Who is the greatest Formula One driver of all time? F1 fans certainly have their own opinions. Deciding who’s best in motor racing’s premier series is a tricky question. After all, victory on the track depends not just on a driver’s talent but also on the speed and reliability of his car and the strength of his team. Then there’s the challenge of comparing recent drivers to those who competed in earlier, very different eras of the series, which got its start in 1950. Rank this list and have your say! (Source: Huffington Post and Wikipedia)
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Ayrton Senna da Silva (21 March 1960 – 1 May 1994) was a Brazilian racing driver who won three Formula One world championships for McLaren in 1988, 1990 and 1991, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time. He died in an accident while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix for Williams. Senna began his motorsport career in karting, moved up to open-wheel racing in 1981, and won the 1983 British Formula Three Championship. He made his Formula One debut with Toleman-Hart in 1984, before moving to Lotus-Renault the following year and winning six Grands Prix over the next three seasons. In 1988, he joined Frenchman Alain Prost at McLaren-Honda. Between them, they won all but one of the 16 Grands Prix that year, and Senna claimed his first World Championship. Prost claimed the championship in 1989, and Senna his second and third championships in 1990 and 1991. In 1992, the Williams-Renault combination began to dominate Formula One. Senna nonetheless managed to finish the 1993 season as runner-up, winning five races and negotiating a move to Williams in 1994.
Michael Schumacher (3 January 1969) is a retired German racing driver who raced in Formula One for Jordan Grand Prix, Benetton and Ferrari, where he spent the majority of his career, as well as for Mercedes upon his return to the sport. Widely regarded as one of the greatest Formula One drivers ever, and regarded by some as the greatest of all time, Schumacher is the only driver in history to win seven Formula One World Championships, five of which he won consecutively. The most successful driver in the history of the sport, Schumacher holds the records for the most World Championship titles (7), the most Grand Prix wins (91), the most fastest laps (77) and the most races won in a single season (13), and according to the official Formula One website, Schumacher is "statistically the greatest driver the sport has ever seen". After success in karting as a child, Schumacher won titles in Formula König and Formula Three before joining Mercedes in the World Sportscar Championship. In 1991, his Mercedes-funded race debut for the Jordan Formula One team resulted in Schumacher being signed by Benetton for the rest of that season. He finished third in 1992 and fourth in 1993, before becoming the first German World Drivers' Champion in 1994 by one point over Damon Hill. In 1995 he repeated the success, this time with a greater margin. In 1996, Schumacher moved to Ferrari, who had last won the Driver's Championship in 1979, and helped them transform into the most successful team in Formula One history, as he came close to winning the 1997 and 1998 titles, before breaking his leg at the 1999 British Grand Prix, ending another title run.
Juan Manuel Fangio Déramo (4 June 1911 – 17 July 1995), nicknamed El Chueco ("the bowlegged one", also commonly translated as "bandy legged") or El Maestro ("The Master"), was an Argentine racing car driver. He dominated the first decade of Formula One racing, winning the World Drivers' Championship five times. From childhood, he abandoned his studies to pursue auto mechanics. In 1938, he debuted in Turismo Carretera, competing in a Ford V8. In 1940, he competed with Chevrolet, winning the Grand Prix International Championship and devoted his time to the Argentine Turismo Carretera becoming its champion, a title he successfully defended a year later. Fangio then competed in Europe between 1947 and 1949 where he achieved further success. He won the World Championship of Drivers five times—a record which stood for 47 years until beaten by Michael Schumacher—with four different teams (Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Maserati), a feat that has not been repeated. A member of the Formula 1 Hall of Fame, he is regarded by many as one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time and holds the highest winning percentage in Formula One – 46.15% – winning 24 of 53 Formula One races he entered. Fangio is the only Argentine driver to have won the Argentine Grand Prix, having won it four times in his career—the most of any driver.
Alain Marie Pascal Prost, OBE, Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur (born 24 February 1955) is a French former racing driver. A four-time Formula One Drivers' Champion, only Lewis Hamilton (four championships), Sebastian Vettel (four championships), Juan Manuel Fangio (five championships), and Michael Schumacher (seven championships) have equalled or surpassed his number of titles. From 1987 until 2001 Prost held the record for most Grand Prix victories and is considered as one of the greatest F1 drivers ever. Schumacher surpassed Prost's total of 51 victories at the 2001 Belgian Grand Prix. In 1999, Prost received the World Sports Awards of the Century in the motor sport category. Prost discovered karting at the age of 14 during a family holiday. He progressed through motor sport's junior ranks, winning the French and European Formula Three championships, before joining the McLaren Formula One team in 1980 at the age of 24. He finished in the points on his Formula One début at the San Martin Autodrome in Buenos Aires, Argentina (where he took his first podium a year later) and took his first race victory at his home Grand Prix in France a year later, driving for the factory Renault team.
