Best Formula 1 Drivers: Old and New Era

So, who is the best Formula 1 driver in history?

Well, fans like to debate over this fact relentlessly. In this article, we'll go over the statistics: comparing race wins, world championships, pole positions and career points.

Race Wins (Races Won)

This is how many times a driver places first in a race. This earns them the most points in their racing career.

World Championships

This is how many F1 world championships a driver has won. Some drivers have won a single world championship, whereas others such as Hamilton and Schumacher, have won seven.

Racing Points

Points are awarded when drivers place at least 10th in a race. An additional point is awarded for the fastest lap.

  • 1st = 25
  • 2nd = 18
  • 3rd = 15
  • 4th = 12
  • 5th = 10
  • 6th= 8
  • 7th = 6
  • 8th = 4
  • 9th = 2
  • 10th = 1

Introduced in 2021, racing sprints are usually held for an extra day at an F1 event. The top 8 finishers gain points from 1st to 8th respectively: 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, & 1 points.

The Greatest Formula 1 Drivers in History

Lewis Hamilton - 103 wins

  • First race: 2007 Australian Grand Prix
  • World Championships: 7 (2008, 2014-15, 2017-20) 
  • Number of races: 32 
  • Number of wins: 103 
  • Number of pole positions: 104
  • Career points: 4553.5 

Lewis Hamilton is the greatest Formula 1 driver to have ever driven on a circuit. He's unrivalled in terms of career victories, most race wins, and career points from 2010-2014 onwards.

The British driver is presently tied with Michael Schumacher for the most world championships and has also claimed victories in 30 different countries. Hamilton barely lost out on winning an eighth world title in 2021 to Max Verstappen.

Hamilton currently holds a number of Formula 1 records and appears to be able to break even more of them.

He almost missed winning the title in his debut season by one point, but the following year, he became the youngest world champion. He now has six additional championships under his belt after 14 years and is actively pursuing an eighth.

Michael Schumacher - 91 wins

  • First race: 1991 Belgian Grand Prix
  • World Championships: 7 (1994-95, 2000-04)
  • Number of races: 308
  • Number of wins: 91
  • Number of pole positions: 68
  • Career points: 1566

Michael Schumacher immediately comes to mind for many fans when thinking of the best F1 driver.

Up until the ascent of Hamilton, Schumacher was the epitome of Formula 1 dominance. With seven championships (five consecutive), an almost unfathomable number of victories, and a competitive spirit, Schumacher revolutionized the sport.

He won two championships with Benetton, but Ferrari is where he made his name. He joined the team in 1996, and after many fluctuations in the years that followed, the group finally had success in 2000.

Five world championships, 48 victories, and numerous records with Michael Schumacher's name in nearly every category came next over the course of the following five years.

His second F1 season didn't go as well as his first, just giving him one podium to add to his name. However, any statistical study would still rank him highly because of his 91 victories, 155 podium finishes, and 68 pole positions.

Sebastian Vettel - 53 wins

  • First race: 2007 United States Grand Prix
  • World Championships: 4 (2010-13)
  • Number of races: 300
  • Number of wins: 53
  • Number of pole positions: 57
  • Career points: 3098

There was a period when Sebastian Vettel was practically untouchable.

In his first three years in Formula One, Vettel won five races and finished on the podium nine times, but this was nothing compared to what was to follow. In the following four years, he rose to prominence as the face of Formula One by winning four consecutive championships and surpassing Lewis Hamilton to become the sport's youngest world champion.

In addition, he established the records for the most victories, pole positions, laps led, consecutive grand slam victories, podium finishes, and wins from pole position in a season.

But his streak ended eventually. New regulations in 2014 didn't favour the Red Bull driver, and the team swiftly slipped down the rankings.

In the final nine races of the 2013 season, he won nine times in a row, but then he didn't win another race until 2015.

Since the 2013 season, he has accumulated 14 victories. Even so, he was still considered as one of the finest drivers on the grid until his retirement at the end of the 2022 season.

Alain Prost - 51 wins

  • First race: 1980 Argentinian Grand Prix
  • World Championships: 4 (1985-86, 1989, 1993)
  • Number of races: 199
  • Number of wins: 51
  • Number of pole positions: 33
  • Career points: 768.5

Alain Prost aka "The Prof", is best known for his brilliant mind to understand his F1 car.

Prost's hidden weapon was intelligence in addition to speed, and he had a natural knack for driving precisely, which helped him become the first world champion from France in 1985.

Due to the talent of both Prost and Ayrton Senna, he broke Jackie Stewart's record of 27 victories in 1987, and a year after McLaren won 15 of the 16 races in the season. Prost won his fourth and final championship for Williams at the age of 38, staying at the top of his game all the way up until his retirement.

