The 2017 Formula One season is already nearly finished and when complete will represent a total of 68 sizzling and controversy-packed championships since the series began in 1950. The list of Formula One Champions is long and when considering the top 10 Formula One drivers of all time it is tricky to know how to categorise them.
Opinions run high and some argue that it has occasionally been car rather than driver that has been superior. Counting championship wins could be misleading; Nico Rosberg for example has a stunning total of 23 Formula One wins, but in 10 years of Formula One racing didn’t win the drivers’ championship until 2016, days before his retirement. For the purposes of this article, we look first at the most successful in terms of Formula One championship wins and then throw in some alternative facts, statistics and opinions as to the top Formula One champions over the years.
Who knows how many F1 Championship wins Michael Schumacher would have clocked up if he hadn’t suffered a severe head injury in a skiing accident in 2013. Although Schumacher had retired at the end of the 2012 season, this wasn’t his first retirement and fans had been hoping that it wouldn’t be his last. As well as becoming the youngest Formula One double champion (at that time) in 1994 and 1995, he went on to win a stunning total of 7 F1 driver titles. He also holds an impressive bundle of other F1 records including 5 consecutive World Championships and 91 career wins.
After Michael Schumacher who totaled a remarkable 91 wins out of 308 entries, Lewis Hamilton must be recognised for his 54 wins in 190 races. These percentages, 29.55% and 28.42% respectively are impressive but closely followed by Alain Prost at 25.25%. Lewis Hamilton has been a controversial addition to the Formula One family but already has 3 championship wins under his belt and was only just pipped to the post by Rosberg in 2016.
Consecutive Race Wins
In 2013 Sebastian Vettel won a total of 9 consecutive F1 races. 2013 was definitely his year with wins in 13 of the 19 races resulting in the World Championship. Vettel is also currently the youngest ever world champion, taking this honour from Lewis Hamilton in 2010. These two drivers are set for season of champion of champions rivalry for 2017.
Juan Manuel Fangio was a force to be reckoned with during the first decade of Formula One. He won a total of 5 championships for various constructors between 1951 and 1957. This is a result only otherwise achieved by Schumacher who took this longstanding record away from Fangio when he won his sixth F1 Championship for Ferrari in 2003.
The relationship between Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell was known for its bust-ups and fierce on-track rivalry. In the end Mansell won 1 Formula One Championship whilst Senna took 3. Maybe the most memorable moment of their racing time together however was at Silverstone in 1991 when Mansell, who had won the race, picked up Senna who was stranded at the side of the track after running out of fuel and drove him back to the pits.
Recent polls suggest that the most popular F1 driver fluctuates according to criteria. On social media Lewis Hamilton trounces his nearest rival Fernando Alonso but when it comes to ‘best looking’ even female fans seem to think that the cars are prettier. It is the name of Ayrton Senna that is perhaps said with the most reverence. Even before his untimely death at Tamburello Corner in 1994 Senna was hailed as one of the greats and esteemed by his compatriots and competitors alike.
Most Emotional Traction
Maybe the most moving of Formula One champions was Austrian Jochen Rindt who in 1970 took the World Championship posthumously after a fatal practice crash at Monza. Despite there being 4 races left of the season, Rindt had such an impressive tally of points that none of the remaining drivers could overtake him. Rindt was famed for his grit, determination and love of speed despite losing friends in horrific racing accidents.
“Maybe I will not live to reach the age of 40. But, until that time, I will have experienced more things in life than anybody else.”
No list of Formula One champions would be complete without mentioning the Hill family. Between them father and son Graham and Damon Hill won 3 Formula One championships, Graham Hill twice with British Racing Motors in 1962 and Lotus in 1968 and Damon Hill despite only just missing out to Michael Schumacher in 1994 after a nail-biting and controversial Adelaide finish, went on to his only championship win in 1996 with 8 of the 16 races to his name.
In 2016 researchers from the University of Sheffield undertook to use statistical analysis to find out who was the greatest Formula One driver of all time. By using a ‘multilevel statistical model’ they took into account a variety of factors such as era, weather conditions and tracks and decided that Argentina’s Juan Manual Fangio was the top Formula One driver of all time. This news may not please either Schumacher who ranked 8th or Hamilton who was 12th.
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