Those were the days when motorsport was really dangerous – it still is, of course – and the probabilities of death in competition (F1 or not) were of one in three or four, counting all men that started a F1 season. Surely Jackie Stewart and Jo Bonnier (who fell victim of his passion) had already started their safety crusade, and the circuits were vastly improved comparing to mid-to-late sixties. However, when the first measures were deployed, they could occasionally be worse than their total absence… such was the fate of Helmut Koinigg.
Koinigg was born in Vienna at the 3rd November 1948, but spent his childhood on the south-eastern state of Styria. Growing in such a mountainous region it wasn’t surprising that, like so many of his fellow countrymen, he practiced winter sports since his teens, excelling at skiing. And it was to the latter sport that he dedicated himself first, even being selected for the Austrian national junior B team, while pursuing his studies in engineering and journalism. It’s possible he was already someway interested in motor racing – it registered quite a boom in Austria with the rising success of Jochen Rindt – but he never sought to race, and in 1966 he left for Sweden to live and work, which certainly curtailed for the time being any possible interest in four wheels (while providing an excellent chance to keep skiing). Continue reading
The F1 world was stunned when Max Verstappen was announced at Toro Rosso for the 2015 season, thus starting his first Grand Prix in Australia with the astonishing age of 17 years and 166 years, which made him by far the youngest driver ever to start a F1 race. Then FIA decided to limit the emission of a super licence to a minimum age limit of 18 years from 2016 ownards, which implies that Verstappen’s record will remain unchallenged for a very long time. Ironically, he bet the record of another driver of the Red Bull cantera, the Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari, which made his debuts with… Toro Rosso at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix with 19 years and 125 days. Amazing, isn’t it? Well, since the turn of the century, we assist to increasingly earlier debuts, barely after the end of the drivers’ teen years… Men such Jenson Button, Kimi Räikkönen and Fernando Alonso were the first wave, followed by the generation of Sebastian Vettel and, nowadays, men such as Lance Stroll, Daniil Kvyat and Esteban Ocon, all teenagers when they first entered a F1 race. However, until late nineties, it was fairly uncommon this to happen. If we look back, by the seventies and early eighties it was perfectly acceptable for a driver past their mid-twenties to debut in F1 and it didn’t mean he wasn’t good enough to be a winner. Different times, indeed. But why this so long foreword? Because Alguersuari bet the record of a driver whom so many consider the most unfulfilled promises ever… Mike Thackwell.
Mike Thackwell (Google Images)