Race Starts: 216
Years run: 12
Teams: Minardi, Renault, McLaren, and Ferrari
Fernando Alonso will always be known as the guy who dethroned Michael Schumacher. The Spaniard won back to back championships in 2005-2006 with Renault. Following his championships with Renault, Alonso had an unsuccessful and dramatic year in McLaren in 2007. He retreated back to Renault for two seasons, before signing with Ferrari in 2010, whom he still races for present day. I have long said that Fernando Alonso is the best driver in the world at the moment. Aggressive, fast, and superior race craft help him win races.
|Fernando Alonso 2006 (Photo: Bryn Lennon / Getty Images Sport)|
Race Starts: 32
Years run: 6
Teams: Ferrari, Maserati, and Lancia
It is hard to imagine Ferrari being what Ferrari is nowadays if it wasn't for Alberto Ascari. The Italian was introduced to racing by Enzo Ferrari. After winning two races in 1951, Ascari won six out of the seven races he partook in in 1952 (oddly enough, the one he did not win was the 1952 Indianapolis 500). He would win both the '52 and '53 F1 championships. He died in 1955 while testing a Ferrari at Monza. 14 wins in 32 starts cements one of the greatest racing pedigrees in F1 history.
|Alberto Ascari 1952 (Photo credit not listed)|
Sir Jack Brabham
Race Starts: 126
Years run: 16
Teams: Cooper, Rob Walker Racing Team, and Brabham
Every F1 champion can attest their driving ability as a big part of their championship effort. Not too many drivers can attribute their championship to expertise in the field of engineering. Jack Brabham can. Jack, born in Australia, won three F1 championships, including one for his own team, Brabham, doing what few have ever done; win a title in a car of your own make. He was also a big advocate for having rear engined cars. An overall likable guy, Sir "Black Jack" Jack Brabham goes down as one of the greatest of all time. Jack, currently 87 years old, is the oldest surviving winner and F1 champion.
|Sir Jack Brabham 1966 (Photo credit not given)|
Race Starts: 72
Years run: 9
One of the most verstile drivers in the history of racing, Jim Clark made his mark on F1 history in one decade of racing. In 72 starts, the Scotsman won 25 races, 33 poles, 28 fastest laps, and, surprisingly enough, he is the driver on this list to have raced only for one team. While driving in an F2 race in 1968, Jim's rear tire deflated sending Clark into a group of trees. He died before he could reach the hospital. Clark's two F1 championships and Indianapolis 500 win puts him among the greatest drivers of all time.
|Jim Clark 1967 (Photo credit not given)|
Juan Manuel Fangio
Race Starts: 51
Years run: 8
Teams: Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Mercedes, Daimler Benz, and Ferrari
Juan Manuel Fangio was the first great driver in F1 history. Racing during F1's new days in the 50s, Fangio collected five championships in a mere eight seasons. He won 22 races along the way. And surprisingly enough, Fangio played a role in the Cuba Revolution. In Cuba for the Cuban GP, Fangio was kidnapped by Fidel Castro's revolutionaries, in the hopes of getting the race cancelled. After the race was run, Fangio was let go unharmed. Fangio stopped racing after 1958, going out as one of the greatest to ever race. Even to this day, he is mentioned as one of the greatest. Fangio died in his native country of Argentina in 1995 at the age of 84.
|Juan Manuel Fangio 1956 (Photo credit not given)|
Race Starts: 144
Years run: 11
Teams: Lotus, World Wide Racing, Team Texaco, McLaren, Copersucar-Fittipaldi, and Fittipaldi Automative
Emerson Fittipaldi is often forgotten for his success in Formula 1. Part of that is becayse of a lackluster second-half of his F1 career. He started out with six solid seasons, including two championships and two runner-up finishes. After Fitti-Fucking-Paldi (Rush reference) left McLaren, his career in F1 sputters, as he could do no better than 10th in the championship, and only managed two podiums in his remaining six seasons. Nevertheless, Emerson was a great F1 driver. He is also one of the Fab Five who have won an F1 championship and the Indianapolis 500.
|Emerson Fittipaldi 1974 (Photo: Sutton Images)|
Race Starts: 161
Years run: 11
Teams: Lotus and McLaren
One of the best drivers in McLaren, Mike Hakkinen is a double world champion in 1998 and 1999. Michael Schumacher was asked who the toughest driver he ever raced against was. Guess who he said? Mika Hakkinen. You have to remember that Schumacher raced against so many of the greats. Mansell, Senna, Prost, D Hill, Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel, and many more. Mika Hakkinen had an incredible driving style and was just an incredible driver.
