Best Formula 1 Drivers of All Time

The Top Ten
1 Ayrton Senna 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 regarded as one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time. He was killed in an accident while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand... read more

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!

2 Michael Schumacher

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 tires? 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 enjoying just how 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.

3 Juan Manuel Fangio

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 was in Germany in 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 when 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. He paved the way for all the other F1 legends.

4 Lewis Hamilton Lewis Hamilton is a British racing driver who races in Formula One for Mercedes AMG Petronas. A five-time Formula One World Champion, he is often considered the best driver of his generation and widely regarded as one of the greatest drivers in the history of the sport. He won his first World Championship... read more

Having watched Lewis every year since he made his debut in 2007, he just continues to amaze me, really. Some of his best drives such as Silverstone 2008, Germany 2018, Turkey 2020, and Brazil 2021 I still remember fondly. Plus, seven world titles, 103 race wins, and 104 poles - you don't get all those by accident.

I really hope Lewis can challenge Max for the title in 2025 when he joins Ferrari. Another 2021-style fight would be brilliant! Yes, Mercedes has given Lewis a rubbish car this year, but on his best days, Lewis can still be a regular contender for wins and titles, even though he is nearly 40 years old.

5 Fernando Alonso Fernando Alonso is a Spanish racing driver and former Formula One racing driver. He is a two-time Formula One World Champion, and is often regarded as one of the greatest Formula One drivers in the history of the sport.

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 and 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.

6 Jim Clark

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.

7 Alain Prost Alain Marie Pascal Prost is a French retired racing driver. A four-time Formula One Drivers' Champion, from 1987 until 2001 he held the record for most Grand Prix victories until Michael Schumacher surpassed Prost's total of 51 victories at the 2001 Belgian Grand Prix.

Prost should have had at least 5 world championships, if not 6 or 7. In 1982, he was the 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. However, Senna won the title due to 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 when 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.

8 Niki Lauda

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 and 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.

9 Sebastian Vettel Sebastian Vettel 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.

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.

10 Jackie Stewart

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.

The Contenders
11 Kimi Raikkonen Kimi-Matias Räikkönen, nicknamed "The Ice Man", is a Finnish racing driver currently driving for Sauber in Formula One. He was the winner of the 2007 FIA Formula One World Championship in his first season with Scuderia Ferrari. He currently holds the record for the most race wins (21) in Formula One... read more

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.

12 Mika Hakkinen

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. Let's be honest, Schumi was among the very best out there.

At one point in time, Hakkinen 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 in 2000.

13 James Hunt James Simon Wallis Hunt was a British racing driver who won the Formula One World Championship in 1976. After retiring from racing in 1979, Hunt became a media commentator and businessman.

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.

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.

Party king, but once he took his title, he was never the same driver.

14 Gilles Villeneuve

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.

15 Jack Brabham

He 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.

16 Max Verstappen

Since Max made his debut at age 17 way back in 2015, he's just been showing us why he's a brilliant driver, and it's been a privilege watching him evolve into the three-time world champion he now is, in 2024.

That 2021 fight with Lewis is one of the craziest, yet most epic battles I have ever seen in any sport. Yet Max (if you ignore some of his driving in the last few races of that year, as well as the controversy that was Abu Dhabi) was the better driver all year and held his mettle. The evolution of his racecraft with Red Bull from 2016 to 2020 gave him the confidence to challenge for the title that year.

Plus, his record-setting in 2022 and 2023 has established him as one of the all-time greats, even at the young age of 26. Super Max indeed!

17 Alberto Ascari

Unbelievably low. At least top 10.

18 Stirling Moss

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. He should be higher than 16th.

19 Daniel Ricciardo

Give him a better car and engine, and watch the paddock's heads turn. He has the potential to be 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! He 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.

20 Damon Hill

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!

21 Nelson Piquet

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 the 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. He could win with any engine and wheel. No other champion has done what he did. Despite having fewer fastest qualifiers than Senna, he has raced more fastest laps in a race.

22 Bruce McLaren

To come from where he did and to leave a legacy that still exists on the F1 racetrack is quite incredible.

23 Nigel Mansell

The most aggressive driver of all time. Always moving forward, always in attack mode. Usually faster than the equipment could handle. He either won or broke. If he raced today, with fewer retirements, he would destroy the field.

Best in class in a period of greats which included Senna, Prost, and Piquet. He beat them all for outright pace and tactics but could not, for driver or car reasons, achieve as much success with reliability.

Insanely quick but equally 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.

24 Nico Rosberg

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!

25 Emerson Fittipaldi

Emerson was one of the best F1 drivers in the difficult era he drove in. Calm, focused, fast when needed, clever, and 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.

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