Who is the best F1 driver that participated in Formula 1?
This question is asked a lot over the 70 years that Formula 1 drivers are racing around the globe.
It's the question where it's all about in racing. Who are the biggest and the bravest racing drivers in F1? When you look at our all the F1 drivers Top 100 list, there are a lot of drivers who stand out from the crowd.
This article is updated after the 2019 F1 season.
F1 Drivers Ranking Factors
For sure all the drivers who won a drivers championship or a race, scored their credits to be in this top 10 ranking. But maybe other and more factors are just as important.
Today we have about 795 names of F1 drivers that ever took part in a Formula 1 race. Each driver has gathered his own performance statistics. All those statistics can be seen on each driver page and are comparable.
The difficult thing in comparing all those drivers of different eras is the fact, that the overall drivers safety has changed a lot in racing and is very much a factor in the total success of a driver. In the early days a lot of drivers died before they ever got the change to become a multiple champion or end up on the podium.
The cars from the early days were very dangerous. The car didn't have brake discs or protection barriers, they even didn't have seat belts! Almost every season one or more drivers died in fatal crashes in F1 or other racing series they took part in. Here you can a list of all F1 drivers that died racing.
Best F1 Drivers Ranking Formula
To compare all drivers that ever took part in F1, you have to look at the amount of success they had and how many races they started. There are a lot of success factors we can calculate with to get a good average. In this top 10 F1 drivers list we are going to compare with each drivers:
- amount of 1st place finishes
- amount of 2nd place finishes
- amount of 3rd place finishes
- amount of pole positions
- amount of fastest laps
- amount of championship wins
- amount of race starts
We will give factor 1 to 6 their weighting factor, add them up and divide this total by the amount of race starts (factor 7) each driver did.
To get a honest outcome we have to eliminate the results of the shared drives.It was allowed in the early seasons to change drivers when a car broke down. We have to give each factor their own weighting factor. Because Formula 1 was much more dangerous in the early seasons then it is now, that's why the amount of Championship wins cannot weight to much.
- 1st places gets weight factor 0,5
- 2nd places gets weight factor 0,4
- 3rd places gets weight factor 0,3
- pole positions gets weight factor 0,2
- fastest laps gets weight factor 0,1
- championship wins gets weight factor 1
With this formula you get a very clean percentage of the amount of success a drivers scored during his Formula 1 career and who is the best driver of all time.
Top 10 F1 Drivers List
After the 2018 season and according to the formula described above we get the the following result:
|1||Juan Manuel Fangio||51||22||8||1||29||24||5||46,5%|
This list shows the Top 10 F1 drivers list with a few surprises. It display 3 drivers of the 50,'s and even shows 2 drivers of the current formula 1. Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel and all legendary names like Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Michael Schumacher. Almost all drivers on the list are multiple F1 driver champs.
10. Jackie Stewart (1965-1973)
Sir Jackie Stewart is our last but not least on our top 10 list. This legendary Scottish driver who is still a regular spectator of Formula 1 races at his age of 79, drove 100 races and scored an unbelievable amount of 43 podiums.
Stewart began Formula 1 racing at the age of 26 and is dyslectic. He left school at the age of 15 and had no education. He was friends with Jim Clark. At the first race tests for Tyrrell he was fast straight away and even faster then Bruce McLaren.
Stewart shared an apartment in London with Jim Clark since 1965 until Clark died. It took him 5 season to win his first of three drivers titles. He won all his drivers championship with Tyrrell. This British team was the only team that won right away in the first season it competed in.
At the start of his last race he already had won his 3rd Formula 1 drivers title. After his teammate Francois Cevert died during qualifying he decided to not drive the last race of his career.
Below you can see on Stewart win the 1969 British Grand Prix driving the Matra.
9. Sebastian Vettel (2007-?)
Sebastian Vettel was with only 19 years of age very young when he drove his first F1 race in 2007 for BMW Sauber. After Robert Kubica crashed in Canada, this German driver got his change to show his talent. He right away won his first point in this first Formula 1 race of his life on the Indianapolis F1 circuit in the US.
He then was asked by Toro Rosso to replace American driver Scott Speed who wasn't very consistent that season. His best finish that season was a 4th place in China. In 2008 he scored his maiden pole and win at the Italian Grand Prix in a Toro Rosso. He astonished the whole grid that weekend, it's still the only pole and victory for Toro Rosso ever since.
After that 2008 season he stepped up to the Red Bull Racing team, were he scored his 4 F1 drivers titles. Sebastian Vettel is famous for his very smooth driving style and the finger. We haven't seen his "Finger" a while, because he hasn't won that much for Ferrari until now.
Below you can see an onboard of the first win of Vettel in a Toro Rosso. In fact it's the only race win Toro Rosso ever scored until today.
