Who are the greatest F1 drivers ever?

The F1 season is nearly at its conclusion, with the penultimate race in Brazil due to happen the second weekend in November. The season will be remembered as a remarkable year for Max Verstappen. He proved his worth as a driver, building on last year by smashing the competition and breaking records in the process.

At times when you’re watching greatness on the track, it’s hard not to think of what has come before and how the current stars compare. So, with that, who are the greatest F1 racers ever?

Lewis Hamilton

It’s hard to discuss an athlete as one of the greatest of all time while they’re still competing, but that’s just how good Lewis Hamilton is. People may be forgetting Hamilton’s greatness already due to the rise of Verstappen. The Dutchman’s dominance over the last two years, particularly this one, has overshadowed what Hamilton has done in the past. Even with the world title wrapped up and nothing to drive for, Verstappen is still the clear favourite going into the penultimate race with betting odds of 4/9 compared to Hamilton at 13/2.

Nevertheless, the British driver has been a dominant force since he came into the Formula 1 in 2007, having a breakout campaign where he finished second to Kimi Räikkönen by 1 point. His fast rise saw a title in 2008 which made him the youngest winner at the time at just 23.

But it was followed by bitter disappointment with McLaren in the next four years. Although he was close to the title in 2010, he was pipped by Sebastian Vettel who also took his youngest winner crown.

Not one to sit on his laurels, Hamilton moved teams and joined the famous Mercedes team. Controversial at the time, his decision paid dividends as he won two world titles in a row before completing a famous four-peat. As Michael Schumacher passed the torch, it was fitting Hamilton replaced him at Mercedes, and he holds the record for most race wins in Formula One history with 103 although he has not added to that tally since the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Hamilton’s merit and plaudits come down to the fact that not only is he still racing, but he’s been competing at the highest level for well over a decade. Factor in that Prost won his last title at 38 and there is still time for Hamilton to chalk up more wins before his final race to firm up his lace as the greatest driver in Formula One.

Michael Schumacher Imola Italy. 2006. F1 World Championship. Grand Prix of San Marino
Michael Schumacher celebrates winning the San Marino Grand Prix in 2006.

Michael Schumacher

Schumacher was the undisputed king of racing by the time he retired. But, when that happened, a budding superstar in Hamilton took his place on Mercedes. Hamilton would go on to equal his record of seven World Championships but beat his record of Grand Prix wins and podium finishes.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t take away from Schumacher being one of the greatest, if not the best, racers of all time. The legendary driver gave Benetton its first World Championship in 1994 and followed it up with another in 1995. However, his best years game in the red of Ferrari. He signed for them in 1996 and represented them for ten years, five of which he won the World Championship. It was a dominant run between 2000-2004, where he won five straight.

He retired in 2006 before returning for three years between 2010-2012 with Mercedes.

Rio de Janeiro Brazil April 16 1996 Alain Prost F1 driver
Alain Prost April 16th 1996, Rio de Janeiro-Brazil,

Alain Prost

Alain Prost was a dominant force in the 1980s. The Frenchman was the face of Formula 1 during that decade, and for a five-year span, he was untouchable. He won two World Championships in a row between 1985-1986 and won the last one of the decade in 1989. All of his titles in the 80s were with McLaren.

His most shocking title, and probably his best, was in 1993. It was his first and only year with Williams, and he would retire at the end as World Champion, a truly fitting end to an illustrious career.

Prost had a fabulous style of racing, full of class and elegance, but ruthless when he needed to be. He helped himself to 51 Grand Prix wins and 106 podiums, going down as one of the best to ever do it.

Although it is fun engaging in discussions about the merit of being one of the greatest, these conversations are impossible to prove. The difference in time, technology and competition make having a fair judgement of skill too complex. What can be done is appreciate greatness when you see it and celebrate these legends of the sport.

F1 Driver Titles

Michael Schumacher71994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004
Lewis Hamilton2008, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020
Juan Manuel Fangio51951, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957
Alain Prost41985, 1986, 1989, 1993
Sebastian Vettel2010, 2011, 2012, 2013

F1 Driver Career Race Wins

RankDriverWinsSeasons activeAv Wins Per Season
1Lewis Hamilton103156.87
2Michael Schumacher91175.35
3Sebastian Vettel53153.53
4Alain Prost51124.25
5Ayrton Senna41104.10
6Max Verstappen3474.86