|Mika Hakkinen 1999 (Photo credit not given)|
Race Starts: 129
Years run: 7
Teams: McLaren and Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton is one of the most thrilling drivers to race in the last decade. Daring overtakes, great race craft, and tenacious attitude, Lewis emerged on the scene with McLaren in 2007. Hamilton won the title in 2008 after almost claiming it in his first season. He racked up 22 wins with McLaren in his six seasons with McLaren. He joined Mercedes in 2013 in the hopes of rebuilding them to their once mighty form, much like Schumacher did to Ferrari. With so much time left in his career, Hamilton has only just begun his F1 career.
|Lewis Hamilton 2008 (Photo: Paul Gilham / Getty Images Europe)|
Race Starts: 115
Years run: 8
Teams: Motor Racing Developments, Williams, Arrows, and Jordan
Damon Hill, son of legend Graham Hill, is one of the most tenacious drivers in the history of racing. Frank Williams was even quoted as saying he hired Damon because he was a "tough bastard." Damon went to Williams, replacing Riccardo Patrese, and was instantly strong despite coming to the team with a less than glittering resume. Hill was Michael Schumacher's biggest rival in the 90's, and he took home his first and only title in 1996. He collected 22 wins in his career, but I think none was more special than his last win at Spa 1998. Driving for a slower Jordan team, Hill drove his car to a win. He is the second most successful driver in Williams history behind Nigel Mansell. And all of his success came in only eight years in F1. Damon Hill is definitely one of the greats.
|Damon Hill 1996 (Photo credit not listed)|
Race Starts: 176
Years run: 18
Teams: Lotus, Owen Racing Organisation, Rob Walker Racing Team, Motor Racing Developments, and Embassy Racing
Graham Hill was one of the more likable drivers in F1 history. He loved the attention he got, he loved his fans, and he aimed to please. On top of that, he went on to win two F1 championships and 15 wins in a staggering 18 years run in F1. Oh, and he is the only driver to win the Triple Crown, which is the F1 Championship, Indianapolis 500, and 24 Hours of Le Mans. Talk about impressive! I don't think we will ever see him being joined in the group. Incredible talent, great people.
|Graham Hill 1968 (Photo: Sutton Images)|
Race Starts: 171
Years run: 13
Teams: March Racing Team, BRM, Ferrari, Parmalat Racing Team, and McLaren
Niki Lauda is one of the most determined and resliant drivers of all time. The Austrian won the title in 1975. Then, in 1976, he suffered a terrible crash in the 1976 German Grand Prix. He suffered severe burns as well as inhalation of toxic fumes from the crash. The burns left him permanently scarred. Lauda defied death and came back later that season, only missing two races, which is just unbelievable. His 1976 season has become well documented in the hit movie Rush. Lauda won the 1977 and 1984, making him amongst the greatest to ever race.
|Niki Lauda 1984 (Photo credit not listed)|
Race Starts: 187
Years run: 15
Teams: Lotus, Williams, Ferrari, and McLaren
I think Nigel Mansell is perhaps the hungriest driver in the history of racing. His blue collar, aggressive style made him a favorite amongst fans everywhere. Mansell, from England, not only worked hard off the track, but it is well chronicled that getting to Formula 1 was quite the battle for him. His singular championship in 1992. He and Ayrton Senna shared a perfect rivalry: They fought very, very hard, but they also respected one another. Mansell, who is 6th on the all time F1 wins list, is one of the greatest to ever strap into a car.
|Nigel Mansell 1992 (Photo: LAT Photographic)|
Sir Stirling Moss
Race Starts: 66
Years run: 11
Teams: HW Motors, ERA, Connaught Engineering, Cooper. Maserati, Daimler Benz, Vandervell, Rob Walker Racing, and British Racing Partnership
The only driver on the list to have never won a championship, Sir Stirling Moss is, without question, one of the F1 greats. He nearly one a quarter of the races he started in. Moss, who gets a bad rap nowadays for being a misogynist and a bit of a dick (which I'd have to agree with both), he definitely kicked ass on the track.
|Sir Stirling Moss 1961 (Photo: Sutton Images)|
Race Starts: 204
Years run: 14
Teams: Ensign, Brabham, Motor Racing Developments, Williams, Lotus, and Benetton
Nelson Piquet was a great driver despite never being a dominant driver. He only crossed the line P1 three times in all three of his championship seasons. But sometimes, it's not about how you finish, it's that you finish, and Nelson was a brilliant tactician on the track, always finding a to stay in the hunt. The triple world champion collected 23 wins on his way to an illustrious career.
