Best Formula 1 Drivers of All Time
Brilliant, ruthless, determined, fast, and charismatic. These are just some of the superlatives that sum up the greatest driver Formula 1 has ever seen.
Ayrton ushered in a more professional approach to fitness and absolute dedication to the sport. He had to win and be the best. As Jo Ramirez said in the documentary "Right to Win", "For him, it was nothing but winning - to him, coming second was to be the first of the losers."
Senna also possessed the supreme ability to utilize every part of the track and find speed from absolutely nowhere. He was unquestionably the best driver ever in wet weather conditions. One only has to remember Donnington in 1993 where Ayrton went from fifth to first before the end of the first lap!
Obviously, the numbers favor Schumacher, but those who followed Senna's career know that his talent was phenomenal. He outqualified the very talented Prost by up to 1.5 seconds in the same car, was otherworldly in the wet, and had amazing nerve, drive, and car control, the like of which we have never seen before, and may never see again. Certainly the fastest F1 driver ever, he didn't always have the best strategy, going for wins rather than points for places, "as a professional race car driver, I am programmed to win." He won a Formula 3 race (against other F1 up-and-comers) with no front brakes. There are many almost unbelievable stories about the guy, but they are true.
Many fans weren't keen on his personality, nor his occasional tendency to go beyond the limit in defending his position, but anyone who cannot see how he is clearly ahead of the rest, is blinkered. At his best, no one could touch him. That includes prime Senna, prime Alonso, prime Hamilton, Lauda, and the list goes on.
I see many comments about how good Senna was in the wet. Schuey was better and the king of wet conditions - anyone remember him staying on slicks when it was a river on track and keeping Hill behind who had wet tyres, or when his car had only 5th gear and he still managed to keep Hill behind for the last third of the race? I suspect he is a little like Hendry in that he was so good and so far ahead of the others that people resented him winning all the time rather than enjoy just how bloody brilliant he actually was.
There are many amazing drivers worthy of consideration, but only one that is worthy of the crown, and that is Schuey.
Fangio was the Schumacher of his time. He won the world championship with four different teams and made great teammates such as Stirling Moss and Giuseppe Farina look average. His most impressive drive is Germany 1957, where he had a bad pit stop and was a full minute behind the leader. He then broke the track record multiple times in a row to take the lead and win the race.
Unlike the other racers on this list, Fangio raced in a time where helmets were basically just leather caps, seatbelts were pretty much nonexistent, and drivers could die in even small crashes. A crash like the 1973 British GP back in 1951 would easily injure at least 5 or 6 drivers involved and probably kill 1 or 2. Fangio dominated an era where entering every race was like a death wish.
Fangio had won with multiple teams, something that would be impossible today. Fangio paved the way for all the other F1 legends.
A lot of people may say Lewis Hamilton has won F1 Championships just because of Mercedes-Benz dominance. Yes, I agree Mercedes-Benz has been the best F1 team since 2014. However, we should not forget that he has shown his driving skills, his concentration, his ability to make the best decisions, and making the least mistakes compared to his rivals during the high-pressure moments in 2008, 2017, and 2018, in which his car was one of the best cars on track, not the best one.
Also, he fought as a teammate to several world champions and finished ahead of them as follows: Fernando Alonso (1 out of 1), Jenson Button (2 out of 3), and Nico Rosberg (3 out of 4). Speaking of dominance, I should recall that 2 out of 4 of Sebastian Vettel's championships had more than 100 points clearance to the second driver, and during Michael Schumacher's peak, F1 fans decreased due to Ferrari dominance.
Fourth, come on, he is easily now number 1! He is better than anyone has ever been. He has Senna's one-lap pace, Schumacher's relentless drive and consistency (even more consistent than Schumacher was), Alan Prost's analytical skills and careful approach to point scoring, and a faultless record that no one has ever had. He just doesn't make mistakes anymore! Oh yes, he also doesn't cheat like Senna, Prost, and Schumacher were all prepared to do to win a championship.
If the McLaren pit team weren't such a bunch of amateurs when he drove for them, he would already be sitting on at least 7 titles! The car was good, but not as good as the Ferrari, and in spite of this, he kept beating them. If McLaren hadn't consistently made mistakes that cost Hamilton dearly in 2007, 2008, and 2009, he would already have been the undisputed best driver in history! Vettel's titles came from a superior car and a team that never let him down. Where is he now, a has-been?
Up there with Ayrton Senna in terms of talent and race-craft, probably not as fast as Senna on a single lap, but I would say he is the most complete race driver ever. He knows how to handle pressure, how to get the most out of the shopping trolleys they build him of late, and he is utterly relentless! Similarly to Ayrton Senna, he has spent most, if not all, of his career without sitting in the best car. In a nutshell: Give him the second-best package on the grid, and he'll win you the championship.
