Updated: Mar 16, 2021
This year, 2020, marks the 70th anniversary of the F1 world championship. That made me think of all the great drivers that have appeared in the sport and its history. The sport has had many different drivers of varying nationalities and skill levels. Here are my 10 Favourite.
Keep in mind that this is just my personal opinion and feel free to disagree.
10. Jack Brabham
Sir Jack Brabham was an Australian F1 driver from 1955 to 1970. He was the first ever Australian F1 driver and the first Australian to win the F1 World Drivers Championship. But to me, and a lot of other people, that is not what made him special. No, what made him special was the fact that he is the only F1 driver to win a world championship in his own car. I'm sure a lot of you reading this have heard of the Brabham F1 team, one the most successful teams in F1 history. Sir Jack Brabham was the man who started it all, creating the Brabham F1 team in 1960 with a close friend of his. He was contracted to drive for the Cooper team though, so it wasn't until 1962 he drove for his namesake team. When he joined in 1962, he was very fast, and eventually, in 1966, Sir Jack Brabham won the last of his 3 World Driver's Championships in his own car, hence his spot in this list.
9. Jenson Button
The 2009 Formula 1 World Driver's Champion Jenson Button is an Englishman. What makes him so special is his consistency and mastery of all conditions. For example, in the 2011 Canadian GP, Button seemed to mess up absolutely everything. He took out teammate Hamilton in the early stages of the race, and had such a bad race that he had to make 6 pit stops. Of course, the weather also meant he had to constantly change his tyres, but he still came out far from the podium and barely hanging on to the points positions after his 6th pitstop. Somehow, he was able to catch up to the top 3 in about 10 laps of the technical Montreal circuit and passed Vettel for the lead of the race on the very last lap of the race. This race is one example of his mastery of wet weather races and why he is on this list.
8. Jim Clark
Jim Clark was a two-time F1 champion in the 1960s, and in those crazy years, he did many amazing things. One of these was driving one handed at Hockenhiem because his gearbox was starting to go. This meant he had to hold the gear lever of his Lotus 25 with one hand and steer with the other, while driving the challenging 60s Hockenhiemring. He still won that race by almost 3 laps. He also raced in 64 races in 1964, racing in America, Australia and Europe and raced in 4 different motorsport series. He was champion of every singe one of the series he entered in. This commitment to racing itself is why he is on this list.
7. Juan Manuel Fangio
How could I not include him? Fangio was a five time world champion when F1 was new and the fast car was an idea that had just entered people's minds. The legendary Argentine was a force to be reckoned with on track, as he once clawed back a race win from a 40 second deficit. But what made him special for me was his age. When he won his last world championship, he was 46 years old, and he still clawed back that 40 second deficit. That is why he is on this list.
6. Niki Lauda
This Austrian needs no introduction, really. A three time world champion, Niki Lauda's story is amazing. He was ruthless and methodical in his pursuit of his goals and he ensured that everything he did, he did it in a very controlled way. Of course, the reason he is on this list is his miraculous comeback after his terrifying shunt at the Nurburgring in 1976. Despite this, he somehow finished 4th upon his return in Monza, despite the bandages on his head being soaked with blood, keeping him in the title hunt. His determination and, well, his story, is the reason he is on this list.
5. Alain Prost
Mais oui, le professeur est dans cette liste. Translated for those not versed in French, but of course, The Professor is in this list. Alain Prost is a four time world champion, and in his rather long career, he did many incredible things. But his driving style was so meticulous and all his overtakes were planned so brilliantly, that he was nicknamed the Professor. When you have earned the title of the professor through your skill alone, you are truly one the all time greats. Take South Africa 1993 for example. This was Prost's return to the sport after a year on the side lines. Despite being in the dominant Williams FW15C, qualifying over 2 seconds faster than anyone else, including his teammate who was in the same car, and winning the race by over a minute showed everyone that this was a frenchman not to be underestimated.
4. Mika Hakkinen
Yes, the Flying Finn is on this list. A two time F1 world champion, Mika Hakkinen is a legend to many fans, especially those who saw his races in the 90s. He was one of the drivers who could consistently challenge Ferrari and Schumacher, and his constant fights with them made for amazingly entertaining races. One example would be 2000 Spa-Francorshamps, where he passed Schumacher by going one side of a back marker, while Schumacher went the other side. Speaking of which,
3. Michael Schumacher
Do I really need to explain? A seven time F1 World champion with 91 race victories to his name. The single most successful F1 driver in history (at the time of writing this post) and the breaker of most records. But to be honest, that isn't the reason he is on this list. It was his ability to take completely horrible cars to results they did not deserve. Like, at all. Take 1996 Spain for example, where he dragged the Ferrari 310 to victory, despite having an absolute mess of a car. But most of you may be wondering why he isn't number 1. Well, firstly, its my opinion and secondly, there are far too many controversies surrounding him. 1994 Australia, 1997 Europe, 2006 Monaco are just a couple of the many controversies he has been involved in or caused. These are just not necessary, his career is now associated with them, not his amazing skills. And because of this, he is in number 3.
2. Sebastian Vettel
This German used to be my favourite driver. His skill on track is very evident and he is a very good driver. If you want an example, look at 2008 Italian Grand Prix, where he took a Toro Rosso to pole, led every lap of the race and won the race rather easily. Given that the Toro Rosso was completely uncompetitive that year, winning in it really shows how much he extracts from the car. But he is also rather down to earth, not very arrogant. His ability to recognise his mistakes and apologise where necessary is really what makes him a little better that Schumacher for me. But neither of them could compete for the number 1 spot.
1. Ayrton Senna
Before I go on, I just want to be clear on something. I am young. I am turning 17 in 2020, so I never saw live races with most of the drivers on this list. Having said that, I think the fact that they are loved by people like me, it really says something about their talent. But none of them could touch this man. Ayrton Senna was a three time world champion, but that wasn't the only reason he was special. If you look at any, and I do mean any of his races, you will see a demonstration of how to drive at speeds that are beyond belief. The Brazilian Maestro was a sensation on track, no matter what. No matter what car he was in, no matter who he was racing against, no matter how bad his tyres were, he was able to deliver spectacular performances. Even if he crashed, he delivered the best example of driving before that. And his pace was so great, drivers of his era went on record saying that if they saw Senna's helmet in their mirrors, they got out of his way as fast as they could, not wanting to spoil his qualifying lap or get into a battle for track position with him either. His ruthlessness on track was amazing, and he ensured that he raced hard, but fair. But even more amazingly, he was a shockingly compassionate human being. Take Spa 1992 qualifying for example. Eric Comas in the Ligier had crashed, but his foot was pushing the accelerator, pumping fuel into the engine, while he was unconscious. Senna saw the danger of a fire and stopped his car on track, running to the Ligier and switching it off, saving Comas in the process. I could go on and on about him, but I really don't think you'd be interested, so I'm stopping there to show you just one of the many reasons he is my favourite driver of all time.
Now don't forget that this is my personal opinion, and that it is by no means a definitive list of the best drivers in the sport. Feel free to disagree with me, because I have never done something like this before and I am interested to see what you all think. Just a little bit about myself to round out the passage. I am a 16-year old Indian who is interested in Engineering and wishes to pursue a career in Mechanical Engineering. I started this blog purely to indulge my passion of F1, airplanes, cars and the engineering that goes into them. I hope to entertain you readers or inform you, either way, I bid you farewell and stay safe during this lockdown.