The Top 10 Contenders: Exploring the Best Formula 1 Drivers in History

Everyone has their favourite, but who is statistically the best driver in Formula 1 history?

Dillip Mohanty
Dillip Mohanty

Last Updated: 2024-03-20

Wade McElwain

5 minutes read

The debate over the best Formula 1 (F1) driver ever is always heated and more often than not emotional. It is a herculean undertaking to rank Formula 1 drivers over 75 years, with multiple technology improvements and rule changes. It is also unfair for drivers from different eras to be compared. Over the years, there have been many modifications to the cars, tracks, and regulations and the number of races.

So what are the best criteria for evaluating the best F1 driver of all time? Statistically, it could be the driver with the most wins or the most championships. Another way of determining the best f1 driver in history is by the highest winning percentage.

Let’s have a look at the F1 drivers with the most wins.

The Most Race Wins by a Driver

In Formula 1 History

DriverCountryWinsSeasons Active
Lewis Hamilton United Kingdom1032007 – Present
Michael SchumacherGermany911991 – 2006 , 2010 – 2012
Max VerstappenNetherlands552015 – Present
Sebastian VettelGermany532007 – 2022
Alain ProstFrance511980 – 1991 , 1993
Ayrton SennaBrazil411984 – 1994
Fernando AlonsoSpain322001 , 2003 – 2018 , 2021 – Present
Nigel MansellUnited Kingdom311980 – 1992 , 1994 – 1995
Jackie StewartUnited Kingdom271965 – 1973
Jim ClarkUnited Kingdom251960 – 1968
Niki LaudaAustria251971 – 1979 , 1982 – 1985
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1. Lewis Hamilton | Championships – 7

First race: 2007 Australian Grand Prix
World Championships: 7 (2008, 2014-15, 2017-20) 
Number of races: 334 
Number of wins: 103 
Number of pole positions: 104

Lewis Hamilton wins his 100th F1 Race.jpeg

Image credit: X (F1)

Sir Lewis Hamilton is considered the greatest F1 driver ever in terms of career victories and points. Famously scouted by McLaren team principal  Ron Dennis at just 13, Hamilton debuted with the team in 2007 at the Australian Grand Prix, finishing 3rd. The following year, he clinched the World Driver’s Championship by a single point in a thrilling last-lap victory over Felipe Massa.

Joining Mercedes in 2013, Hamilton has since secured 6 more World Championships with the team. In 2021, he narrowly missed his 8th title in a contentious Abu Dhabi race against Max Verstappen.

Enduring winless seasons in 2022 and 2023, Hamilton announced his move to Ferrari for the 2025 season at the onset of the 2024 season.

2. Michael Schumacher | Championships – 7

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

Michael Schumacher F1.jpeg

Image credit: X (schumacher)

Michael Schumacher was one the most dominant F1 race drivers in history until Lewis Hamilton arrived. Born in Germany Schumacher raced for Jordan, Benetton, Ferrari, and Mercedes. In 1995, he became the youngest double Formula One World Champion, winning in 1994 and 1995. He has also won the World Championship in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004. Schumacher retired at the end of 2006 and served as a test driver and adviser for Ferrari. His 91 F1 Grand Prix race victories at the time of his retirement was a record going past the previous record of 51 held by French driver Alain Prost.

3. Max Verstappen | Championships – 3

First race: 2015 Australian Grand Prix
World Championships: 3 (2021, 2022, 2023)
Number of races: 187
Number of wins: 56
Number of pole positions: 34

Max Verstappen with 2023 F1 Trophy.jpeg

Image credit: X (F1)

Max Verstappen, son of former Dutch F1 driver Jos Verstappen, had a swift ascent to Formula 1 after just a year in car racing. His standout 2014 European Formula 3 season, finishing third with 10 wins, earned him a Toro Rosso seat in 2015. He made history as the youngest F1 driver in 2015, later moving to Red Bull Racing in 2016. Verstappen's dominance grew, culminating in his first title in 2021 after a fierce battle with Lewis Hamilton which ended in the last race at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Since then he has been extremely dominant in F1 winning championships in 2022 and 2023. The 26-year-old is also the current favourite to win the 2024 championship.

4. Sebastian Vettel | Championships – 4

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

Sebastian Vettel F1.jpeg

Image credit: X (wearetherace)

German racing driver Sebastian Vettel has won four Formula One World Championships. He started his F1 career with BMW Sauber in 2007 and then moved to Toro Rosso before joining Red Bull Racing, where he achieved most of his success. With Red Bull, Vettel won four consecutive championships and set numerous records. However, regulation changes in 2014 hindered his and Red Bull's performance. Despite a decline in wins, Vettel remained highly respected until his retirement in 2022, leaving a lasting legacy in the sport with his impressive record-breaking achievements.

5. Alain Prost | Championships – 4

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

Alain Prost f1.jpeg

Image credit: X (ForRaceFansOnly)

French race driver Alain Prost's methodical approach and exceptional skill set him apart in Formula 1, particularly in his rivalry with Ayrton Senna. Renowned for his precision and intellect, Prost became France's first world champion in 1985. His career was marked by impressive achievements, including surpassing Jackie Stewart's win record in 1987 and securing McLaren's dominant performance in 1988. Prost continued to excel until his retirement, clinching his fourth title with Williams at the age of 38.