James Clark, Jr OBE (4 March 1936 – 7 April 1968), known as Jim Clark, was a British Formula One racing driver from Scotland, who won two World Championships, in 1963 and 1965. Clark was a versatile driver who competed in sports cars, touring cars and in the Indianapolis 500, which he won in 1965. He was particularly associated with the Lotus marque. He was killed in a Formula Two motor racing accident in Hockenheim, Germany in 1968. At the time of his death, he had won more Grand Prix races (25) and achieved more Grand Prix pole positions (33) than any other driver. In 2009, The Times placed Clark at the top of a list of the greatest-ever Formula One drivers.
Sir John Young "Jackie" Stewart, OBE (born 11 June 1939) is a British former Formula One racing driver from Scotland. Nicknamed the "Flying Scot", he competed in Formula One between 1965 and 1973, winning three World Drivers' Championships, and twice runner-up, over those nine seasons. He also competed in Can-Am. In 2009 he was ranked fifth of the fifty greatest Formula One drivers of all time by journalist Kevin Eason who wrote: "He has not only emerged as a great driver, but one of the greatest figures of motor racing." In the United States, he worked as a color commentator on television broadcasts at the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix from 1971 to 1986. In 1976, Stewart was a play-by-play announcer for ABC Sports for the 1976 Winter and 1976 Summer Olympics, and he served as host of the Indianapolis 500 coverage for ABC's Wide World of Sports and ABC Sports, from 1982 to 1984. He has also been a spokesman for Ford, Rolex, Heineken, and Moët.
Sebastian Vettel (3 July 1987) is a German racing driver currently driving in Formula One for Scuderia Ferrari. He is a four-time Formula One World Champion, having won the championship in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 with Red Bull Racing, therefore being among the most successful F1 drivers of all time, as he is one of only five drivers to have won four or more drivers' titles. He is regarded by fellow and former drivers as one of the greatest Formula One drivers in the history of the sport. Vettel signed a three-year contract with Ferrari upon his arrival, a contract later extended until the end of 2020. Vettel started his career in Formula One as a test driver for BMW Sauber and made his debut with the team at the 2007 United States Grand Prix, replacing the injured Robert Kubica. Later in the season, he signed with Toro Rosso and stayed with the team into 2008. He became the youngest race winner at the time when he took victory at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix. In his first year driving for Red Bull in 2009, Vettel finished the season as the youngest-ever World Drivers' Championship runner-up. The following year he went on to become the youngest driver ever to win the World Drivers' Championship, aged 23. In the same year he helped Red Bull win the team's first World Constructors' Championship. He followed up his first championship with three more titles, becoming the youngest double, triple and quadruple world champion in Formula One. The 2010 and 2012 titles were decided in the final round, in 2010 coming out on top over Fernando Alonso and Ferrari in a four-way title battle at Abu Dhabi, whilst in 2012 defeating Alonso and Ferrari again by three points. The 2011 and 2013 titles saw Vettel dominating the seasons and wrapping up the titles early.
Andreas Nikolaus "Niki" Lauda (born 22 February 1949) is an Austrian former Formula One driver and a three-time F1 World Drivers' Champion, winning in 1975, 1977 and 1984. He is currently the only driver to have been champion for both Ferrari and McLaren, the sport's two most successful constructors. More recently an aviation entrepreneur, he has founded and run two airlines (Lauda Air and Niki). He is also Bombardier Business Aircraft brand ambassador. He was also a consultant for Scuderia Ferrari and team manager of the Jaguar Formula One racing team for two years. He is currently working as a pundit for German TV during Grand Prix weekends and acts as non-executive chairman of the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team. Lauda owns 10% of the team. Lauda was seriously injured in a crash at the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, during which his Ferrari burst into flames and he came close to death after inhaling hot toxic fumes and suffering severe burns. However, he survived, and recovered enough to race again just six weeks later at the Italian Grand Prix.
Lewis Carl Davidson Hamilton MBE (born 7 January 1985) is a British racing driver who races in Formula One for the Mercedes AMG Petronas team. A four-time Formula One World Champion, he is often considered the best driver of his generation and widely regarded as one of the greatest Formula One drivers in the history of the sport. He won his first World Championship title with McLaren in 2008 before moving to Mercedes, where he won back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015 before winning a fourth in 2017, making him one of the most successful Formula One drivers of all time. The most successful British driver in the history of the sport, Hamilton has more race victories than any other British driver in Formula One (62), and holds records for the all-time most career points (2,580), the most wins at different circuits (24), the all-time most pole positions (72), as well as achieving the joint-most podium finishes in a season (17). Born and raised in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, Hamilton's interest in racing started when his father bought him a radio-controlled car when he was six. He was signed to McLaren's young driver support programme in 1998, after he approached McLaren team principal Ron Dennis at an awards ceremony three years earlier and said "one day I want to be racing your cars". After winning the British Formula Renault, Formula Three Euroseries, and GP2 championships on his way up the racing career ladder, he made his Formula One debut twelve years after his initial encounter with Dennis, driving for McLaren in 2007. Coming from a mixed background, with a black father and white mother, Hamilton is the first and only black driver to race in Formula One.
