Top Five Formula One Drivers Of All Time
The thrill and excitment of Formula One has seen many a legend behind the wheel over the years. Some truly iconic figures have won the adulation of motor sports fans across the world but who can lay claim to be amongst the very best of all time? Well here at FREEbets.org.uk, we take a look at the top five Formula One drivers from the ages.
5. Jim Clark
Clark was a huge figure in F1 during the 60's and took over the mantle of the world's greatest driver from Stirling Moss. The Scot would win his first ever World championship during the 1963 season in which he would claim memorable win at the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa. To add some background context to the race, Clark absolutely hated Spa having witnessed a number of accidents and fatalities there in only his second ever Grand Prix in 1960. Three years on and he started the race in just 8th place on the grid in utterly horrendous conditions with extreme rain and wind making a real test for the drivers. However a then 29 year old Clark remained unphased as he quickly moved to the front of the pack and not only that, he went on to lap every driver other than Jack Brabham and even he finished five minutes behind. The victory at Spa in '63 was his second in succession at the course and he went on to win there another two years, making it four victories at Spa on the trot.
The 1963 World Championship was followed up with another title success two years later and he should have added further triumphs in 1964 and 1967, had he not been let down by his notoriously unreliable Lotus. However Lotus' at the time were fitted with powerful Cosworth engines but they needed to be driven smoothly in order for all to flow. Clark was a graceful, elegant driver that could get the very best out of his car and that is exemplified in his outstanding statistics. His 25 victories were a record at the time and although that tally has been surpassed, it has not been done so in such few races with Clark doing it in just 72 starts.
4. Alain Prost
The Frenchman's tally of 51 victories has only been surpassed by one man since and Prost played a key part in the greatest rivalry that F1 has ever seen. He and Ayrton Senna went head-to-head during the late 80's and early 90's in a rivalry that was comparable to anything in sport. Senna's breakneck speed and thrust against Prost's silky smooth approach, the pair pushed each other to their very limits and helped to ensure they each operated to their maximum potential. Porst claimed his first and well overdue World title in 1985, this coming after near misses and car reliability issues the two years previous. Three more followed in 1986, 1989 and 1993.
That final victory came at the grand old age of 38, when he won seven of the sixteen races and started on pole a total of 13 times. Perhaps his crowning glory however was his 1986 World title, when he triumphed against the odds against the faster Williams-Hondas of Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet. That season saw an epic three way tussle for the title, that went down to the final race in Australia. Despite Mansell beginning the race in pole position and in prime position for the Drivers Championship, Prost stole it from under his nose with victory in Adelaide. A legacy most famous for his rivalry with Senna but his record of 51 Grand Prix wins is perhaps the most defining aspect of his illustrious career.
3. Michael Schumacher
The man to overtake Prost's record of 51 race wins? Michael Schumacher. The German precided over perhaps the most dominant era of F1 history when between 2000 and 2004 he won five consecutive titles. Stats wise, the German is the greatest driver ever with 91 wins and 155 podium finishes to claim a total of seven World Championship finishes. In 2002, he became the only driver in F1 history to finish in the top three in every race of the season and in the process broke the record for the most consecutive podium finishes. That season also saw Schumacher record the biggest ever winning margin for an F1 season, ending up a huge 67 points ahead of his Ferrari teammate Rubens Barichello as he clinched the title with six races to go (Yet another record...)
It's really not too difficult to see why Schucmacher commands a place on this list, however you might asking yourself why he does not sit top of the pile. Well Ferrari at the time enjoyed huge resources and working along with technical director Ross Brawn and chief designer Rory Byrne, they formed a formidable team that left many of their rivals playing catch up for years to come. They exploited every technical advantage they could and broke new ground in F1 in a way that changed the sport forever. Off the track, Schumacher was hugely influential in the development of the sport but in terms of sheer driving capability, we would say he falls slightly short of some of his peers.
2. Juan Manuel Fangio
Now unless you're really into your Formula One, there is the very distinct chance you might not have even heard of this man. Well to many observers, he is the best driver the sport has ever seen and in terms of statistics you can see why. The Argentine competed in a total of 51 Grand Prix's and won 24 of them. He was on pole position 28 times and set a total of 23 fastest laps on his way to five World Championship titles. That's impressive enough in itself but when you consider that he did so in just seven Formula One seasons, the scale of his achievement becomes much clearer.
Fangio was also the man responsible for the performance many consider to be the greatest ever by an F1 driver. The 1957 German Grand Prix took place at the 14-mile long Nurburgring circuit and began proceedins in pole position ahead of Ferrari's Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins. After building up a lead of around half a minute before going in to pit, he then rejoined the action around 50 seconds behind with just 10 laps remaining. In a quite extraordinary turn of events, he then began to lap at around 15 seconds faster than the previous lap record and by the end of lap 19 he had cut the Ferrari's lead to just 13 seconds. The next lap saw another record as he shaved some eight seconds of his pole time and was right behind Hawthorn and Collins. He eventually swept passed them to claim victory in a race that encapsulated his sheer brilliance. Juan Manuel Fangio was a truly legendary driver and despite not even entering the sport until his 40's, his legacy will never be forgotten.
1. Ayrton Senna
The most iconic figure in Formula One history and in many eyes, the greatest man ever to take the to track. Ayrton Senna's life was tragically cut short at Imola in 1994 but not before he had established himself as one of the most influential figures in sporting history. In his native Brazil and to F1 thousands around the world, Senna is regarded as a demi-god and whilst the circumstances of his death may have helped in creating the idea of almost mythical status, his standing in the sport is in no way exaggerated. His previously mentioned rivalry with Alain Prost has been documented and is comparable to the Frazier v Ali or Ronaldo v Messi feuds - Two genuine superstars going head-to-head at the peek of their powers.
His aggressive style, driving every race as though it was his very last with a daring sense of danger saw Senne push himself to the very limits. No other driver can compare in sheer excitement factor and the three-time World champion left a mark on the sport that is unlikely ever to be matched again. A deep sense of professionalism and commitment, his dedication to the sport was completely unrivalled and after a hugely successful junior career, he made an instant impact in Formula One with three podium finishes in his maiden campaign. Title wins in 1988, 1990 and 1991 along with various records such as a staggering 24 consecutive front row starts, the figures do not even come close to doing the Brazilian justice. Perhaps Senna is best summarised by the words of James Hunt, who called him a "truly staggering talent".