Where does Hamilton rank among F1 greats?

Written by Louis Ostrowski

 

With his fifth world title now secured, Lewis Hamilton has established himself as one of F1’s all-time greats.

How, though, does he compare to the champions in F1’s history? To find out, we ranked the best 10 drivers to have ever graced the sport.

 

10. Sebastian Vettel

Vettel’s run of four consecutive titles from 2010 to 2013 marked him down as an F1 great. His sheer dominance in 2011 and 2013 earned comparisons to his hero Michael Schumacher, and rightly so.

He may still add a fifth but losing out to Hamilton in 2017 and 2018 blots his copybook.

 

9. Fernando Alonso

The fact that Alonso was only World Champion twice in his career is a great shame. Having put an end to Michael Schumacher’s dominance in 2005, he followed it up in 2006, but would never win another title.

That was more to do with off-track decisions rather than driving ability. He came extraordinarily close in 2007, 2010, and 2012, but never had the car he needed for a third championship.

 

8. Niki Lauda

Champion in 1975, 1977 and 1984, Lauda was a man who did not know how to quit. He was the reigning champion when he suffered his famous Nürburgring crash in 1976 which almost ended his life.

The Austrian nearly managed to win the 1976 title despite missing two rounds, but would win the title again in 1977 and he came back from a two-year sabbatical to add a third in 1984.

 

7. Sir Jackie Stewart

Despite being a three-time World Champion, Stewart is perhaps best remembered for his advocacy of increased safety measures in the deadly era of F1.

Stewart, though, was a master behind the wheel. With 27 wins from 99 races, his smooth style and raw pace made him the driver to beat in the late 60s and early 70s.

 

6. Jim Clark

Clark only ever won two world championships, yet in both of his title winning years, Clark took the maximum number of points available. Much like Ayrton Senna, the consensus is that he would have won much more had his life not been prematurely taken from him.

When he was tragically killed at Hockenheim in 1968, Ferrari’s Chris Amon asked, “If it could happen to him, what chance have the rest of us got?”

 

5. Alain Prost

Prost won four world titles in the 80s and 90s, but what makes his achievement more impressive is that in each of the four seasons he won a title, he had a world championship-winning teammate to contend with.

Prost’s famous rivalry with Senna was founded on the fact that they were so evenly matched. The Frenchman was the only man to ever beat Senna in the same car when he won the title in 1989.

 

4. Lewis Hamilton

Having now secured his fifth world title, Hamilton’s tally of wins and championships is bettered only by Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton has won races in each of his 12 F1 seasons, and he has the car to deliver at least one more title. Maybe with six championships, he would finally consider himself to have bettered his idol Ayrton Senna.

 

3. Ayrton Senna

Ayrton Senna, F1’s greatest enigma, is something of a mythological figure. His legacy is greater than his three championships – as Lewis Hamilton said, “Senna was an incredible legend who will be remembered and admired forever”.

His fatal crash in 1994 contributes to his legend but robbed him of his chance to win even more. “Had he had the opportunity to continue and race in safe conditions, he would have won more championships,” Hamilton said.

 

2. Juan Manuel Fangio

Fangio was the first ever five-time World Champion, he never finished an F1 race lower than fourth and never finished a full season lower than second. Only beaten by Nino Farina and Alberto Ascari over the course of a season, he was voted as Argentina’s best ever sportsman ahead of Diego Maradona and Alfredo di Stefano.

His teammate Stirling Moss rated him as the greatest. “The skill that Fangio had was enormous.” Moss recalled. “What made him so great was his concentration and his balance of the motorcar. He wasn’t a technician, he was just a great artist of driving.”

 

1. Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher has always had doubters. Controversy followed him throughout his career; some of his most notorious on-track behaviour was indefensible. However, for all his faults, Schumacher did win seven world championships and 91 races.

Schumacher won two championships at Benetton in 1994 and 1995, but it was at Ferrari where he really left his mark. He turned the Italian team’s fortunes around with his pace, consistency, leadership and dedication. The German finished on the podium in every round in 2002 and won an unprecedented five consecutive world titles, which may not ever be matched.

Edited by Harry Trend

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