Fernando Alonso Díaz (29 July 1981) is a Spanish Formula One racing driver and a double World Champion who is currently racing for McLaren-Honda. He is often regarded as one of the greatest Formula One drivers in the history of the sport. He took part in the 2017 Indianapolis 500. Born in Oviedo, the capital of the autonomous region of Asturias, Alonso started in karting from the age of 3. He won three consecutive karting championships in Spain from 1994 to 1997, and he became world karting champion in 1996. He made his Formula One debut in the 2001 season with Minardi, and then moved to the Renault team as a test driver the next year. Starting in 2003 Alonso then became one of the main drivers of the team. On 25 September 2005, he won the Formula One World Drivers' Championship title at the age of 24 years and 58 days, at the time making him the youngest Formula One World Drivers' Champion. After retaining the title the following year, Alonso also became the youngest double Champion at the time. He joined McLaren in 2007, before returning to Renault for two seasons in 2008 and 2009.
Sir Stirling Craufurd Moss OBE (born 17 September 1929) is a British former Formula One racing driver. An inductee into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, he won 212 of the 529 races he entered across several categories of competition and has been described as "the greatest driver never to win the World Championship". In a seven-year span between 1955 and 1961 Moss finished as championship runner-up four times and third the other three.
Mika Pauli Häkkinen (born 28 September 1968), nicknamed "the Flying Finn", is a Finnish former professional racing driver. He was the 1998 and 1999 Formula One World Champion, driving for McLaren and has been ranked among the greatest Formula One drivers in various motorsport polls. Häkkinen currently works in driver management and is a brand ambassador for various companies. Häkkinen began his career in karting at the age of five and achieved success by winning regional and national kart championships. He progressed to car racing when he entered the Formula Ford and Formula Three series in Italy and the United Kingdom. After success in the series, Häkkinen entered Formula One in 1991 with the Team Lotus where he remained until 1992. The following year, he moved to McLaren as test driver before he was promoted to the race team following the departure of Michael Andretti. After four years which yielded minor success for Häkkinen, he scored his first Formula One victory in 1997. He went on to win eight races of the 1998 season, securing the World Drivers' Championship at the season ending Japanese Grand Prix; his success also helped McLaren secure the World Constructors' Championship. Häkkinen repeated his World Championship success in 1999, taking five victories. He finished as runner-up in the Drivers' Championship in 2000, behind Michael Schumacher and secured two more victories in 2001 before announcing a sabbatical from the sport, which became full-time retirement in mid-2002.
Joseph Gilles Henri Villeneuve (January 18, 1950 – May 8, 1982), known as Gilles Villeneuve, was a Canadian racing driver. Villeneuve spent six years in Grand Prix racing with Ferrari, winning six races and widespread acclaim for his performances. An enthusiast of cars and fast driving from an early age, Villeneuve started his professional career in snowmobile racing in his native province of Quebec. He moved into single seaters, winning the US and Canadian Formula Atlantic championships in 1976, before being offered a drive in Formula One with the McLaren team at the 1977 British Grand Prix. He was taken on by reigning world champions Ferrari for the end of the season and from 1978 to his death in 1982 drove for the Italian team. He won six Grand Prix races in a short career at the highest level. In 1979, he finished second by four points in the championship to teammate Jody Scheckter. Villeneuve died in a 140 mph (225 km/h) crash caused by a collision with the March of Jochen Mass during qualifying for the 1982 Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder. The accident came less than two weeks after an intense argument with his teammate, Didier Pironi, over Pironi's move to pass Villeneuve at the preceding San Marino Grand Prix. At the time of his death, Villeneuve was extremely popular with fans and has since become an iconic figure in the history of the sport. His son, Jacques Villeneuve, became Formula One world champion in 1997 and, to date, the only Canadian to win the Formula One World Championship.
