Becoming a Formula 1 driver is no easy feat. It’s not like the NFL or NBA, where athletes train for years and then just get drafted into their respective leagues. Instead, the path to becoming an F1 driver is fraught with uncertainty and requires more than a lifetime’s worth of dedication to racing. The drivers that make it to the top have proven themselves over countless races and seasons, so any list of who are the greatest drivers in F1 history should be taken with more than one grain of salt. That said, here are our picks for the 10 best Formula 1 drivers ever:
1. Ayrton Senna
Ayrton Senna was a Brazilian racing driver who won three Formula One world championships. He began karting at age eight and won numerous South American titles throughout his childhood and early adulthood. In 1981, Senna moved to Europe, where he competed in Formula Ford and Formula Three before joining the Toleman team in 1984.
In 1988, McLaren signed him as their test driver, but he didn’t return to racing until 1989, when he was offered a seat at Lotus-Lamborghini along with Martin Brundle and Julian Bailey. The following year saw yet another change of teams: this time, it was for Ferrari, where he partnered with Alain Prost for two seasons before leaving mid-season due to differences over team orders. He finished second behind Ayrton’s teammate Gerhard Berger at Hungary, but the latter had been told not to let Ayrton pass him on track so that they could clinch victory together at Monza, which meant that both drivers were disqualified from their podium positions after an appeal by Ferrari.
2. Michael Schumacher
Michael Schumacher is a retired German racing driver. He is a seven-time Formula One World Champion and is widely regarded as one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time. He won more Formula One races than any other driver during his career, securing 91 victories out of 767 starts, putting him third on the list of most Grand Prix wins behind only Rubens Barrichello and Lewis Hamilton. In a 2006 FIA survey, Michael Schumacher was voted the most popular driver in F1 (tied with Jenson Button).
3. Jim Clark
Third, on our list is the Scottish Formula 1 driver Jim Clark.
Clark won two world championships, in 1963 and 1965, with his first title coming in only his second year of competing in F1. Clark also won races at Spa Francorchamps and Clermont-Ferrand during his career. He was also known for being a talented driver who would often win by large margins when competing in races, such as winning by over half a minute at the 1964 Dutch Grand Prix, which remains one of the largest wins margins of all time for any race.
Clark’s career was cut short after he died following an accident at Hockenheimring, where he crashed into some trees during practice for the 1968 German Grand Prix.
4. Alain Prost
Alain Marie Pascal Prost (born 24 February 1955) is a French racing driver who won four Formula One world championships and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (it is one of the most famous auto races in the world) sports car race with Peugeot. Born in Saint-Chamond, Loire, France, he was educated at Paul Ricard High School near Givors and established a long-lasting relationship with Renault as an engine supplier from 1977 to 1993.
Prost became interested in racing early on as his father, Jacques Prost, owned a garage where he worked on customer cars. In 1979, he won his first French Formula Three Championship (for René Bonnet). He moved up to Formula Two in 1980, driving for the Alpine Renault team that same year, where he finished second in points behind Patrick Tambay with three wins, including one at Dijon which was his last ever win until 2013 when he became World Champion again after 27 years!
5. Juan Manuel Fangio
The fifth spot on the list goes to Juan Manuel Fangio, the man who was instrumental in making Formula 1 what it is today. He was a five-time world champion and won 24 races during his career. He was also the first driver to win the World Championship in a Mercedes-Benz.
Fangio, who was born in Argentina but later found success as an international racer with Italy’s Scuderia Ferrari team, immediately dominated racing when he began competing professionally in 1952 at age 46. His driving style would become known as “el maestro” (the master).
6. Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton is a British racing driver and the current World Champion. He has won the Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship four times, more than any other British driver in history.
Hamilton’s first win came in 2007 when he was driving for McLaren-Mercedes. He won again in 2008 with McLaren-Mercedes and then again in 2014 and 2015 with Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team.
Hamilton is also one of only five drivers to have won at least three titles through their careers, along with Michael Schumacher, Juan Manuel Fangio, and Sebastian Vettel.
7. Jackie Stewart
Jackie Stewart is a three-time Formula One world champion known as the “Flying Scot.” He achieved his first championship title in 1965, becoming the first of three drivers to have won the Formula One World Championship three or more times. Stewart had started racing at age seventeen and by 23 was already an established driver in British club races. In 1965, he won the British Grand Prix.
After winning his third title in 1973, Stewart retired from racing but retained his interest in motorsports as McLaren CEO and then president of FOCA (Fédération Internationale du Sport Automobile), which led to him being knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1996.
8. Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso is a Spanish Formula One racing driver who competed in the 2017 season for McLaren. He is one of only two drivers to have won multiple Formula One World Championships, which he achieved back-to-back in 2005 and 2006.
He remains active in the sport as a driver for McLaren but has also started his own team and competed in other forms of racing such as IndyCar (Indy 500) and Le Mans.
9. Niki Lauda
Niki Lauda, an Austrian, was a three-time champion and the only driver ever to win a championship consecutively in a Ferrari. He is known for his rivalry with James Hunt, as well as his comeback from a near-fatal crash.
He had four world titles under his belt when he retired after the 1985 season, but he returned at age 44 in 1987 and won two races. The Austrian won 25 GPs before retiring again in 1988, this time for good.
10. Nelson Piquet
Nelson Piquet is a Brazilian Formula One driver who achieved the distinction of being one of three drivers to win the F1 World Championship three times. The other two were Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher.
Piquet was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1952 and first started karting at the age of 10. By 1968, he was competing in national championships. He had gained enough experience to move into single-seater racing within two years, starting in European Formula 3. In his first season, he qualified for six races on his way to finishing fifth overall with one race win under his belt.
Formula 1 Racing Takes Guts!
Today auto racing has become a huge business and continues to grow. And there is no doubt the best F1 drivers have an incredible ability to focus on their driving, and the best of them can keep that focus for an entire race. They are able to stay calm despite the high levels of stress and pressure during a race, as well as the competition from other drivers.
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