing a lap in front.

2. Jacques Villeneuve

The 1997 world champion very nearly won the title in his first season; the year prior in 1996.

Arriving into what would be the dominant Williams team to partner Damon Hill, the idea was that the French-Canadian would help his British team-mate to a world title at last in the best car on the grid, with Hill going so close back in 1994 up against Michael Schumacher.


However, he pushed his team-mate all the way with 4 wins in his debut season before retirement at Suzuka sealed the deal for Hill.

1. Lewis Hamilton

There can only be one winner here, surely.

Hamilton arrived in F1 with the GP2 title in his pocket after a storming 2006 season that underlined his talent.

Many, though, didn't realise just how good he was until he began socking it to reigning two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and mixing it with the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa.


Immediately looking at home in F1, he was denied the championship in his first year by just a point at Brazil, with a rare mistake in China opening the door for Raikkonen to steal in.

The Worst

3. Michael Andretti

Andretti arrived in 1993 having won the IndyCar series a couple of years previously but that did not translate into results in his McLaren.


He crashed in his first three races and was completely outshone by his team-mate Ayrton Senna, with him managing just three points finishes and getting replaced by a young Mika Hakkinen with three races left in the season.

2. Alex Yoong

Any driver at Minardi was always likely to be consigned to the back of the grid in the early 00s but Yoong regularly proved he wasn't even fast enough to make Sunday, falling foul of the 107% rule in qualifying three times in 2002.


Mark Webber was his team-mate and showed what you could do with admittedly limited equipment for the likeable minnows, whilst Yoong was sacked by the team after a forgettable year at the wheel.

1. Yuji Ide

Ide entered at the age of 31 as a driver but also a friend of Aguri Suzuki, who was running the Super Aguri team for their debut year in 2006.


Ide, though, lasted all of four races before he was replaced in the team. He retired in his first two races before finishing three laps down in race three - prompting Suzuki to suggest improvement was needed at Imola to retain his seat.

Instead, Ide caused a pile-up at the first chicane at the famous old track and that was that, with his super license revoked soon after by the FIA.

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