Ranking the top 10 best F1 drivers of all time

In its 70 years history, Formula One has had the privilege of some of the best F1 drivers of all time. Records were created and the next instant they were broken. Although the introduction of new technology, average speed increased. The thrill in the events increased along with it. However, the love for the sport remained unchanged.

Starting from Juan Manuel Fangio in earlier days to Lewis Hamilton of today, racers have awed the common public. The iconic status was given to those drivers and they’ve remained immortal amongst their fans. However, it is quite difficult to rank all of them in the list of the greatest.

Time and again a few personalities have stood out the common flock as the creme de la creme. Keeping them out of the list would only tarnish the reputation of Formula One.

#10. Fernando Alonso the famous F1 driver

Fernando Alonso best driver ever

The two times World Champion from Spain is a phenomenon in the tracks. A talented youth, Alonso began his career at Minardi as a test driver in 1999. With a couple of stunning seasons, he was already the next big thing in the grid. Speculations of Alonso joining Sauber, replacing Kimi Räikkönen were high.

Rejecting many offers to race in the 2002 season, he joined Renault as a test driver. Fast forward to 2003, and we have him racing for Renault. He became the youngest pole sitter at 21 years and 236 days in the Malaysian Grand Prix. In the Hungarian Grand Prix, he overshadowed Bruce McLaren’s record as Formula One’s youngest driver to claim victory.

In 2005, Alonso cruised away to victory with Renault with seven victories. At the age of 24 years, he broke Emerson Fittipaldi’s record of being the youngest Formula One Champion. He was heavily linked with Ferrari the following season. The presence of Michael Schumacher kept him at Renault. The 2006 season was crucial as the racing world was audience to one of the most teeth clenching finals. The Japanese Grand Prix was the battleground for Ferrari versus Renault. Alonso faired over Schumacher and retained the title.

McLaren signed him in 2008 followed bu another spell at Renault. Ferrari came all the way in 2010 for four seasons. A disagreement saw him accepting McLaren’s offer again till his retirement in 2018.

Pocketing 32 career wins and 2 Drivers Championship, Alonso finds his way in the list of the best F1 drivers of all time.

#9. Sebastian Vettel: World’s best car racer

German best F1 racing driver Sebastian Vettel

The German International known for his signature ‘One Finger’ victory salute is the Scuderia’s Midas. Bred among the raging bulls, he’s been mending horse hooves of late. Starting as a test driver for Sauber, he went on to a starter in 2007. Toro Rosso assigned him in 2008 for which he went on to take the Italian Grand Prix home.

Vettel’s commendable performance lured Red Bull into him. His four-race wins drove him to the World Driver’s Championship runner up in 2009. Red Bull’s dream run accelerated from 2010 and continued till 2013. The German showed the Bull’s the way to their first-ever Constructors’ Championship as he won the World Drivers’ Championship.

Success came in quick succession as he went on to clinch four successive World Drivers’ Championship with Red Bull. He terminated his contract with Red Bull in 2014 and joined Ferarri soon in 2015. However, the stint hasn’t been quite sweet since then. Struggling in the first season, he took the runners up position in the following two. The contract is due to terminate in 2020 as a proper build-up failed between the two.

With 53 wins and 4 Championships, he stands as one of the best F1 drivers of all time.

#8. Niki Lauda or James Hunt who is the best race car driver

The three-time Austrian F1 World Driver’s champion, Niki Lauda is considered to be one of the greatest ever to race. Grabbing the Championship award with both Ferrari and McLaren, he is the sole person to achieve this feat. However, what stands out most significantly is his feud with James Hunt.

The fighting spirit of Lauda

Hunt–Lauda rivalry of best F1 driver
Taking the 1975 Championship home, Niki was the favorite to win the following year as well. However, the Nürburgring crash brought forth a significant glitch. Niki called for the boycott of the Austrian Grand Prix. His decision was overruled, and the race went ahead. Into his second lap of the race and Niki’s Ferrari swerved off the track to hit an embankment to go up in flames. He suffered significant burns and respiratory issues. Despite his speedy recovery, he was never the same again. 

Six weeks past the crash, an injured and recovering Niki turns up for the Italian Grand Prix where he comes fourth. What follows is a remarkable roller-coaster ride for the Championship. Following Canadian and US Grand Prix, Hunt cut down the lead to three with only the Japanese Grand Prix left. 

