NELSON PIQUET (Brazil)
(World champion in 1981, 1983 & 1987)
Nelson Sauto Maior was forced to use his mother's surname, Piquet, to keep his adventures on the race track under wraps from his disapproving parents. His dad, a prominent Brazilian politician, had been a regional champion in tennis and when Nelson showed promise in the sport, he was sent to a school in California. But the racing track caught his fancy instead and, on the advice of his countryman F1 great Emerson Fittipaldi, he moved to Europe.
Nelson's stunning performances in the British F3 races caught the attention of F1 teams and, a little later, he was signed by the then Brabham boss Bernie Ecclestone, who is the current F1 chief.
Nelson's three world titles were significant for the fact that he won them while competing against giants such as Alain Prost, Niki Lauda and Ayrton Senna.
FERNANDO ALONSO (Spain)
(World champion in 2005 & 2006)
He was born to race. His father, Luis Alonso, was a keen amateur kart racer and he wanted to share his passion with his children.
He built a kart for his daughter but she soon grew tired of it and Fernando, just three then, jumped into it. By the age of 10, he was competing in kart races and winning many trophies despite almost always being the youngest participant.
In 2003, at the age of 21, Alonso became the youngest F1 pole winner, in Malaysia. Shortly after his 22nd birthday, he became the youngest Grand Prix winner in history in Hungary.
Moulded by Flavio Briatore at Renault, he brought the Michael Schumacher juggernaut to a halt in 2005, becoming Spain's first World champion and the youngest winner of the title (at 24 years), a record that would be bettered by the current World champion Sebastian Vettel.
SEBASTIAN VETTEL (Germany)
(World champion in 2010 & 2011)
At the age of three, his main mode of transport was a miniature kart. He would shriek in delight as he went faster and faster. His dad Nobert, a carpenter and a keen kart racer, was delighted too. Vettel made his kart-racing debut at seven and was soon winning races and trophies. One of them was handed to him by his idol Michael Schumacher who encouraged him to work his way to the top.
Finance was a problem but Red Bull Team's young driver training programme came in handy and, at 18, he caught the eye while testing a BMW Williams F1 car.
In 2006, he became a test driver for BMW Sauber.
In 2007, at the U.S. Grand Prix, he came in for the injured Robert Kubica and qualified seventh. He finished the race eighth, becoming the youngest driver to score a championship point.
In 2009 in China, he gave Red Bull its first F1 win and dominated the second half of the season winning races and finishing runner-up to Jenson Button.
In 2010, three champions, Alonso, Button and Lewis Hamilton, took turns at the top of the pack, but it was Vettel who raced away with the trophy.
And F1 celebrated its new World champion and the youngest ever, at 23 years and 133 days.