Alberto Ascari (13 July 1918 – 26 May 1955) was an Italian racing driver and twice Formula One World Champion. He was a multitalented racer who competed in motorcycle racing before switching to cars. Back to back World titles in 1952 and 1953 sandwiched an appearance in the Indianapolis 500 in 1952. Ascari also won the Mille Miglia in 1954. Ascari was noted for the careful precision and finely-judged accuracy that made him one of the safest drivers in a most dangerous era. When Alberto was a child, his father, Antonio, who was also a famous racing driver, died in an accident at the 1925 French Grand Prix. Alberto once admitted that he warned his children not to become extremely close to him because of the risk involved in his profession. So this proved when he was killed during a test session for Scuderia Ferrari at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza. Ascari was notoriously superstitious and took great pains to avoid tempting fate. His unexplained fatal accident – at the same age as his father's, on the same day of the month and in eerily similar circumstances – remains one of Formula One racing's great tragic coincidences.
Nigel Ernest James Mansell, CBE (8 August 1953) is a British former racing driver who won both the Formula One World Championship (1992) and the CART Indy Car World Series (1993). Mansell was the reigning F1 champion when he moved over to CART, becoming the first person to win the CART title in his debut season, and making him the only person to hold both the World Drivers' Championship and the American open-wheel National Championship simultaneously. His career in Formula One spanned 15 seasons, with his final two full seasons of top-level racing being spent in the CART series. Mansell is the second most successful British Formula One driver of all time in terms of race wins with 31 victories, and is seventh overall on the Formula One race winners list behind Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton, Alain Prost, Sebastian Vettel, Ayrton Senna and Fernando Alonso. He held the record for the most number of poles set in a single season, which was broken in 2011 by Sebastian Vettel.
Norman Graham Hill OBE (15 February 1929 – 29 November 1975) was a British racing driver and team owner from England, who was twice Formula One World Champion. He is the only driver ever to win the Triple Crown of Motorsport—the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Indianapolis 500 and either the Monaco Grand Prix or the Formula One World Drivers' Championship. He also appeared on TV in the 1970s on a variety of non-sporting programmes including panel games. He liked painting in his spare time. Hill and his son Damon were the first father and son pair to win Formula One World Championships. Hill's grandson Josh, Damon's son, also raced his way through the ranks until he retired from Formula Three in 2013 at the age of 22.
Nelson Piquet Souto Maior (August 17, 1952), known as Nelson Piquet, is a Brazilian former racing driver and businessman. Since his retirement, Piquet has been ranked among the greatest Formula One drivers in various motorsport polls. Piquet had a brief career in tennis before losing interest in the sport and subsequently took up karting and hid his identity to prevent his father discovering his hobby. He became the Brazilian national karting champion in 1971-72 and won the Formula Vee championship in 1976. With advice from Emerson Fittipaldi, Piquet went to Europe to further success by taking the record number of wins in Formula Three in 1978, defeating Jackie Stewart's all-time record.
Karl Jochen Rindt (18 April 1942 – 5 September 1970) was a German-born racing driver who represented Austria during his career. In 1970, he was killed during practice for the Italian Grand Prix and became the only driver to be posthumously awarded the Formula One World Drivers' Championship. Rindt started motor racing in 1961. Switching to single-seaters in 1963, he was successful in both Formula Junior and Formula Two. In 1964, Rindt made his debut in Formula One at the Austrian Grand Prix, before securing a full drive with Cooper for 1965. After mixed results with the team, he moved to Brabham for 1968 and then Lotus in 1969. It was at Lotus that Rindt found a competitive car, although he was often concerned about the safety of the notoriously unreliable Lotus vehicles. He won his first Formula One race at the 1969 United States Grand Prix. He had a very successful 1970 season, mainly racing the revolutionary Lotus 72, and won five of the first nine races. In practice for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, he spun into the guardrails after a failure on his car's brake shaft. Rindt was killed owing to severe throat injuries caused by his seat belt; he was pronounced dead while on the way to hospital. As his closest competitor Jacky Ickx was unable to score sufficient points in the remaining races of the season, Rindt was awarded the World Championship posthumously.
Sir John Arthur Brabham, AO, OBE (2 April 1926 – 19 May 2014) was an Australian racing driver who was Formula One World Champion in 1959, 1960, and 1966. He was a founder of the Brabham racing team and race car constructor that bore his name. Brabham was a Royal Australian Air Force flight mechanic and ran a small engineering workshop before he started racing midget cars in 1948. His successes with midgets in Australian and New Zealand road racing events led to his going to Britain to further his racing career. There he became part of the Cooper Car Company's racing team, building as well as racing cars. He contributed to the design of the mid-engined cars that Cooper introduced to Formula One and the Indianapolis 500, and won the Formula One world championship in 1959 and 1960. In 1962 he established his own Brabham marque with fellow Australian Ron Tauranac, which in the 1960s became the largest manufacturer of customer racing cars in the world. In the 1966 Formula One season Brabham became the first – and still the only – man to win the Formula One world championship driving one of his own cars. He was the last surviving World Champion of the 1950s.
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