The best driver in history. He has not only shown it in F1, but he has also shown it in WEC and IndyCar as well, where he steps in a car and is quick from the get-go. He might lose a tenth in qualifying to the likes of Hamilton or Vettel. But he reads a race like no other, has sick consistency, and wheel-to-wheel his competitor is always one step behind. Even with McLaren-Honda, he could put up a fight against much faster cars.
He is a born talent. A legend. You can't measure that in the number of world titles or even victories. It's something you just need to have an eye for.
Jim Clark was probably the greatest natural talent ever seen in any form of motor racing. Just as importantly, he was a gentleman racer who didn't have to block other drivers to stay in front. Relatively shy outside the car, he had a natural affinity with the machinery and was less hard on the equipment than virtually anyone else. His smoothness belied his quickness. He did everything behind the wheel with such grace that he was simply in a class by himself. He could adapt to an ill-handling machine in short order and get the most from it, and he could drive and win in anything. Simply the best ever. I'd pick either Fangio or Senna second, and the other third. Schumacher couldn't compare with Clark.
Jim Clark was unquestionably the most talented F1 driver of all time. Very few drivers could've driven a Lotus 25 as fast as he did. The sheer numbers of races he competed in every year would leave a modern-day F1 driver speechless. If you believe that Hamilton or Vettel could win the Indy 500, the Tasman Series, the British AND French F2 championships, and the F1 championship in the same year, then you're insane. Jim Clark is and always will be the greatest racing car driver in history.
Prost should have had at least 5 world championships, if not 6 or 7. In 1982, he was fastest, but bad reliability from the Renault caused him to only win one race and retire many times. In 1984, he had more car reliability problems and lost out to Lauda by half a point (the smallest margin ever). 1988 was the year that he and Senna met on equal terms, driving identical cars, and Prost got more points, but Senna only won the title by a quirk of an experimental ruling system that year.
Best F1 driver ever. No doubt. Only Senna is equivalent. Prost had one of the most extraordinary careers in F1, being a 4-time world champion in a time where there were always 4 top drivers (including Senna). How can he be so low in this ranking? Schumacher in 2nd? He did not have any competition in his days.
Alain Prost is rightfully regarded as one of the best. He is a four-time World Champion! Nobody had as many good teammates as Prost, yet none of them made him look bad. It was either at eye level or Prost ahead! Who did he beat as teammates? Niki Lauda (3 championships), Keke Rosberg (1 championship), Ayrton Senna (3 championships), Nigel Mansell (1 championship), and Damon Hill (1 championship).
He was champion in 1985, 1986, 1989, and 1993, so you can see he was at the top for a long time! In 1990, he finished a close second to Senna despite having a much worse car!
The most impressive thing about Lauda, concerning strictly his abilities (and not his bravery, which is admirable), is his logical reasoning. On the track, he was a general, mastering what to do and what not to do, and which risks to undertake or races to complete. Off the track, his reasoning was brilliant in the evaluation of the car and the necessary adjustments. To this, we should add the period in which he competed, facing Hunt, Prost, among others. He may not have the biggest number of titles, but by far, in my opinion, he was the biggest genius in F1.
Niki Lauda is one of the most famous names in F1 for a reason. In 1975, he became Ferrari's first champion in 11 years. The following year, 1976, he almost died and missed only a few races, yet he almost won the championship against James Hunt, another great driver. In 1977, he won the championship, not because he was the fastest, but because he was the smartest.
Not being the fastest but being the smartest was Lauda's thing. He didn't bother to fight for first place if the risk was too high. He happily settled for second because it still meant a lot of points. He'd rather finish second three times than win twice and score zero points in the third race. This tactic saw him win in 1977 and 1984. He did not take unnecessary risks and just scored as many points as possible. Consistency is key!
In 1984, he was teammates with the legendary Alain Prost and beat him by half a point. How? Because Lauda was smarter and settled for second when necessary, instead of taking risks and crashing out.
He is Prost's master, and Prost learned a lot from him. Eventually, Prost's nickname became "the Professor".
Vettel is the Senna in the wet of this generation. He will be the only driver to ever top Schumacher. He is leading Ferrari to another period of glory days. The only reason Lewis Hamfist has won the last two championships is that Mercedes did such a great job with the car. Any time Lewis gets under pressure, he cracks and drives off track. He's a good driver, but he can only win if there is no actual competition or problems for him.
Vettel is the best driver after Alonso, who would be at least a five-time world champion if he didn't keep flocking to a new team right when his old one was getting it together. If he and Vettel were with Ferrari in 2016, Mercedes would be done for.
