Former F1 driver Esteban Tuero is today turning 34, an age when many F1 drivers are still in active competition. But the Argentine’s career is very unusual: he quit Formula 1 at the age of just twenty…
Tuero completed a single season with Minardi in 1998, becoming the third-youngest driver (at the time) to qualify for a Grand Prix.
In sixteen appearances with the team, he achieved a single top-ten finish and only saw the chequered flag four times.
Born into a family with a huge interest in motor racing, it was inevitable that Tuero would progress to the higher echelons of motorsport. Starting in karts at the age of seven, he was racing in single-seaters from the age of fourteen, winning the Argentine Formula Honda title in 1994.
A move to Europe and the Italian F2000 series and Italian F3 championships saw more success, but his progress and results seemed to stall in Formula 3000 and Formula Nippon, and there was much conjecture as to whether his age and results would qualify him for a FIA Superlicense.
Tuero’s F1 debut came at the Australian Grand Prix, where is defied expectations and qualified a very creditable 17th in the little-fancied M198.
Despite an impressive 8th place at San Marino, there was little hope for the young Argentine driver to really make his mark at the back of the grid, and he blotted his own copybook with a few crashes along the way.
His final appearance in F1 saw him spectacularly collide with Tora Takagi’s Tyrrell at the Casio Chicane, riding up over the Japanese driver’s car and damaging several vertebrae in his neck.
Minardi was keen to retain him alongside Marc Gené for the 1999 season, but Tuero stunned many by announcing his retirement in the off-season – remember this: at the age of 20.
Speculation was rife as to the reasons for his departure, and Tuero has never publically confirmed the reasons for his retirement. Some have speculated that his neck injuries never fully healed, while others perhaps felt he was tired of the full-time commitment that he was having to go through at such a young age. Other theories claim he was being (unfairly, it must be said) ridiculed by the Argentine press, but there are also murkier rumours that his manager perhaps pocketed some of the sponsorship funds meant for the Minardi team.
Tuero disappeared to the local touring car scene, winning a couple of races driving a factory VW Polo. Rumours of a return to single-seating never bore fruit, but he has continued to dabble in motorsport, particularly in GT racing.