Throughout Formula 1 history, numerous drivers have made a name for themselves and made their mark on this fast-paced, adrenaline-filled sport. It is difficult to compare the skills of drivers from different eras, as the sport has evolved endlessly since it began in 1950. With that being said, there are some drivers who stand out above the others, and their talent cannot be denied. Here are the top 15 F1 driver of all time.
15. Mika Hakkinen
Known for being a man of few words, Hakkinen possesses incredible skill and bravery in his lightning quick maneuvers, and none other than Schumacher named him his greatest rival back in his first career. His stoic, no-nonsense personality is perhaps as famous as his focus and ability on the road. He has recorded 161 starts, 20 wins, 51 podium placements, 26 pole positions, and 25 fastest laps to his name, and he won two championships back in the day, doing so humbly and quietly.
14. Kimi Räikkönen
He isn’t the fastest or most successful F1 driver, but no one can deny that his skill and speed make him a deserving part of this list, especially in his younger days. With a great personality to boot, Räikkönen’s love of the sport in its purest form makes him a fan favorite and a likable character. Many believe he should have won three championships instead of just the one he has. As of now, Räikkönen holds 252 starts, 20 wins, 84 podium placements, 16 pole positions, and 43 fastest laps.
13. Sir Stirling Moss
This entry is an odd one out, as Moss is the only driver on the list to have never won a championship, instead finishing runner-up four times and in third place thrice in the seven years he competed. Many would argue that Moss deserved to win a championship, especially due to his supreme skill and advanced ability in the sport. A combination of his preference for English, privateer teams and plain rotten luck means he never earned the title. He stands with 66 starts, 16 wins, 24 podium placements, 16 pole positions, and 19 fastest laps and is known as the greatest driver to never become champion.
12. Emerson Fittipaldi
Although not the most popular of F1 drivers, Fittipaldi held his own in a difficult racing era. His calm, focused skill earned him 144 starts, 14 wins, 35 podium placements, 6 pole positions, 6 fastest laps, and two world championships. He held the record for youngest world champion for 33 years. Sadly, Fittipaldi’s career was short lived, and he decided to leave his team to start up his own, which lacked quality and prevented further success. Still, he remains an iconic part of F1 history. Who knows what he would have achieved had he not left his team?
11. Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton took the world by storm when he came onto the F1 scene, and his raw talent and pure speed are nothing short of amazing. He could arguably be named the fastest F1 driver in all of history, and while still a rookie driver, he bested the world champion at that time. He has 188 starts, 53 wins, 104 podium placements, 61 pole positions, and 31 fastest laps to his name alongside three championship wins. These impressive statistics prove that Hamilton may be the best racer of this generation.
10. Sebastian Vettel
This driver has set multiple records in regards to being the youngest driver to achieve certain feats. This includes becoming the youngest driver to win the World Drivers’ Championship, and then moving on to become the youngest double, triple, and quadruple world champion in F1 history. Unstoppable when placed on pole position in a competitive car with a lead in the first corner, Vettel has clocked 178 starts, 42 wins, 86 podium placements, 46 pole positions, and 28 fastest laps. Many believe that he is set to be the Senna of this generation.
9. Sir Jackie Stewart
Dubbed one of the greatest figures of motor racing and nicknamed the Flying Scot, Stewart was the unquestioned number one during his prime years. He had 99 starts, 27 wins, 43 podium placements, 17 pole positions, and 15 fastest laps – and he won three championships. The best part is that Stewart wasn’t just a driver – he also campaigned for safety and played a big role in reducing the number of F1 fatalities and reducing the likelihood of life-taking accidents during F1 drivers’ careers.
8. Nelson Piquet
Divided opinions have been formed about this driver, due largely in part to a sudden shift in perception regarding his career as time went on. For a brief period in the mid-80’s, Piquet was considered the best driver of his time, but shortly after, his stock began to fall and he essentially vanished despite winning 3 championships with three different cars and tires. With 204 starts, 23 wins, 60 podium placements, 24 pole positions and 23 fastest laps, it’s a pity that Piquet doesn’t get the recognition he deserves.
7. Niki Lauda
A true genius on the road, Lauda is the only driver who has been champion for the two most successful constructors in F1, Ferrari and McLaren. He had admirable dedication and love for his sport, shown when he shocked the world when he returned to the race track merely 42 days after a near-fatal racing accident with unhealed burns still fresh on his skin. Lauda accumulated 171 starts, 25 wins, 54 podium placements, 24 pole positions, 24 fastest laps, and 3 championship wins in his career.
6. Alain Prost
Prost is one of the most undervalued and underrated drivers in F1 history, and is unfairly considered the second best to Senna, with whom he shared a fierce rivalry. However, many miss out on Prost’s effective and efficient use of the road, as his performance was somehow always stellar despite the fact that he never looked like he was trying. His career statistics include 199 starts, 51 wins, 106 podium placements, 33 pole positions, 41 fastest laps, and 4 championship wins, the latter of which many say he deserved more of.
5. Jim Clark
Arguably one of the most naturally talented racers of all time, Clark’s mild-mannered and gentlemanly sportsmanship alongside his ability to adapt to problematic cars and make the most of every situation make him the greatest driver of his era. His smooth driving skills set records at the time, and he accumulated 72 starts, 25 wins, 32 podium placements, 33 pole positions, and 28 fastest laps during his career. He also took home the title of champion at two Formula One Grand Prix events.
4. Fernando Alonso
Gaining a start in the racing scene by karting from the age of three, Alsonso earned three consecutive karting championships in Spain before jumping into the F1 world in 2001. Despite self-proclamations that he is neither the fastest nor most talented driver in the Formula 1 world today, Alonso’s consistency and reliability on the track is staggering, and his ability to work excellently using any car, even ones with problems, has earned him a great reputation. He has 273 starts, 32 wins, 97 podium finishes, 22 pole positions and 22 fastest laps – and he has won two F1 championships.
3. Michael Schumacher
Finding success at a time when the competition was arguably the toughest it has ever been, Schumacher’s talents and hard work served him well and earned him achievements that redefined what is possible in the racing scene. He holds multiple records and is the only driver in F1 history to finish in the top three for every single race of a season. He is a seven-time Formula 1 champion and holds a total of 306 starts, 91 wins, 68 pole positions and 77 fastest laps. The official Formula One website states that he is, statistically, the greatest driver the sport has ever seen.
2. Juan Manuel Fangio
This incredible Argentinian F1 driver’s skill was so impeccable that he earned the nickname El Maestro (The Master). He set records that may never be bested by holding a win percentage of 46.15% Fangio competed in 51 F1 Grand Prix’s, winning 24, setting 28 pole positions, and garnering 23 fastest laps. He also won five world championships within seven F1 seasons. He stands in the F1 Hall of Fame and many have dubbed him the greatest F1 driver of all time.
1. Ayrton Senna
Considered by some to be the greatest F1 driver of all time, Aryton Senna won three Formula One championships for McLaren in his lifetime. The incredible dedication and skill that Senna possessed allowed him to find speed in every part of the race track and utilize it to his advantage. Senna passed away when his car crashed into the concrete barrier during the 1994 San Mario Grand Prix in Italy. But with 161 grand prix starts, 41 wins, and 65 pole positions to his name, Senna is nothing short of a legend – and that legend lives on.
The talent, skill, and unwavering courage that these drivers have displayed has made Formula 1 racing all the more exciting and exhilarating for fans around the world. These names will go down in history and serve as inspiration for future generations of drivers for years to come.