Emerged from the buoyant European racing scenes during inter-war years, Formula One or F1 is the highest class of single-seat auto racing, sanctioned by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). Formula One season consists of series of races known as Grand Prix, held worldwide on purpose-built F1 circuit.
What makes an F1 driver the best? Is it his technique or the expertise or agility or his number of victories! In fact, it includes all. Apart from all these, F1 drivers need high intelligence to match the split-second reactions speeds and cunning situations. In order to get success, Formula 1 drivers require a great deal of talent and commitment as well.
Comparing F1 drivers across eras is inherently difficult. Here, DSPORT has picked up the top 10 greatest Formula One drivers of all time considering all the above factors. Have a look:
Juan Manuel Fangio
“You must always strive to be the best, but you must never believe that you are.”- Juan Manuel Fangio, nicknamed as El Maestro or El Chueco, was an Argentine racing car driver. He competed in 51 Formula 1 Grands Prix, of which he won 24, set 28 pole positions and 23 fastest laps. In seven full F1 seasons, he won five world championships.
Fangio displayed brilliance on racing tracks; he had a super rare combination of speed, control, and mechanical sympathy. His multi-tasking qualities are what made him stand out from the crowd of other racers.
Alain Marie Pascal Prost, nicknamed as ‘The Professor’ because of his intellectual approach towards the sport, is a French former racing driver. He won 4 world championships. From 1987 until 2001, Prost held the record for most Grand Prix victories. He was a master tactician who knew the best way to win. He 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 the year 1980 at the age of 24.
James Clark is perhaps the greatest natural talent ever seen in Formula 1. He was a British Formula One Racing Driver who won 2 F1 World Championship. Clark was very talented and had a natural style of driving. In the year 2009, The Times placed Clark at the top of the list of the greatest-ever Formula One drivers. Clark won the 1963 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Franco champs in extremely wet, foggy and rainy conditions.
Clark achieved 33 pole positions and won 25 races from his 72 Grands Prix starts in championship races. On 7th April 1968, Clark died in a racing accident at the Hockenheim, in Germany.
Ayrton Senna de Silva was a ruthless Brazilian racing driver. He won three F1 World Championship. He did not wish to beat other drivers, he always wanted to destroy them. Senna had a turbulent rivalry with Prost.
He was probably the greatest exponent of the flat-out qualifying lap the sport has ever seen, taking 65 pole positions in 162 races. Senna died on 1 May 1994 because of his car crashing into a concrete barrier while he was leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Italy.
German ace Michael Schumacher is widely known as the world’s best racing driver. Michael is 7 times F1 World Champion and most recently raced for the Mercedes GP Petronas Formula One Team. Starting at a young age, Schumacher has matured into an unbeatable racer. His ability to operate at his peak time of the lap was beyond excellence. Schuey, as known popularly, announced his retirement from F1 racing at the end of the 2006 season and was retained in a consultancy role by Ferrari. However, in the year 2010, Michael sensationally returned to F1 racing by signing a 3-year contract to race for the Mercedes GP team.
In 2013, Schumacher had a skiing accident and was put into a medically induced coma because of his traumatic brain injury. He was in the coma for six months from 29th December 2013 till 16th June 2014.
Fernando Alonso is the man who ended Michael Schumacher’s Formula One reign and became the youngest champion in F1 history. The Spaniard has won 2 world championships. Alonso is currently racing for McLaren-Honda.
Alonso is regarded as one of the finest drivers not just on the current grid, but in the entire history of the sport. Seeing his competence, his relentless hunger, and determination, there is still much on the cards left for him.
Nelson Piquet is a Brazilian former racing driver and a businessman. Piquet entered the scene in the year 1979, effectively forcing Niki Lauda into retirement with some stunning qualifying performances. He became the Brazilian national karting champion in 1971-72 and won the Formula Vee championship in 1976.
Jackie Stewart was one of those drivers who was so smooth, so precise, that he didn’t look quick unless you had a stopwatch in your hand. He won 3 World championship (in 1969, 1971 and 1973) and set the template for his era.
Emerson Fittipaldi is a semi-retired Brazilian automobile racing driver who won both the Formula One World Championship and the Indianapolis 500 twice each and the CART championship once. The Brazilian racer took his meticulous and deeply intense approach to his racing, combined it with a beautifully smooth but fast style, and became the youngest Grand Prix winner in 1970, and then the youngest world champion in the year 1972. Fittipaldi took two more podium finishes, before retiring in 1980.
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. By his mid-20s, he was already the dominant driver of his era, becoming the youngest pole sitter winner. Vettel’s relentless hunger for victory, as much as his outstanding talent, secured his place as one of the sport’s greats.