Few sports can match Formula One for glamour, adrenalin and excitement. Rivalries between drivers and their playboy lifestyles create as many headlines as their wins. Fierce rivalries have often existed between these competitive, driven men. However tumultuous their lives have been off track, drivers of a certain calibre are renowned for immense skill, determination and courage. The dangerous world of Formula One driving has claimed lives and injuries, and these men risk their lives each time they get behind the wheel. Couple that with the intense competition between car companies and the world of Formula One creates drama and excitement in a way that few other sports can match.
10. Alain Prost
This French intellectual embarked upon his career with a theoretical approach and won four World Championships. His tactical approach to racing meant that he knew the best way to win, according to Dsport.in. He had an intense rivalry with Ayrton Senna and although Senna often triumphed, statistically Prost was one of the greatest drivers of all time and is regarded as the greatest by many Formula One fans. Prost drove carefully, in a measured way, but saved his energy for the end when he went all guns blazing. His speed was awe inspiring and his tactics heroic. His methodical, tactical approach won him the nickname, Le Professeur.
Prost won fifty-one races in his career, but was well known for controversies as well as success. He fell out with racing teams and other drivers regularly, and his departure from four racing teams were all acrimonious. One of these departures was from McLaren, where his bitter conflicts with Ayrton Senna forced Prost into leaving and joining Ferrari. He won five races and was pipped at the post by Senna for the Champion title, where Senna drove into Prost’s Ferrari.In 1993 he returned to Williams and won the title but retired from racing at the prospect of having Senna as a team mate.
9. Nigel Mansell
This aggressive and competitive British driver had an exciting style on the track that drew gasps of admiration from fans. He started his career in kart racing and suffered a horrendous accident in Formula Ford racing, coming perilously close to being paralyzed, according to Formula1.com. However, his immense courage led to his discharge from hospital and despite being told he would never drive again, he was behind the wheel in Formula 3. Suffering another horrific injury, he still raced on and qualified to race for Lotus in Formula One in 1980, and entry into the Austrian Grand Prix where he suffered another accident, burning himself badly.
He moved to McLaren in 1985 and won eleven races in eighteen months. He had an acrimonious rivalry with Nelson Piquet and delighted at beating him at Silverstone in 1987. He moved to Ferrari in 1989 and started his career with a win in Rio. After a switch to Williams, he secured the World Championship in 1992 and announced his retirement. However, Mansell returned to Formula One in 1994 and gained success again but decided the car wasn’t good enough and after fifteen seasons in Formula One, during which he had beat the odds over 187 races, Mansell retired for good.
8. James Hunt
James Hunt was the 1970s playboy who dreamed of being a Formula One racing driver and pursued his dream to success. He progressed through Formula Two and Three to race for Formula One where he delighted fans with his track prowess and off-track antics. He started racing for Formula One in 1974 and by 1975 had won the Dutch Grand Prix, beating his rival Nicky Lauda. After his team folded, he raced for McLaren where he had considerable success. Still known for his playboy lifestyle off the track, Hunt’s on track prowess was making the news as well, according to Biography.com.
He had a strong friendship with Niki Lauda, despite the fierce rivalry as competitors, and won a race at Nürburgring when he beat Lauda after he nearly died in an accident. Again, in Japan, Lauda was forced out of the race, leaving Hunt to win and become World Champion. Hunt had a famously fiery temper and was known to argue and fight at the track side. He was certainly an original, and refused to toe the line, dressing and acting in a way that suited him. This gave him much negative press with Formula One feeling that he brought the sport into disrepute.
7. Fernando Alonso
Alonso has had a stellar career in Formula One securing two World Championships. He started off as World Champion in the world of go-karts and progressed to Formula One in 2003. He quickly had success by winning the Hungarian Grand Prix and became the youngest ever World Champion two years later. Despite fierce rivalry with Michael Schumacher, Alonso won his second title the following year. However, his fiery temperament and off track difficulties have meant he has jumped from one car company to another when things don’t go his way, according to En.espn.co.uk.
He drove for Ferrari from 2010-2012 and fought his corner against the other top drivers of the time. Issues with drivers, management and cars sent Alonso back to Renault in 2015.Many of Alonso’s difficulties were of his own making, in that he demanded to be the top driver for a team and felt threatened if another driver were brought in and he felt threatened, hence his regular jumps from team to team. He took these tensions onto the track and was penalised at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2007 for blocking Lewis Hamilton. However, Alonso competed in a very strong period for Formula One and was one of the only drivers able to rival Michael Schumacher’s dominance.
6. Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton hit the Formula One ground running, missing out on the World Championship in his first season by only one point. This beginning in 2007 has continued to progress and Hamilton’s tenacious style and courageous manoeuvres have led to three World Champion wins and plaudits from fans and peers. He won four titles in his maiden season and developed a fierce rivalry with fellow driver Fernando Alonso. This rivalry intensified when Hamilton overtook Alonso’s record as the youngest ever World Champion when he won at the age of twenty-three.