The penultimate race was the one for the championship run. Torrential rains saw Niki retiring soon after the second lap. Hunt, without his main competitor, eased in the race before his tires suffered a rash patch. A couple of pit stops saw him roll down the order. However, he finally crawled into the third and clinching the Championship with a points lead.

1977 saw Niki clinch back the Championship in the US Championship. Although the Championship was retained, disagreement followed, and Niki parted ways with Ferrari. After a year stint with Brabham-Alfa Romeo, he retired momentarily.

Keeping away from race track was quite a difficult task for him as he came back in 1982 with MacLaren. The Champions’ podium welcomed him two years later in 1984 beating fellow teammate Alain Prost.

With 25 career wins and 3 Championships, he stands a maestro of the track. To come back from the dead and vie for the Championship would put any James Bond novel to shame. Unparalleled rivalry, along with the passion for driving towards excellence puts him in our list of the best F1 drivers of all time.

#7. Alain Prost – The composed driver

best F1 driver of all time Alain Prost

The Frenchman, nicknamed” The Professor” for his intellectual take on the sporting event, etches his name in the most significant drivers of all time. The most Grand Prix victories were under his belt from 1987. In 2001 this record was shattered by Michael Schumacher with his victory in Belgium Grand Prix.

Starting his career with MacLaren in 1980, his first entry came in the Argentinean Grand Prix. The first victory was sweet in front of his hometown in the following year, driving for the Renault team. His relationship with Renault was bittersweet. After two seasons of momentary streaks of brilliance, the rift between Renault and Prost meant the latter leaving for another team.

MacLaren welcomed him for a second stint in 1984. This season saw the best Prost could be. Winning seven races, he fell short by a few paces to clinch the title which Niki Lauda lifted. However, the following season the French national cruised to victory with ease.

Successfully defending his title in 1986, Prost edged way past his competitors. After a gap of a couple of years, he won it again in the year 1989. The penultimate race in Japan saw a clash between Prost and Nelson Piquet. The clash gave him the lead, and he went on to win the Championship for the third round.

Ferrari bagged him in 1990, and again there was a clash with Piquet in the same Grand Prix. However, this time Prost went out of the race. A winless 1991, along with public criticism of Ferrari saw him being sacked. After a year’s leave from the tracks, Williams roped him in 1993 where he won his final Championship.

Winning 51 races and grabbing the Championship trophy in four occasions, escalated him in the list of best F1 drivers of all time.

#6. Stirling Moss, the unluckiest driver

best F1 driver of all time Stirling Moss

Termed the greatest ever not to win a championship, Sir Stirling Moss holds an honorary position in the world of racing. The British speed-star participated from 1955 to 1961 in the Grand Prix. In these seven years of racing, he established a legacy of his own.

Apart from F1, he took part in various racing events. Success was an easy target for him as his legacy expanded in these events as well. In a career spanning seven seasons, he drove over 80 cars. A staunch British, he despised international makers and opted for British brands.

“Better to lose honorably in a British car than win in a foreign one” – Sir Stirling Moss

Winning 16 Grand Prix, he was a clear favorite to win the championship title. However, out of the seven seasons, he stood runners up on four occasions and clinched the third position thrice. Sir Moss losing out on the Championship title spills no salt on the tea. He was a finely brewed racing stalwart who raced for the love of the event.

#5. Jackie Stewart The Flying Scot

best F1 driver of all time Jackie Stewart

Another British racer, Sir John Young Jackie Stewart primarily hails from Scotland. From 1965 to 1973, he ruled the F1 tracks. His speed and agility around the track earned him the nickname of the “Flying Scot”. 

Sir Stewart holds a vital rank in the history of F1 racing. It wasn’t his racing abilities that brought forth glory. Immense contribution in safety protocols of F1 and voicing for improved medical assistance also showered limelight upon him.

Venturing beyond F1 tracks, he was successful in other racing events as well. In 1966 he narrowly missed out on winning the coveted Indianapolis 500. Winning 27 races and clinching the Championship thrice on 1969, 1971 and 1973, he stood out as one of the best F1 drivers of all time. 

#4. Ayrton Senna da Silva

best F1 driver of all time Ayrton Senna

The three-times World Champion from Brazil, Ayrton Senna remains alive even to this day in every F1 fan. His demise in 1994 San Marino Grand Prix stands out as one of the darkest phases in F1 history. Ironically it was Ayrton who often voiced concerns regarding safety measures, had to lose his life for a better safety protocol to be followed in the race. 