|Nelson Piquet 1981 (Photo: Eric Verplanken)|
Race Starts: 199
Years run: 13
Teams: McLaren, Renault, Ferrari, and Williams
The driver that never gets enough credit ever is Alain Prost. Maybe it's the fact that he was teammates with Ayrton Senna and they were constantly feuding. Maybe it was his personality, often dry and often being pessimistic about something. Maybe it's because his car was always impeccable. Maybe it was because he was French. Whatever the case is, people just have not and do not like Alain Prost. He was an absolutely fantastic driver and a magician, extracting every tenth out of his car and doing just what he needed to win the title. He did it four times, collecting 51 wins along the way. Prost is one of the greatest drivers of all time.
|Alain Prost 1989 (Photo credit not given)|
Race Starts: 193
Years run: 11
Teams: Sauber, McLaren, Ferrari, and Lotus
Since Kimi Raikkonen is a man of few words, I will sum his career shortly: Swift, calm, cool, collective, and badass.
|Kimi Raikkonen 2007 (Photo: Bryn Lennon / Getty Images Sport)|
Race Starts: 306
Years run: 19
Teams: Benetton, Ferrari, and Mercedes
Statistically, Michael Schumacher is hands down the greatest driver in Formula 1 history. But the stats unfortunately don't tell the story. The story? Benetton and Ferrari had the best car the years he won his championships. Having said that, he absolutely throttled everyone on the track, running away with so many races. Schumi is responsible for putting Ferrari back on the map, and for that and for his pure domination, there is no question that Schumacher is one of the greatest to ever race.
|Michael Schumacher 2004 (Photo: Ercole Colombo / Ferrari)|
Race Starts: 161
Years run: 11
Teams: Toleman, Lotus, McLaren, and Williams
Some say AJ Foyt. Some say Mario Andretti. I say Ayrton Senna is the greatest to ever race. Not only was his race craft sublime, his willingness to win was unmatched, and he was fearless. His three world title and 41 wins put him up at the top for greatest drivers ever. His racing career was unforunately cut short after a crash at San Marino killed him a couple races into the 1994 season. I always wonder what Senna could have done had he survived and continued to race for several more seasons. Senna serves as a model for every driver to emulate, both on the track and the mentality to have as a driver.
|Ayrton Senna 1991 (Photo credit not listed)|
Sir Jackie Stewart
Race Starts: 99
Years run: 9
Teams: Owen, Matra, Lotus, and Tyrell
Sir Jackie Stewart was a true legend of Formula 1. He amazingly won 27 races in 99 starts, which is simply staggering. His pure brilliance as racing driver as well as his advocacy to make the sport safer leaves Jackie with a legacy that few will be able to top.
|Sir Jackie Stewart (Photo credit not given)|
Race Starts: 120
Years run: 7
Teams: Sauber, Toro Rosso, and Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel is another driver who his very successful but doesn't get enough credit. Sure, his four straight championships were both the perfect car at Red Bull, but he still dominated a high quality field to win. Several decades from now, we will look back at the run he is currently on and marvel at it. But at the moment, everyone, myself included, have a hard time appreciating what Vettel is doing. Great driver? Absolutely, but there's still something there that makes it hard to like him.
|Sebastian Vettel 2013 (Photo: Clive Mason / Getty Images South America)|
Now that I listed the twenty drivers, here is my of the twenty greatest drivers in order (driver, nationality, team they were famous for):
1) Ayrton Senna / Brazil / McLaren
2) Alain Prost / France / McLaren
3) Juan Manuel Fangio / Argentina / Mercedes
4) Michael Schumacher / Germany / Ferrari
5) Nigel Mansell / England / Williams
6) Sir Jackie Stewart / Scotland / Tyrell
7) Jim Clark / Scotland / Lotus
8) Fernando Alonso / Spain / Renault
9) Nelson Piquet / Brazil / Brabham
10) Sebastian Vettel / Germany / Red Bull
11) Niki Lauda / Austria / Ferrari
12) Sir Jack Brabham / Australia / Cooper
13) Damon Hill / England / Williams
14) Mika Hakkinen / Finland / McLaren
15) Graham Hill / England / Lotus
16) Emerson Fittipaldi / Brazil / Lotus
17) Kimi Raikkonen / Finland / Ferrari
18) Alberto Ascari / Italy / Ferrari
19) Lewis Hamilton / England / McLaren
20) Sir Stirling Moss / England / Maserati
McLaren and Ferrari both have four drivers on this list, even though many of the drivers on this list had a stint on the teams at one point or another. The combined stats of these twenty drivers include 561 wins, 51 championships, 547 poles, and 2928 combined races. 561 wins in 897 total F1 races is pretty staggering. 51 of the 64 championships has been won by drivers on the list.
The year with the most drivers on the list was 1991. Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Mika Hakkinen, Michael Schumacher, Nelson Piquet, and Alain Prost. That is one loaded slate of drivers! The 80s and early 90s was a golden era of Formula 1 racing.
Do you agree / disagree with anyone on the list?! Let me know what you think!