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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / The Top 10 Formula 1 Drivers of All Time

The Top 10 Formula 1 Drivers of All Time

We Determine who's the GOAT in F1 History!
Publish Date: 01/12/2023
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster

When discussing the greatest F1 driver of all time, the argument quickly takes on the approach ‘who’s the best of their era’. Whilst it’s true that the drivers are best suited to the machinery they have available at the time, there are some which shine and can seemingly adapt to anything on wheels.

10 – Sir Stirling Moss

From a bygone era when safety wasn’t even spoken about in the paddock, Sir Stirling won 212 Grand Prix’s out of the 529 races he competed in. He is often regarded as a British hero, racing the wheels off anything in the post-war era. To add to his CV he won the Mille Miglia in 1955 – probably the greatest rally the world has ever seen – in an astonishing 10 hours 7 minutes and 48 seconds. That’s covering 1000 miles, in 1955. Unfortunately for him he is famous for never winning an F1 World Championship but he has still cemented himself into motorsport history as one of the greatest.

Goodwood festival of speed, United Kingdom - July 1st: Sir Stirling Moss

Goodwood festival of speed, United Kingdom – July 1st: Sir Stirling Moss

9 – Fernando Alonso

In my eyes Fernando deserves a spot in any top 10 irrelevant in which position he ends up in. Alonso got to taste F1 machinery for the first time in 1999 and since then he’s competed and landed a win or appeared on the podium in every era of F1 car he’s ever driven with, an unbelievable stat. The Spaniard took the fight to the legendary Michael Schumacher with his first years at Renault and won the drivers championship twice. Fernando could have won the drivers championship at least three more times, making him an all time great -not that he isn’t already-. The guy is still hot property in the F1 market today at 41 years old, truly a living legend.

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 2-5 December 2021 F1 World Championship

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 2-5 December 2021 F1 World Championship – Alonso driving his Alpine A521

8 – Sir Jackie Stewart

They call him ‘the flying Scot’ for his driving antics and great success on track. A three time Formula 1 world champion who also finished runner-up twice, he won 27 out of the 99 races he competed in. Those stats seal him amongst the F1 greats but he used his platform to promote and increase the sports safety standards which were close to nil at the time. He quoted ”Death was something we all learned to live with. We learned things you couldn’t possibly have known before, like where the best international undertaker was in any country we raced in. A lot of commercial flights at the time didn’t carry coffins. You ask me what that did to me? It did.. nothing, other than to give me the necessary chemistry to dilute the grief and to carry on racing.” Whoa.. Sir Jackie can still be seen in and around the racing paddock today and is known for still being involved in the sport as a brand ambassador.

Sir Jackie Stewart driving his 1969 Matra-Ford MS80 which one six out of eleven races that season

Sir Jackie Stewart driving his 1969 Matra-Ford MS80 which one six out of eleven races that season

7 – Niki Lauda

We’ve all heard the heroic story, it was brought to life on the silver screen with Ron Howards 2013 movie, Rush. The movie depicted one of the sport’s greatest come backs. At the 1976 German Grand Prix Lauda’s Ferrari went off the track and erupted in flames causing terrible third degree burns to Niki’s head and face. His lungs were so severely damaged that a priest was brought in to give him his last rites but Lauda wasn’t ready to give up just yet. In just 6 weeks time he was being strapped back into his Ferrari for the Italian Grand Prix finishing a heroic fourth. He went on to win two F1 championships with Ferrari, retire, come back again and win one more championship with McLaren racing alongside the next generation of GP drivers.

Mugello Circuit 1 April 2007 Niki Lauda With His Historic Ferrari 312T

Mugello Circuit 1 April 2007 Niki Lauda With His Historic Ferrari 312T

6 – Jim Clark

An inspiration to many of the drivers in this list and not often talked about, Jim was one of the best racing drivers ever, period. The Scottish driver won two Formula 1 world championships, competed ferociously in sports cars, touring cars won the Indy 500 and led it for 190 laps in the first ever mid engine Indy car. Jim just excelled at driving anything that had wheels on it with Sir Jackie Stewart stated that the pair had done an ‘intense amount of racing’ with each other. Sadly Jim Clark lost his life in a racing accident at the old Hockenheimring in Germany competing for Lotus in a Formula 2 race, in between Formula 1 seasons. His death at the time affected the racing community terribly and there is no doubt that he had the potential to become one of the most successful drivers of all time.

The remarkable Jim Clarke wrestling with the Lotus 49

The remarkable Jim Clarke wrestling with the Lotus 49

5 – Juan Manuel Fangio

Driving some of the most genuinely iconic racing cars in the history of the sport, the Argentine won five Formula 1 world championships in the 1950’s, an era which wasn’t exactly renowned for it’s safety. His record stood for almost 50 years with Michael Schumacher beating his record in 2003 after a closely fought season. Unlike today when most drivers win their championships with one team, Juan won his with Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Maserati. His stats are still extraordinary: 29 pole positions, 48 front row starts, 24 victories, from 51 Grands Prix starts. And to top it all up, he was 46 when he won his last title, in 1957, a testament to his immense physical strength and a true hero for the sport.

