Fulcrum wrote: ↑
Sun May 24, 2020 10:33 am
Damon Hill - debuted in F1 aged 31, following a fairly unspectacular junior career that began post 20.
Clay Regazzoni - started competing in motor races aged 24. Debuted in F1 aged 30, for Ferrari (Ferrari hiring a debutant, wow!).
Of the current drivers, Bottas, Latifi and Grosjean appear to be the latest to enter motorsport competitively.
- Bottas' karting career shows data as early as 2001, aged 11-12.
- Latifi started karting aged 13-14.
- Grosjean has karting data dating from when he was 14-15.
Yep, this probably tells all there is to say. If with late blooming one means that the driver only picked up racing in their 20ies or so, and still made it to F1 - not a chance. Drivers these days have gone through an extensive breeding programme, starting at very early age (or rather, being forced into by their parents to fulfill the dreams they never could) and being fully devoted since. Perhaps a start in the teens is still possible, but even that will be rarer and rarer. And keep in mind F1 is no exception in that sense - the same applies to any competitive sport, except curling perhaps.
When it comes to late-blooming in the sense of achieving success later in the career, that can happen, sure. But probably that is as much a matter of luck and proper negotiation as of pure skill. As said above, any of these drivers can win in the right car (even if the cars are closer than ever - the gap between drivers is still much less), so it's really a matter of being at the right spot at the right time. Perez is now called a potential late bloomer, but had the McLaren he moved into not been a team in decline, he might have been the next bright star at that point, and same applies to Magnussen. But the cars were not as good as was to be expected from that team, and so they ended up in the midfield perpetually.
When it comes to the importance of car vs. driver, I do agree that current cars are probably closer together than ever. Still, I also agree that the impact of the driver becomes less and less compared to the past. The cars may be closer together, they are also significantly more consistent and reliable. In the past, reliability issues presented more opportunities for good drivers in mediocre cars. Besides, larger differences in car performance between tracks/generally more difficult to drive cars meant that, even if the raw pace difference between cars was larger, good drivers could make more of a difference than they can in the current generation. Maybe not every round, but at least in certain situations (and not just rain).