A record breaker like Schumacher, he possessed immense passion like Senna, and helped with the car's development like a modern-day Lauda. Simply amazing.
By far the best driver of this era. He only had the fastest car for 4 years and won all 4. Lewis had the fastest car for 7 or 8 years and won only 4. Alonso had the best car 0 years, or I guess technically 1 year where his own team was favoring Hamilton and sabotaging them (when they tied in points and Raikkonen won over both with an inferior car) and won 2 Championships. Vettel and Alonso are both way superior to Hamilton. Would love to see Vettel and Alonso in the same car and see who wins.
I saw him race several times. Certainly, he was in a class by himself. He had 99 starts with 27 wins. He might have raced longer if not for the death of his teammate and friend Francois Cevert. I was at Watkins Glen to see Jackie's 100th start, but after Cevert's tragedy, Tyrrell pulled the team out of respect. Jackie was a champion of safety. With his persistence, many F1 drivers have had safer experiences, thanks to him. A true champion!
Skilled and intelligent, he came, did the business, and retired before the sport took from him. Modern drivers owe him for the safety measures he pushed for.
I have to agree about "before so many computers and not so many gadgets." Plus, he raced for smaller teams.
Kimi Raikkonen is one of the greatest Formula 1 drivers to ever grace the track. Unfortunately, people have short memories, but at his prime, he was scarily fast.
Quite frankly, Kimi is the fastest driver in the world, said Sir Stirling Moss! And he is absolutely right! On pure skill and race craft, he is second to none, and that is why he is regarded as the greatest natural talent to have ever driven an F1 car.
It is also true that Kimi has a great feel for the car, which is both his ally and nemesis. If he isn't confident in the car, it will affect his performance, but when he is confident in his car, there is no one who could match him! Kimi should have at least been a three-time world champion, if his McLaren was a tad more reliable. He was the guy who took the fight to Michael when Ferrari-Schumi was just running away with championships!
If he had an ounce of the luck Michael, Vettel, or Hamilton had, his stats would have been something magnificent. And of all the top drivers, he is the only one to not have the fastest car of the season for more than a year in his whole career. Kimi had the fastest car only in 2005, and we all know what a monster he was that year, who could only be put down by car failure.
I simply fail to understand why the "Flying Finn" is so low on the page. He should be in the top ten at the very least! Granted, he hasn't won as many championships as Hamilton, but he beat Michael Schumacher to the world championship twice, and let's be honest, Schumi was among the very best out there. At one point in time, he was the quickest on the track, and when things went wrong for him, he never complained much. He could push the car to its absolute limit. Mika is the embodiment of a great racer.
Calm, focused - Michael Schumacher's arch-rival, whom Schumi himself respected a lot. The numbers may not be that great, but if you go by sheer talent, dedication, and ability, I think he should be in the top ten. He wasn't blessed with a great car, and reliability issues plagued his career. Watch his overtaking at Spa 2000.
One of the very few F1 drivers that won quietly. He didn't make a fuss or anything, and quite a few drivers should take a hint from him.
True grit and determination. Too much raw talent to contain, sheer class, entertainment, and one of the stars that has made F1 so popular today. Today's stars have a lot to be thankful to James for.
James Hunt is one of the most talented drivers. He replaced Emerson Fittipaldi, and the team said he was faster than Fittipaldi! He also won a championship against Niki Lauda despite having a slower car. However, Hunt was inconsistent and didn't stay long in F1. He also made a lot of mistakes.
Party king, but once he took his title, he was never the same driver.
Never won a championship but had the talent to do so. No other driver EVER had the passion to win as much as he did. That guy took no prisoners on his quest to win races. He never raced for points, only for wins.
If he won a race, that was all good. If his car ended up in a smoking heap of crap, that was all good too. Nobody, NOBODY could ever match that guy on guts and sheer driving ability. Enzo Ferrari saw that fire and hired him.
I spoke with him at the Long Beach Grand Prix in 1979 a couple of days before he won that race. I've never met anybody with such intense focus and a calm demeanor as he had. It's our loss that he was taken away too soon.
Right up there with the very best in sheer talent, plus incredible nerve and determination. Given better equipment, he could have won far more.
Best driver in his time, he was the man to watch on the track. He made extraordinary moves that no F1 driver dares to make even now. He should be in the top 5 best drivers' list. He should have come to F1 in the 1960s, where the driver made the difference, not the car.
Pushed his car 500 yards to win in 1959 and then became the only driver in HISTORY to win the championship racing in his own team in a car built by himself. Now, nobody would even try to push a car one yard, let alone 500, and build their own team like he did.
A legend who rose from the land down under, a country with no previous F1 experience at the time, and hit the big time in a car he built himself, going on to become a triple world champion.