Aintree, England. 14-16 July 1955. Juan Manuel Fangio driving the Mercedes-Benz W196

Aintree, England 14-16 July 1955, Juan Manuel Fangio driving the Mercedes-Benz W196

4 – Max Verstappen

A controversial one especially when he’s only won two world championships, but just wait. I believe we’re witnessing a great piece of talent at work here, from the moment he was trusted with Formula 1 machinery at just 17 years old, he’s proved to us that he is a full-blooded racer through and through. I’ve often compared his aggressiveness with Senna and his though process with Schumacher. He’s not shy to take the fight to anyone, he won’t back down and his pace is relentless. Love him or hate him, there’s more to come from this guy and I can’t wait to see what he does next!

Imola Italy 15-18 April 2021, Formula 1 World Championship

Imola Italy 15-18 April 2021, Formula 1 World Championship

3 – Michael Schumacher

Some will be upset this guy is only third. There’s no doubt that Michael is one of the all time greats, a formidable opponent on track and someone who mastered psychological warfare on his opponents. A seven time world champion with two teams, he persevered until he reached his goal and also had a decent come back with Mercedes. A hero and an inspiration for many of us growing up although we can’t forget his negative antics on track such as the time he was disqualified from 1997 after turning in on Jacques Villeneuve, or that time in Adelaide in 1994 for the title decider when he took out his main opponent, Damon Hill. It also took some time for him to pick up his wins with Ferrari, although this may not be entirely up to him. He gave us one more moment of brilliance with his phantom pole in Monaco for Mercedes in 2012 and I’m sure there was potential for more.

Michael Schumacher at the 2006 German Grand Prix driving the Ferrari 248 F1

Michael Schumacher at the 2006 German Grand Prix driving the Ferrari 248 F1

2 – Sir Lewis Hamilton

From karting to GP2 to F1, if you haven’t seen this guy race in any other category other than F1, please take some time to do so. Unbelievable race craft, relentless race pace are put on display almost every time Lewis gets behind the wheel of a car. Even through the very difficult 2022 season he’s come back and achieved, there’s literally no more pressure on him as he’s achieved so much and continues to break records after almost every race he competes in. He also said he’s not done from the sport just yet and I can’t wait to see what he can accomplish and to see him battling it out with the likes of Max, Charles and his teammate George.

Lewis Hamilton driving the Mercedes W12 at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton driving the Mercedes W12 at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

1 – Ayrton Senna

The legend from Brazil, this national hero was so focused and determined to be the best that he has one of the most beautiful success stories ever, albeit with a sad and tragic end. The Brazilian went to race in Europe in the late 1970’s and rose through the ranks to make his F1 debut on a very wet Monaco in 1984 and finished 2nd in a car which was not competitive at all. He moved to Lotus for three years where he got the taste of victory and then to McLaren in what was undoubtably the greatest rivalries of all time featuring Alain Prost. Senna went on to win three championships with McLaren, securing his place with the all time greats. He then moved to Williams for the 1994 season but failed to finish a race. He was tragically killed at the San Marino Grand Prix on the 1st of May, 1994 in a plagued filled race weekend which sent shocks down the racing community. He is regarded by many as the greatest there was and ever will be, he won in every category he competed in much like Jim Clark, who was his racing hero and inspiration.

Full focus: Ayrton is regarded by many as the greatest racing driver of all time.

Full focus: Ayrton is regarded by many as the greatest racing driver of all time.

Honorable Mentions

Ranking these great drivers was not easy and there are many other great drivers out there who can still make the top 10. The legendary Ferrari drivers Jody Scheckter and Jean Alessi deserve a mention, amongst others:

James Hunt vs Niki Lauda

Had an incredible rivalry with Niki Lauda. James was a unique talent and shined in the 1974 season but was unable to keep the momentum and sadly for him failed to replicate his success in future seasons, I’d like to compare James Hunt to Jacques Villeneuve who came out of nowhere in 1996 and won the 1997 championship but again failed to replicate his success.

Alain Prost & Senna’s rivalry

Alain Prost and Senna gave us the greatest rivalry in F1 history with the 1988 season being the peak of their rivalry. Alain managed to secure four world championships to his name by the time he retired.

The two Finns – Mika & Kimi

The two Finns Mika Hakkinen and Kimi Raikkonen have been ice cold on the track with Hakkinen causing some troubles for Schumacher in the late 1990’s and Raikkonen who was born with pure driving talent and speed.

Nigel Mansell

The like of Nigel Mansell, Senna’s great rival deserves a mention – These two gave us such amazing duels back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.

Seb Vettel

The outgoing Seb Vettel shown us some great drives with Red Bull and most recently during his last season with Aston Martin.

Jochen Rindt

And last but not least I have to mention Jochen Rindt who is often not talked about, he was a display of great driving talent who was taken away too soon during his career whilst driving for Lotus in 1970. To this day, he’s the only F1 driver to win a Championship posthumously.

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