6. Ayrton Senna | Championships – 3

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

Ayrton Senna F1.jpeg

Image credit: X (F1_AyrtonSenna)

The Brazilian race driver Ayrton Senna, a motorsport icon, is celebrated for his unparalleled raw talent and charisma. With three titles to his name, Senna has a special place in every motorsport fan’s heart. His legacy remains a testament to his exceptional skill and indomitable ambition, ensuring his influence on Formula 1 and motorsport enthusiasts worldwide. Despite his untimely death in 1994, Senna's unwavering commitment to excellence and relentless pursuit of success continue to captivate fans.

7. Fernando Alonso | Championships – 2

First race: 2001 Australian Grand Prix
World Championships: 2 (2005-06)
Number of races: 382
Number of wins: 32
Number of pole positions: 22

Fernando Alonso f1.jpeg

Image credit: X (F1)

Fernando Alonso, the race driver from Spain is a two-time Formula 1 world champion. He is famous for his fearless and aggressive driving style marked by near misses and unexpected challenges. Despite winning titles in 2005 and 2006 with Renault, his subsequent years were fraught with missed opportunities and close finishes. He moved to McLaren and Ferrari with promising moments but ultimately fell short of championship glory. Even with a return to McLaren and a stint with Alpine, Alonso faced setbacks, including a podium drought.

However, a surprise move to Aston Martin in 2023 revitalized his career, resulting in a remarkable 100th career podium. Despite his tumultuous journey, Alonso remains a beloved figure in the sport, celebrated for his talent and resilience.

8. Nigel Mansell | Championships – 1

First race: 1980 Austrian Grand Prix
World Championships: 1 (1992)
Number of races: 187
Number of wins: 31
Number of pole positions: 32

Nigel Mansell f1.jpeg

Image credit: X (F1)

The British race driver, Nigel Mansell's Formula 1 career was marred by reliability issues, including multiple retirements and missed races. Despite finishing second in the championship three times, he narrowly missed out on the title in 1986 by just two points. However, in 1992 driving for Williams, Mansell's luck changed dramatically. He dominated the season with five consecutive wins, adding four more victories and three second-place finishes. This stellar performance secured him the championship title at the age of 39, making him the fifth-oldest driver to achieve this feat.

9. Jackie Stewart | Championships – 3

First race: 1965 South African Grand Prix
World Championships: 3 (1969, 1971, 1973)
Number of races: 99
Number of wins: 27
Number of pole positions: 17

Jackie Stewart F1.jpeg

Image credit: X (F1)

British race driver, Jackie Stewart's legacy in Formula 1 extends far beyond his three championship titles. Stewart won three championships in 1969 for Matra and 1971 and 1973 for Tyrrell. Stewart is famous for his commitment to safety which truly distinguished him. Witnessing the tragic loss of friends and colleagues, Stewart became a trailblazer in safety innovations, advocating for full-face helmets, seatbelts, and medical units. His influence reshaped the culture of motorsport, prioritizing the well-being of drivers.

10. Niki Lauda | Championships – 3

First race: 1971 Austrian Grand Prix
World Championships: 3 (1975, 1977, 1984)
Number of races: 171
Number of wins: 25
Number of pole positions: 24

Niki Lauda f1.jpeg

Image credit: X (NachoNocete)

Austrian race driver Niki Lauda's Formula 1 journey epitomized talent and resilience. Starting as a pay driver, his skill soon overshadowed his financial backing. Joining Ferrari in 1974, he clinched wins and titles, notably overcoming a near-fatal crash at the Nurburgring in 1976. Despite the setback, he secured multiple championships, retiring briefly before returning to win his third crown in 1984. Off-track, Lauda's business acumen shone, particularly in his role with Mercedes, where he played a pivotal role in recruiting Lewis Hamilton. Until his passing in 2019, Lauda's legacy extended beyond racing, marking him as a figure revered for both his on-track triumphs and off-track contributions.

10. Jim Clark | Championships – 2

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

Jim Clark F1.jpeg

Image credit: X (Motor_Sport)

British race driver Jim Clark's legacy in Formula 1 is defined by his relentless pursuit of victory and talent behind the wheel. Throughout his career from 1962 to 1965, he was rarely outmatched, often succumbing to mechanical issues rather than competitors. He won two championships racing for Lotus in 1963 and 1965. Tragically, his life was cut short during an F2 race at Hockenheim on 7 April 1968, where he held the record for the most race wins. Clark's courage was evident, notably showcased by his dominance in treacherous conditions at Spa in 1963, solidifying his status as a legendary figure in the sport's history.

Dillip Mohanty
Dillip MohantySports Editor

Dillip has over two decades of experience in creating sports content. As the Sports Editor of SportsBoom, Dillip brings in a wealth of experience and expertise to the role. Dillip has worked with leading sports broadcasters and sports web content portals in Asia. He is an adept storyteller and has a special liking for data stories. He has a keen interest in data analysis and uncovering insights from large datasets. He loves to tell the story with rich and compelling data visualisation.