At the 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso broke the record for the longest Formula 1 career. Which other drivers had the longest Formula 1 careers? We take a look!
Fernando Alonso: 21 years, 3 months, 8 days and counting
Fernando Alonso set a new record for the longest Formula 1 career at the 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. His Baku appearance came 21 years, 3 months and 8 days after his first appearance at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix.
During those 21 years, Alonso has raced for Minardi, Renault, McLaren, Ferrari and now races at Alpine. He has won 32 Grands Prix and two World Championships. Later this year, the Spaniard will set a new record as the driver to have made the most F1 starts.
Alonso’s time in F1 featured a two-season hiatus in 2019 and 2020 as he pursued racing in other categories.
Michael Schumacher: 21 years, 3 months, 0 days
Michael Schumacher was the previous record holder for the longest Formula 1 career. Making his debut at the 1992 Belgian Grand Prix, Schumacher made his final F1 appearance over 21 years later at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix.
Schumacher is one of the most successful Formula 1 drivers of all time, with 91 Grand Prix victories and seven world titles. He took a three-year hiatus from the sport after leaving Ferrari at the end of the 2006 season. He returned in 2010 with the new Mercedes team.
Schumacher was unable to repeat his earlier success in his 58-race comeback stint, with a best result of third place at the 2012 European Grand Prix.
Kimi Raikkonen: 20 years, 9 months, 8 days
Kimi Raikkonen broke the record for most Grand Prix starts in his final year at the pinnacle of motorsport, but did not set a record for the longest Formula 1 career in terms of time elapsed between his first and last race.
Like Alonso, Raikkonen made his Formula 1 debut at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix. He made his final appearance at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Raikkonen is the only driver in F1 history to have a gap of over 15 years between his first and last wins. His first was at the 2003 Malaysian Grand Prix, with his last coming at the 2018 United States Grand Prix.
Rubens Barrichello: 18 years, 8 months, 13 days
Of the top six drivers to have had the longest Formula 1 career, Rubens Barrichello is the only one without a title to his name. Barrichello did come close to winning the title, having been team-mate to Michael Schumacher in the all-conquering Ferrari between 2000 and 2005 and being in contention for the title until the final races in 2009.
Barrichello’s first race appearance came at the 1993 South African Grand Prix and his last was on home soil at the 2011 Brazilian Grand Prix. A planned comeback at the end of the 2014 season with Caterham would have extended Barrichello’s total time in F1 by 3 years, but the plans failed to materialise.
Barrichello made 323 Grand Prix starts in his Formula 1 career and held the record for most appearances from the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix until the 2020 Russian Grand Prix, when Kimi Raikkonen broke the record.
Jenson Button: 17 years, 2 months, 16 days
Jenson Button began his Formula 1 career at the first race of the new millennium, the 2000 Australian Grand Prix. Starting his career with Williams, Button went on to have success with his first win at Honda in 2006 and a surprise title victory with the newly-founded Brawn GP team in 2009.
Button ended his career at the 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but made a comeback at the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix. He stepped into Fernando Alonso’s McLaren car as the Spaniard was competing in the Indianapolis 500.
Button’s comeback appearance added five months to his F1 career, but did not move him up the order of longest F1 careers.
Graham Hill: 16 years, 8 months, 8 days
Formula 1 careers lasting longer than ten years were a rarity in the 1950s and 1960s. Eleven drivers who started their F1 career in the 1950s had World Championship careers which lasted longer than a decade.
Just two drivers from the 1950s remain in the top ten of longest F1 careers: Jack Brabham and Graham Hill. Of the two, Hill’s career was the longest by 17 months. Brabham’s career length will be eclipsed by Lewis Hamilton later in the 2022 season.
Hill made 185 starts in a career which spanned almost 17 years, from the 1958 Monaco Grand Prix to the 1975 Brazilian Grand Prix.
The top 10 longest Formula 1 careers
Listed below are the top ten longest Formula 1 careers. This is based on the length of time between a driver’s first and last Grand Prix start. The list was last updated after the 2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
|Position||Driver||Career length||First start||Last start|
|1||Fernando Alonso||21 years,3 months, 8 days||2001 Australian Grand Prix||2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix*|
|2||Michael Schumacher||21 years, 3 month, 0 days||1991 Belgian Grand Prix||2012 Brazilian Grand Prix|
|3||Kimi Raikkonen||20 years, 9 months, 8 days||2001 Australian Grand Prix||2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix|
|4||Rubens Barrichello||18 years, 18 month, 13 days||1994 South African Grand Prix||2011 Brazilian Grand Prix|
|5||Jenson Button||17 years, 2 months, 16 days||2000 Australian Grand Prix||2017 Monaco Grand Prix|
|6||Graham Hill||16 years, 8 month, 8 days||1958 Monaco Grand Prix||1975 Brazilian Grand Prix|
|7||Riccardo Patrese||16 years, 5 months, 16 days||1977 Monaco Grand Prix||1993 Australian Grand Prix|
|8||Luca Badoer||16 years, 5 months, 16 days||1993 South African Grand Prix||2009 Belgian Grand Prix|
|9||Felipe Massa||15 years, 8 months, 23 days||2002 Australian Grand Prix||2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix|
|10||Jack Brabham||15 years, 3 months, 9 days||1955 British Grand Prix||1970 Mexican Grand Prix|
After graduating in 2015 with a First Class honours degree in English Language and Literature, Nicky Haldenby, a lifelong fan of Formula 1, founded the Lights Out F1 Blog in 2016. The blog has become a firm fan-favourite, delving deep into the sport’s history books and lifting the cover on unusual F1 statistics.
Nicky also writes at F1Destinations and Motorsport Guides and can be heard as the resident stats man on the 2 Soft Compounds Podcast. His work has appeared on WTF1, BadgerGP, motorsport.com, Sky Sports F1 and BBC Radio 5 Live. Nicky is also the host of the F1 Rewind Podcast.