He suffered from bad luck and judgement during the 2011 and 2012 season and moved to Mercedes in 2013. He rose quickly with his new team and finished fourth in the Championship leader board. In 2014, his Mercedes took him to a second World Championship title. He continued this winning streak in 2015 and became the first British driver to win Championships in consecutive years. His rivalry with Nico Rosberg ended with Rosberg’s retirement, but Hamilton could not rest on his laurels and soon developed an on-track rivalry with Sebastian Vettel. This seemed to give Hamilton a new lease of life and he went on to win a fourth world title, making him the most successful British racing driver to date.
5. Niki Lauda
The Austrian driver had exceptional success in Formula One. He was Champion driver three times and is the only driver to have been champion for both Ferrari and McLaren, who were the biggest Formula One car manufacturers at the time. He started out with Formula Two in 1971 and quickly progressed to Formula One. He drove for March and BRM before settling with Ferrari, where he drove from 1974 to 1977. He won the Spanish Grand Prix and secured six pole positions and became the dominant driver in Formula One in 1976.
That year he suffered major injuries in the Nurburgring Grand Prix, having had concerns about the safety at the track. Lauda raced six weeks later and overcame his fear, demonstrating immense bravery at facing the race track whilst still bandaged from his accident. His injuries forced him to retire from the Japanese Grand Prix and this caused a rift with Ferrari, despite a hugely successful 1977 season saw him as a champion driver, after which he left Ferrari. He had an on-track rivalry with British driver James Hunt and they fought for pole position on the track whilst maintaining a strong friendship off the track.
4. Mario Andretti
American-Italian Andretti, is also a hero of the Formula One world. He won the 1978 Formula One World Championship but also had success in many other car related sports. His career endured, and he was the only person to have been named United States Formula One Driver of the Year in three different decades. When Andretti’s family emigrated to America when Mario was fifteen, he developed his passion for cars and for racing. He began in stock car racing and progressed to Indy and NASCAR. In 1968 he began his Formula One career for Lotus and gained pole position in his first race.
He had races and wins for various Formula One teams until he took up the discipline full time in 1975. After driving for Parnelli, he returned to Lotus, and was instrumental in bringing the team back into the forefront of Formula One racing. He won the Japanese Grand Prix in 1976 and with six wins that year became World Champion. By 1978 he had peaked with success in Formula One. He returned to American racing, lured back by Ferrari in 1982, where, aged forty-two, he still managed to finish third.
3. Juan Manuel Fangio
Juan Manuel Fangio is regarded as one of the finest racing drivers of all time, winning the World Championship five times with four different teams, and being runner up twice. He gained twenty-nine pole positions and had the fastest lap time on twenty-three occasions. Fangio had many victories during his career, but it was his grace and finesse behind the wheel which set him apart from his peers. He came from humble beginnings in Argentina and was racing against rivals from upper class background, so he was something of an oddity in that respect. Not only that but he was considerably older than those he was racing against, being forty-six when he won his last title.
His early career gave him exceptional skills in mechanics which stood him in good stead when he entered Formula One. His mental attitude was equally important, he was patient, determined and courageous in ways that stood out on the race track. His greatest victory is regarded as being during the 1957 German Grand Prix when he drove his Maserati to win against all odds. He retired soon after winning his fifth title, leaving a record that remained in tact for over forty years.
2. Ayrton Senna
Ayrton Senna was a Brazilian racing driver and won the World Championships three times. Many consider him to be the greatest racing driver of all time. Tragically he was killed at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994, having made his Formula One debut a decade earlier. He had progressed through karting and Formula Three to get there. With Lotus-Renault he won six Grand Prix titles. He was a highly accomplished driver who excelled in all weather conditions and was praised for his wet weather handling and qualifying speeds. He won the Monaco Grand Prix six times and in terms of statistics, is the third most successful racing driver of all time. He raced for McLaren from 1988 and won the Japanese Grand Prix that year. Japan proved lucky for him in 1991 when he took the Championship.
His passion for racing has rarely been matched and his motivation to drive himself to the limits contributed to his success. His passion spilled over into personal relationships and he had a heated rivalry with Alain Prost which fired them up on the track. Many of their finishes were just milliseconds apart from each other, according to Ayrtonsenna.com.
1. Michael Schumacher
Michael Schumacher won the World Championships seven times and is regarded as one of the best racing drivers of all time by many. He is now retired, but when he was racing he won many of the accolades of the racing world. As far as statistic go, he is the greatest driver of all time, and while some of his records have been broken by other drivers subsequently, none has equalled the amount of accolades Michael Schumacher held at the same time. Tragically, in 2013, Schumacher suffered a traumatic head injury whilst skiing and was in a coma for six months. He regained consciousness in June 2014 but is reported to be paralyzed as a result of the accident says The Sun.
Schumacher also competed with his brother Ralf, and they were the first brothers to finish first and second in a race. Schumacher’s tally of championships saw him overtook the great Fangio as the most successful racing driver of all time when he won his seventh championship. He dominated the sport, smashing records and winning titles, despite what some saw as dubious tactics. His return to racing after a partial retirement was criticised, but Michael said he had enjoyed his return, despite limited success.