Beginning his career with Toleman-Hart in 1984 his brilliance in the track led him to other biggies of the race track. Soon in 1985, he was racing for the Lotus-Renault. Winning six Grand Prix in three years, he joined McLaren-Honda in 1988. McLaren formed one of the formidable teams with Senna coming in and Prost already in there. Out of seventeen Grand Prix, McLaren won sixteen of them. Senna claimed his first Championship title.

Prost clinched the title next year from Senna. A feud between the two McLaren drivers intensified on and off the field. Controversies sparked out between the two and tension prevailed in the McLaren pit stop. Situations went out of hand, and soon Prost left for Ferrari the next season. 

The Championship of 1990 saw Senna take back the lead with six wins, two second place finishes and three thirds. The Brazilian successfully defended the title in 1991, his final Championship trophy. The next couple of seasons saw the rift between McLaren and Senna grew. The final blow came when Senna signed for Williams in 1994.

The San Marino Saga

The San Marino Grand Prix of 1994 was loaded with controversies. During the Saturday qualifiers, Austrian rookie Roland Ratzenberger was killed in the crash. Sunday morning before the race arch-rivals Senna and Prost met and discussed setting up the Driver’s Association. The objective of the association would be directed towards better safety measures for the drivers. 

Later in the afternoon, into the seventh lap and holding on to a comfortable lead, Senna’s William went off track. The F1 car skidded off and hit straight to the concrete wall over 200 kmph speed. Senna was airlifted to the nearby hospital and fighting for life for almost four hours; he passed away.

Pocketing 41 wins and 3 Championships, he remains one of the best F1 drivers of all time. Safety protocols were changed soon after the tragic incident. Quoting the man himself,” There are no small accidents on this circuit”. 

#3. Juan Manuel Fangio one of the best F1 drivers

best F1 driver of all time Juan Manuel Fangio

El Chueco of Argentina was the first superstar in the circuit. He dominated the very first decade of F1 racing and cruised to five World Championships in his career. From 1938 to 1949, he ruled the tracks with his speed and control. An auto mechanic by profession, he was well adept in understanding the functioning of machines.

His profile is iconic as he is the only driver in the world to win the Championship with four great constructors. He drove for Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Mercedes Benz and Maserati constructing records after records. With 24 wins out of 52 entries, he holds the highest win percentage in F1.

Winning the World Championship of 1951, 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957  donning the initial years and establishing a legacy towed him into our list of the best F1 drivers of all time.

#2. Lewis Hamilton, the current best driver in the world

best F1 driver of all time Lewis Hamilton

The one and only coloured driver ever in the contingency, Lewis Hamilton is currently the world champion and ruler of the circuit. With six World Championship under his belt, he has already broken numerous records and is trailing behind Michael Schumacher. 

Beginning his career with McLaren in 2007, his first victory came in the 2008 session when he pulled off a crucial overtake in the final corner of the final lap. Four more years passed by without any title to his name. In 2013 Mercedes signed him and united with childhood friend Nico Rosberg.

Consecutive titles in 2014 and 2015 tied him with Senna’s three championships. He went ahead by winning his rest three by completing a hat-trick of Championships from 2017 to 2019. His rivalry with four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel spices the entertainment factor. Notably, in 2017 and 2018, Hamilton came from midseason trails to turn the tables and win the Championship. 

His posh lifestyle and out of the sporting event indulgences helped the craze of F1 to take off. Gaining 84 wins and 6 World Championships, he ranks in the list of best F1 drivers of all time.

#1. Michael Schumacher: The best driver ever

Michael Schumacher the best driver ever

The German Maestro is the greatest ever to have graced the asphalt. Two decades of professional racing fetched him immense accolades. Winning a record seven-time World Championship title remains the most coveted one.

Mercedes funded Jordan Grand Prix signed him in 1991. Soon Benetton signed him up, and in 1994 he tasted his first Championship victory, defeating Damon Hill by a single point. Successfully defending his Championship the following year, this time with a more significant margin, he was making the headlines for the right reasons. Ferrari needed a makeover and a new champion to reclaim their legacy.

Schumacher was signed by the prancing horses in 1996, and that was the beginning of an empire. Winning five successful Drivers’ Championships from 2000 to 2004, Schumacher established a truly astounding feat. The Brazil Grand Prix win saw him receiving the trophy from one of the greatest of all time who made World Cup debut at a very young age, Pele.

Victory number kissing the 91 marks and Championship count 7, he is undoubtedly the Conqueror of the Circuit. Hamilton is chasing him with 6 Championship and is likely to go past. However, he will never be able to match the legacy of Schumacher.  

Francis Banerjee

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