The only F1 driver to build and race his own car, which puts him ahead of many other drivers.
Unbelievably low. At least top 10.
Should be up around 8 or 9.
Entering at 17 years old and driving among older and more "experienced" drivers, he got inside everyone's mind, outperforming many cars in better conditions. This is it, the next generation future GOAT is among us. At 21 now, he's got 5 years behind him, every year treating us with something special. A catch-up race in the rain at Brazil, round the outside's, impossible overtakes inside curbs at the U.S. vs. Kimi, crazy defending, introducing a 'Max Verstappen Rule', and many more impressive drives.
Along with Hamilton and Alonso, clearly the best driver in the last 5 years.
Toro Rosso performances in his debut year at 17 were outstanding. He completely outclassed fellow talented debutant Carlos Sainz. No doubt, he had the ability to challenge for the title like Lewis, had he had a competitive car.
Record at Red Bull:
- 7 wins, many involving great charges through the field, rarely in the strongest car
- Average 0.2-0.3 seconds faster than Ricciardo in qualifying and faster than Ricciardo in race pace
- Average 0.7 seconds faster than Gasly
- Tied best in rain with Hamilton
The best driver that never won a championship. He finished second in the championship four times and for a few years was regarded as the best driver on the grid despite not being a champion.
Repeated podium positions in the Championship - should be higher than 16th.
Give him a better car/engine and watch the paddocks' heads turn. He has big potential of being one of the greats. Remember, he was the only driver other than Mercedes team drivers to get 3 wins in 2014.
A stand-up and dedicated guy. Very consistent and has a lovely smile! May not be the fastest, but he is the most charming racer for sure.
A positive guy who outscored Vettel and is a driver extraordinaire driving an ordinary car.
Robbed of two titles by a German driver and an Italian team boss, fact!
If Schumacher was supposed to be so good, then in a fair season, Hill was better. Hungary in the Arrows just proved how good he really was.
Maybe he lacked the arrogance to think it's okay to cheat to win, which Senna and Schumi had, if that's a good thing.
The best driver after Senna! He was terribly robbed of the title in 1994! For me, this guy is at least a twice world champion and a great gentleman! And yes - faster than Schumacher the knocker!
He was a good driver for his age. But unfortunately, his personality off of the TV is horrible, if you've met him, that is.
Piquet is not in the talk for who's the best, which is surprising. His first two titles with Brabham were not in the best car, and his teammates were nowhere compared to him! He later became teammate of Nigel Mansell, and they were at eye level. In 1987, Piquet beat Mansell the same way Lauda beat Prost: with consistency.
He also did a great overtake against Senna around the outside while drifting (Hungary 1986). You don't count out Piquet!
Obviously, many voters are too young. He was the best F1 driver of the 80s and easily in the top 5 of all time. Could win on any engine and wheel. No other champion has done what he did. Also, despite having fewer fastest qualifiers than Senna, he has raced more fastest laps in a race.
Piquet was cold, intelligent, and knew how to win a race. He was not popular, thus his position is below some drivers that don't deserve to be above him.
Great driver and builder.
To come from where he did and to leave a legacy that still exists on the F1 racetrack is quite incredible.
One of the best drivers... Even though he has won only a single championship, he deserves to be in the top 10. But he should have taken his career a bit more seriously since he retired very soon. I am sure that he would have won a few more championships if he was still active...
The best driver to have never won a championship, he lost the 2015 championship due to bad luck and some of his own doing. He can beat Hamilton to a championship if he just puts a few more things together.
Out of all my heroes in F1, Nico Rosberg beats everyone for his ability, bravery, and velocity. He's my personal favorite, even though my favorite team is Ferrari. Go Nico! Go Nico! Yeah!
The most aggressive driver of all times. Always moving forward, always in attack mode. Usually faster than the equipment could handle. Either won or broke. If he raced in this day and time, when there were few retirements, he would destroy the field.
Best in class in a period of greats which included Senna, Prost, and Piquet. Beat them all for out and out pace and tactics but could not, for driver or car reasons, derive as much success with reliability.
Insanely quick but equally as unlucky with reliability, which arguably cost him the 1986 and 1987 titles. This could easily have seen him become one of the best drivers of all time.
Emerson was one of the best F1 drivers in the difficult era he drove in. Calm, focused, fast when needed, clever, always alert. He had great battles with the also legendary Jackie Stewart. I wonder if he hadn't made the decision in 1976 to run his own Fittipaldi-F1 team, and had stayed with McLaren or moved to Ferrari, how many F1 titles he may have won extra! Furthermore, he was always a gentleman and a very nice guy!
Great driver, and a thoroughly nice person. Great ambassador for the sport.