Popular culture would have us believe that sixteen year-olds are surly, hormone driven monsters whose hobbies include defying their parents and getting bad haircuts because fashion dictates they must.
But that’s not true of all sixteen year-olds.
Take for example Nabil Jeffri, who is a sixteen year-old Malaysian racing driver. Like any budding F1 star he’s got the commitment and drive to give up the life of a normal sixteen year-old and put all his energy in to a racing career. And he’s got a sensible haircut.
But Nabil even manages to standout from the average junior racing driver. Because whereas the sixteen year-old versions of Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and the rest were still learning their trade in karts Nabil has already progressed to cars.
In fact, today he’s testing for the Lotus Formula One team for the first time, carrying out straight-line aerodynamic work at Duxford aerodrome, Cambridgeshire. Thus, he becomes the youngest person ever drive a Formula One car, beating the record previously held by Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, who first tested for Williams at the age of 17.
We think you’ll agree that this is quite incredible- a sixteen year-old behind the wheel of Formula One machinery. Sure, it’s ‘only’ straightline testing, but it’s still a huge responsibility to give to someone who was just one year-old when Michael Schumacher took his first world championship.
“It’s an exciting day for all of us in the Lotus Racing team,” said team boss Tony Fernandes. “Being able to give bright young talent like Nabil the chance to play an integral role in the development of our team is a recognition of his burgeoning talent, and shows that there is a clear route to the top rung of the motorsport ladder, no matter how old you are or where you are racing.”
With Fernandes keen to promote racing talent from his native Malaysia it’s likely that Nabil’s affiliation with the team will continue long beyond this test. If his career in the junior categories shows promise there will be more testing, more responsibility, and perhaps, one day, a race drive with the team.
There’s still a long time before that’s on the cards- right now he’s got a Formula BMW Pacific campaign to complete. But with time and an F1 team on his side Nabil’s got a real chance of one day graduating to F1.