Max Verstappen - 45 wins

  • First race: 2015 Australian Grand Prix
  • World championships: 2 (2021, 2022)
  • Number of races: 175
  • Number of wins: 45
  • Number of pole positions: 27
  • Career points: 2325.5

The son of former Formula 1 driver Jos, Max Verstappen, competed in auto racing for just a year before making his F1 debut.

His junior career highlight was in the 2014 European Formula 3 season he finished third in the championship behind the title-winner Esteban Ocon and Tom Blomqvist.

This one season he won 10/32 races, including six straight victories. This was sufficient to get him promoted to Formula One, where he will compete for Red Bull's sister team Toro Rosso in 2015 and become the youngest grand prix driver ever at 17 years old. He had modest success in middle-of-the-pack machinery during his first F1 season.

Verstappen won the Spanish GP right away after being called up to the senior Red Bull squad five races into the 2016 season. This was made possible by fellow Mercedes teammates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton colliding on the opening lap.

By the end of the 2020 season, he had collected nine more victories. It wasn't until the 2021 season, with its revised technical rules, that Red Bull was able to build a car that was really competitive for the world championship.

Verstappen and Hamilton fought valiantly for the world championship title all season long battle as the Red Bull came significantly closer to the Mercedes car. Verstappen just defeated the seven-time world champion in the final lap of the final race, robbing Hamilton of his eighth world title. This allowed him to win his first championship since karting in 2013.

He had a lot simpler time during the 2022 championship. Verstappen glided to the title behind the wheel of the RB18, with his victory in Suzuka proving to be enough to take the title. It will be interesting to watch how many more world champion crowns he can add to his two world titles.

Ayrton Senna - 41 wins

  • First race: 1984 Brazilian Grand Prix
  • World Championships: 3 (1988, 1990-91)
  • Number of races: 161
  • Number of wins: 41
  • Number of pole positions: 65
  • Career points: 610

Motorsports had numerous problems and regulatory changes in the 1990s. However, the years gave to the rise of Ayrton Senna, one of the most illustrious names in motorsport. He continues to set the bar for unrivalled talent and a magnetic personality.

Senna has a particular place in the hearts of many motorsport fans due to his intense dedication to a lap and his persistent desire to push the limits. He was an expert driver, particularly during qualifying and in gloomy circumstances. He set a record of six victories at the Monaco Grand Prix demonstrating his unwavering skill under pressure.

His three titles offer a glimpse of what may have been if he hadn't passed away at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

Overall, Senna had a distinct advantage due to a mix of his innate speed and wild ambition.

Fernando Alonso - 32 Wins

  • First race: 2001 Australian Grand Prix
  • World Championships: 2 (2005-06)
  • Number of races: 370
  • Number of wins: 32
  • Number of pole positions: 22
  • Career points: 2210

Fernando Alonso is a two-time world champion who is known for being an aggressive, brave racer, yet his career can be judged just as much by what didn't happen as it can by the two titles he won.

The Spanish driver competed in Formula 1 for three years before winning the first of his two victories in a row. Alonso won his second championship the next year with a 13-point advantage over Michael Schumacher.

After joining the then-rookie Lewis Hamilton's McLaren team in 2007, he finished the season in third place. He placed just one point behind the eventual champion Kimi Raikkonen and behind Hamilton, who had the same number of points but more victories.

As he started the season's final race in the lead in 2010, it appeared as though his 2010 switch to Ferrari would pay off. However, a combination of him getting stranded behind Vitaly Petrov and Sebastian Vettel winning meant that Alonso had to settle for second. He finished second again to Vettel in 2012 and 2013.

Aston Martin's unexpected hiring for the 2023 season turned out to be a stroke of genius as the team shot from the middle of the field to the front. With two third-place finishes to start the year, Alonso earned his 100th career podium at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in 2023.

Alonso has had horrible luck in Formula 1, yet he has still amassed 32 victories, 22 pole positions, and 23 fastest laps, making him a strong fan favourite today.

Jim Clark - 25 wins

  • First race: 1960 Dutch Grand Prix
  • World Championships: 2 (1963, 1965)
  • Number of races: 72
  • Number of wins: 25
  • Number of pole positions: 33
  • Career points: 274

Jim Clark was just concerned with winning and avoided the spotlight.

The Scottish driver held the record for the most race victories when he, unfortunately, passed away in 1968 during an F2 race at Hockenheim. From 1962 through 1965, the Scottish ace was probably only defeated in the world championship when he experienced mechanical problems.

Unmatched in talent, Clark was eight miles ahead of the nearest contender in the torrential rain at Spa in 1963, demonstrating the fearlessness of a driver competing during the riskiest era in the history of motorsport.

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