The greatest drivers in F1 history

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September 18th, 2020

I’ve already braced myself for the abuse that may come my way following this article, because at its very core picking the greatest F1 driver is an almost impossible task. Everyone has their favourites and because of the changes in the cars, competitiveness, safety, speed it is extremely difficult to rank drivers from different eras.

So, with my excuses at the ready, here are the top five greatest drivers in F1 history.

5. Sir Jackie Stewart

The Flying Scot is a three-time world champ and a dominant force in the sport during the late sixties and early seventies. He won 27 races from a possible 99 and was on the podium 43 times. And while his incredible ability behind the wheel is enough to get him on this list alone, Jackie Stewart gave so much more to racing.

He was one of the first pioneers of safety in the sport and the full-face helmets, seatbelts, safety barriers, run-of areas and increased medical staff on track are all down to Stewart’s work.

4. Niki Lauda

Like Stewart, Lauda was another three-time world champion winning in ‘75, ‘77 and ‘84. While his strike rate was not as impressive as Sir Jackie’s – Lauda had 25 wins in 171 races – it was his remarkable achievements after a horrific crash in 1976 which elevate Lauda’s already incredible career.

After crashing into the barrier in the German Grand Prix and being trapped in a car that was simply a ball of flames, before being hit by another car, Lauda was not expected to live, let alone race again. He had broken bones, severe burns, terrible lung damage, and fell into a coma.

Six weeks after the accident he was racing again and finished fourth in the Italian Grand Prix. A year later he won a world championship. He is simply astonishing.

3. Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton comes in third on my list but with every passing week the argument for him to be bumped up gets stronger. The British driver is smashing records with every race and is on track to become a seven-time world champ.

In his debut season in 2007, he finished runner-up in the Driver’s Championship by a point and won it the following year to become the youngest ever F1 champ at the time. He has 90 wins from 259 races (a remarkable 35% strike rate) and holds the record for most pole positions (95) and most podium finishes (158).

By the end of this year he will probably hold the record for most F1 wins, but for now that sits with someone else on our list…

2. Alain Prost

Prost’s career will be defined by his epic battles with Ayrton Senna, but the Frenchman’s smooth, cool racing style and meticulous attention to detail and racing knowledge should never be ignored.

The four-time world champ held the record for most F1 victories up until 2001 when a certain Michael Schumacher stepped in, but Prost can still claim 51 wins from 199 starts.

1. Michael Schumacher

And so, we get to Schumacher. One of the most divisive men in racing, but love him or loath him he is arguably the G.O.A.T of F1. Twice Schumacher was involved in last lap crashes which determined the outcome of the world championship, and he remains the only driver to be disqualified for a season. However, he’s also a seven-time champ and the poster boy for the sport at the turn of the millennium.

While Lewis Hamilton may be eating into Schumacher’s records, the German lifted the sport to new heights with his electric driving and fiery personality. He had already become a double world champ in the 1990s before an astonishing run of five world titles in a row between 2000 and 2004 for Ferrari.

In that time, he was untouchable. In 85 races during that period Schumacher won 48 and was on the podium 66 times. Nobody could get close as Schumacher and Ferrari gave new meaning to the word dominance.