8. Alain Prost (1980-1993)
Alain Prost is maybe to most underestimated driver of this list and the only French driver. "The Professor" as he was called during his career won 4 drivers titles and still had to stand in the shadow of his main rival Ayrton Senna who only won 3.
Prost was clever and fast and had some fears battles with Senna. He started F1 racing with McLaren back in 1980. He raced for 4 different teams. It took him 6 season to become world champion for the first time in 1985 with McLaren.
His most interesting seasons were in 1988 and 1989. His teammate at McLaren was the unbelievable talented Ayrton Senna. Prost won the 1988 championship and Senna the 1989 version.
In 1990 and 1991 Prost drove for Ferrari but was ousted at the end of the season because he was very negative about his car. He wasn't allowed to drive the last race of 1991 in Adelaide and was send home.
Below you can see an Alan Prost tribute video.
7. Giuseppe (Nino) Farina (1950-1955)
The first F1 Champ
Nino Farina holds 7th place in our list. This talented Italian driver was the first driver who won the very first Formula 1 drivers championship back in 1950.
He also was the first Italian driver who won the drivers F1 title. In fact only 2 Italians ever won the Formula 1 drivers title. The other one is number 2 on our list Alberto Ascari.
Farina also won the first ever Formula 1 grand prix race. This first race was held on the 13th of May 1950 and was driven on the Silverstone circuit. He won the race for Alfa Romeo. This famous brand will be part of F1 again in 2018 with Sauber.
He started his F1 career at the age of 43 and drove 33 races and scored 20 podiums.
Below you can see a video of the very first Formula 1 race and win of Nino Farina in color at silverstone!
6. Michael Schumacher (1991-2012)
We all know Michael Schumacher. He holds the record of the most amount of F1 driver titles. He won 2 F1 driver titles with Benetton and 5 with Ferrari.
An important decision and fact is that if 7 times drivers world champion Michael Schumacher had not made his comeback at Mercedes in 2010, 2011 and 2012 he would have been much higher on this Top 10 F1 drivers list.
The German driver started in 307 races in his F1 career and scored a whopping 155 podiums in total and a great score of 29,7% to end up as no. 6 on this list. But if he just would have stayed home after his last 2006 F1 season for Ferrari, he would have been on the no. 3 spot of this list with a score of 36,6%! His Mercedes comeback only gave him one podium at Valencia. In the last 3 seasons of his career that he drove for Mercedes he didn't win a single race in 58 races.
Just like Senna, Schumacher also was a rain master. One of his most memorable rain races was the 1996 Spanish Grand Prix. This was also his first win for Ferrari.
One of the greatest moments in his career was when he won his first drivers title for Ferrari in 2000. You can see a video of this magical moment below.
5. Ayrton Senna (1984-1994)
Ayrton Senna is a name remembered by so many people. Senna belongs in this list for sure. Many people say he is the best driver ever, but his statics show he had to many retirements to be the best driver. For sure he was the best qualifier of all time. He scored 65 pole positions in 161 races. That's an unbelievable rating of over 40%!
This legendary Brazilian was a driver who always was touching the limits of his car. Because he was always driving at the limit he often spun off the track or had an accident. That's maybe the reason why he is not on top of this list. He retired his car in 50 occasions and 19 of them where because of an accident.
He became a 3 times world champion and scored his first podium in his rookie season with an unbelievable drive in a very wet Monaco with a very uncompetitive car. You can see this historical event in the video below.
One of Senna's most famous video's is the first lap on a wet Donnington circuit in 1993. You can see it below.
4. Jim Clark (1960-1968)
British driver Jim Clark holds position 3. This racing legend started F1 in 1960 at Lotus and stayed there until his last race in 1968. He is also called the silent champion. Jim Clark was born at the border of England and Scotland. He also was an extremely talented driver.
In 1963 he became world champion by winning 7 of the 10 races in that season. Domination like this was never seen before. He won the very wet Belgian grand prix by a lead of over 5 minutes on the 2nd place finisher !
Jim Clark was Jackie Stewart's hero when he started racing in F1 in 1965. In 1965 Clark won the British Grand Prix for the 4th time in a row, became world championship winner for the second time and also won the Indianapolis 500 race by a never seen 2 laps lead on the second place finisher. He also was the first foreign winner of the Indianapolis 500 since 1916.
In 1967 he had a puncture during the Italian GP and was a full lap behind. He showed his skill and regained the lead. At the last lap he run out of fuel to finish 3rd. In the video below you can see how that looked like.
In 1968 he broke the record of the most wins of any driver ever before with 25 wins in 72 starts.
On the 7th of April 1968 Jim Clark died while racing on the old Hockenheimring. In lap 5 he spun off the track on the back straight with 240 km/h and hit a tree along the track. He died in the ambulance on his way to the hospital. He was competing in a Formula 2 race, due to Firestone sponsoring.
