24 Hours Centenary – Young Hall of Famer Sébastien Buemi

24 Hours Centenary – Young Hall of Famer Sébastien Buemi

24 HOURS CENTENARY – PEOPLE and MACHINES ⎮ In just one decade, Sébastien Buemi emerged as a top contender in endurance racing, with a stunning four wins at Le Mans and three world champion trophies. Here is a look at his remarkable career that includes leading the Toyota team and becoming the winningest Swiss driver in the history of the 24 Hours.

No Swiss driver had ever won the 24 Hours prior to 2011, but from that year to 2022, three reached the top step on the podium thanks Marcel Fässler (2011, 2012 and 2014), Neel Jani (2016) and Sébastien Buemi (2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022).

Born on 31 October 1988, Buemi made his bones in karting, moving into single-seaters in 2004 then joining the young driver development programme Red Bull Junior Team. Steady progress in Formula 3 then in GP2 (predecessor to the current FIA Formula 2) earned him a top spot in Formula 1 in 2009 with Toro Rosso, the team that welcomed drivers from the Junior Team. He succeeded Sebastian Vettel who had advanced to Red Bull Racing.

Moving into endurance racing

After three seasons in Formula 1 (16th in 2009 and 2010, 15th in 2011), Buemi turned his attention to endurance racing. At the young age of 22, he took the start in his rookie 24 Hours as a factory driver for Toyota's return to the discipline.

The road to victory was a long one for Buemi, as it was for Toyota. His experience in endurance racing runs the gamut: podium finishes (2nd in 2013 and 2022, 3rd in 2014) and the shocking retirement of teammate and race leader Kazuki Nakajima one lap from the chequered flag in 2016. Eventually he clinched four wins, with four different teammates: Kazuki Nakajima (2018, 2019 and 2020), Fernando Alonso (2018 and 2019), Brendon Hartley (2020 and 2022) and Ryo Hirakawa (2022).

Now, the three-time world champion (2014, 2018-2019 Super Season and 2022) holds the win record in the head class (LMP1 then Hypercar) in the FIA World Endurance Championship with 22 victories. Buemi's success makes him a true pioneer among young drivers from single-seaters who have chosen to build a long career in endurance racing, at a time when the discipline's currently flourishing pyramid was still in its infancy.

From the Hall of Fame to the Centenary

Buemi is one of a select group of drivers to have secured three consecutive wins at the 24 Hours. In 2020, he and teammate Nakajima joined the ranks of none other than Woolf Barnato, Olivier Gendebien, Henri Pescarolo, Jacky Ickx, Tom Kristensen, Emanuele Pirro and Frank Biela. Last year, Buemi was inducted into the 24 Hours of Le Mans Hall of Fame for drivers who have reached or surpassed four victories at the race.

In comparison, Ickx became a four-time winner at the age of 32 in 1977, before taking the record to six in 1982 at 37. And, four of the five drivers who preceded Buemi (Tom Kristensen, Derek Bell, Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro) won their last victory after turning 40.

At just 35 years old, Buemi still has a fantastic future ahead of him. Were he to score his fifth victory on 11 June, he would figure even more prominently among the legends of the 24 Hours, with the added prestige of winning the Centenary.


PHOTOS (Copyright - ACO/Archives): LE MANS (SARTHE, FRANCE), CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES, 2012-2022 24 HOURS OF LE MANS. From top to bottom: the fourth win, in 2022, clinched by Sébastien Buemi (at left) with Japanese driver Ryo Hirakawa and New Zealander Brendon Hartley; the Swiss driver's rookie 24 Hours in 2012 with French driver Stéphane Sarrazin and British driver Anthony Davidson (from left to right); Sébastien Buemi's first win was also Toyota's, with (from left to right) Kazuki Nakajima and two-time F1 world champion Fernando Alonso. (Copyright - Jean-René Roger/ACO): Sébastien Buemi at his induction into the 24 Hours of Le Mans Hall of Fame).

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