Investigation on the accident was done by plane crash specialist. It seemed he had a slow puncture that caused him to skid of the track.
3. Lewis Hamilton (2007-?)
Another famous British driver in the list; Lewis Hamilton!
We all know this incredible racer. He started his F1 career back in 2007 with McLaren and right away scored his first podium in his first race! He almost got F1 drivers champion in his rookie season! He just missed it with 1 point!
In the last race of this incredible exciting 2007 season he lead the championship with 107 points. Because he almost hit his teammate Fernando Alonso in an attempt to re-pass him at the SS-es in the first lap and had a gearbox problem he dropped back to last place. Because Kimi Raikkonen lead the race, Hamilton needed to finish 5th to win the drivers championship. He drove the race of his life and passed 11 cars to finish 7th. He did an amazing job by finishing 2nd in rookie championship and even beat his highly regarded teammate Fernando Alonso.
He won his first drivers title already in 2008, his second season! He won it by only 1 point difference to Felipe Massa. The Brazilian driver was driving for Ferrari that season. Massa won the last ultra exciting race in Brazil and thought he was world champion for 30 seconds, but "never give up" Hamilton passed the Toyota of Timo Glock in the last corner of the last lap to take 5th and win his first drives title. Below you can see the last 3 laps of this historical race.
In 2017 he passed F1 legend Michael Schumacher with the most amounts of pole positions and is now on his way to beat the German with the most amounts of race wins. At the time of this article he still needs 18 wins to get equal.
Lewis Hamilton has a few favourite tracks, he won the Canadian GP 6 times, the British, Hungarian and USA GP 5 times. If nothing bad's happens to Hamilton he will go on to win more drivers titles. We all will be witnesses of how many he will win. He might even become the best driver ever lived.
He scored his 5th drivers title in 2018. He is the only driver together with Schumacher and Fangio who won 5 or more drivers championships. He is the best driver of current era and got even in our rating with the legendary Jim Clark until 2019.
Hamilton did an outstanding drive in 2019 and scored his 6th title and added 17 podiums to his F1 career with 11 wins, 4 second places, 2 third places, 5 poles and 6 fastest laps. His score of 35.7% with his amount of races is extraordinary.
2. Alberto Ascari (1950-1955)
Runner up Alberto Ascari was an Italian driver with unbelievable skill. He also started F1 racing rather late at the age of 31. Ascari and Fangio where fears competitors. Ascari won the 1952 F1 season with ease, because Fangio wasn't racing that season and had won the championship in 1951.
In 1953 Ascari also won the drivers championship with Ferrari and Fangio got second for Maserati. Both ace drivers never became teammates. Because of mechanical failures in the 1954 F1 season and accidents in the 1955 F1 season, he never saw the finish flag again.
He never finished 3rd and drove the least amount of races of the whole list, because he died at the age of 36.
Ascari died during a test session on the Italian Monza circuit on 26th of May 1955. He was testing a Ferrari sports car to race the Monza 1.000 km race. The car he tested skidded unexpectedly in the high speed left-hander the Curva del Vialone. This corner is changed in 1972 into a chicane that now holds his name; Variante Ascari.
Here you can see a video about Alberto Ascari's last win at Monza and his fatal crash.
Nobody knows what his total records would be if he didn't had this fatal crash. He for sure would have made life much more difficult for Fangio. After Ascari died Fangio scored 3 drivers championships in a row.
Alberto Ascari was an extremely good driver and the best Italian driver ever, that died much to soon.
1. Juan Manuel Fangio (1950-1958)
With a success score of 50% Juan Manuel Fangio dominates this list by far. The Argentine driver tops this list by 8% to runner up Alberto Ascari.
Fangio is not a name you hear a lot these days and not many fan's of today saw him ever race. Fangio started driving F1 on the age of 39! and drove the first 8 F1 seasons of Formula 1. He also was part of the first ever F1 race held on May 13th 1950 at Silverstone. He had to retire his Alfa Romeo due to an oil leak. Two weeks later he won his first ever 1950 Monaco grand prix.
He didn't compete in 1952 because his team Alfa Romeo was not allowed to use their supercharged Alfettas under the new regulations of that season.
Looking at the data of the list a few things are very remarkable. He only got 3rd once and when you eliminate his 14 retirements he has a podium finish rate of 95%!
Here you can see a video with onboard footage of Juan Manuel Fangio driving for the Ferrari in Monaco back in 1956:
During his F1 career Fangio drove at 4 different teams. He drove 2 seasons for Alfa Romeo, 3 for Maserati, 2 for Mercedes and 1 for Ferrari. He won the drivers championship for all 4 teams, which is also a record no driver has equalled today. Juan Manuel Fangio is still the one to beat and maybe will stay on the first spot for ever.
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