Debate: 22 best drivers in the world?

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Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Montreal, 2007, 3 | Daimler ChryslerFormula 1 is the number one form of motorsport – but does it also have the best racing drivers in the world?

Who would you evict from the F1 grid, and who would you replace them with?

If F1 were just going to have the 22 best drivers in the world, would the grid stay as it is now? Who would you drop and who would you replace.

And just to spare everyone writing in with ‘Michael Schumacher’ as an answer, let’s keep this limited to drivers who haven’t retired from regular competition.

I would definitely drop Sakon Yamamoto, Ralf Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, and call up Juan Pablo Montoya (NASCAR), Sebastien Bourdais (who’s already on his way in) and Mika Hakkinen (DTM).

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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30 comments on “Debate: 22 best drivers in the world?”

  1. I agree with Yamamoto and Ralf, but keep Rubens in. He IS beating Button this year, so there’s something left there. I may drop Liuzzi, though.

    I’d call up Montoya and Bourdais, for sure. As for the 3rd guy, I don’t think Hakkinen would cut it now and just embarrass himself. I’d rather pick Paffett or Wilson.

  2. I wouldn’t mind seeing Dario Franchitti in an F1 car – he’s a good solid driver, and if nothing else he has some spectacular crashes which would keep people awake during the more boring races!

  3. I agree with the montoya bourdais switch.
    And I would say Doornbos is earning my respect! Give him a drive aswell.
    And Bruno Senna in a few years since ayrton said he is better then him :)

  4. I really don’t follow other racing series. The coverage in Norway is very poor, so I havn’t seen enough races to judge thaitr performances, but I think it was about time Bourdais got a chance — he should just have got a better seat, why not Fisichella’s.

    Both Toyota drivers are past their sell by date, so I would like to see Nelson Piquet Jr get a chance.

    None of the GP2 drivers seem too impressive, but a Scandinavian driver would be nice — Maybe Tom Kristensen or Mattias Ekström from DTM?

  5. Montoya? Come on, he has already been here and realized that he ISN’T one of the best. He wants to be one of the best in a simpler form of racing – not the number 1 form of racing……….

    Michael Schumacher is still the best……

  6. Are we looking at the best ‘open wheel drivers’ or the best overall drivers?

    I know you guys are going to hate to hear this but what about (a thinner) Tony Stewart….. This guy has won in every type of car he has been in. Sure he races Nascar now but he did start in open wheel. Nascar is where the money is at and the racing is competitive, can you blame him?

  7. “Formula 1 is the number one form of motorsport – but does it also have the best racing drivers in the world?”
    Sorry Keith, that’s OPINION, not fact. Most F1 races are mere high speed parades, the sport is ensnared in ridiculous rules and politics, all of which is soundly lamented by all of us on any given day. That said, F1 is our chosen following and could some drivers be replaced with others…..yes, but I’ve not seen but one driver to IMPROVE F1 when he enters the scene.
    And we all know who the one is……but after his conduct at Hungary and now he’s running around with the owner’s daughter, etc…..he’s proven to be little “improvement”.
    Another year of Michael Schumacher would have been better. And why are we so hasty in throwing away our treasure. I remember names like Alan McNish thrown out of F1 only to become a world champion in prototypes, Justin Wilson, financed himself and journeyer above suggests he should get a second chance, I concure. And “BEST drivers”……Dan M opened the field to NASCAR driver Tony Stewart, again as BEST driver there is great talent elsewhere. Too often my F1 friends decry so-and-so couldn’t cut it in F1 but few F1 drivers could cut it in other disiplines…….young Mr. Hamilton for instance…..
    would likely be making an early pitstop in a NASCAR race to change his diapers! Many know I am an old goat who’s followed F1 since the days of Vanwall and Cooper and Maserati, I’ve seen drivers come and go and
    …………perhaps I’ve babbled on long enough. I’m not in favor of changing ANY drivers for the sake of change, a slower natural evolution is by far the best to maintain the best standard.

  8. If I look around I do not see any driver outside F1 who would be above the level of current F1 drivers. Bourdais got his chance, good for him, but what point would there be to replace for example R Schumacher or Barrichello with Montoya or Villeneuve or Hakkinenen ?

    The only guy on F1 grid now who is lagging behind is Yamamoto, but he is in the slowest dog of a car on the grid and even if Montoya drives it a second faster than Yamamoto it would still be the slowest car on the grid.

    If Prodrive enters there will 2 extra race seats, and I hope some of the current test drivers will get their racing chances rather than imports from other racing series.

  9. ““Formula 1 is the number one form of motorsport – but does it also have the best racing drivers in the world?”
    Sorry Keith, that’s OPINION, not fact.”

    Fair enought, Number 36, but what would you suggest IS the number one form of motorsport? Anyway, Keith never explicitly stated number one at WHAT. F1 is clearly number one in terms of viewers, money generated, technology incorporated, engineering level. If you’re talking entertainment, it might not be. If you’re talking average driver skill, I’d say it is.

  10. I hate ppl who just say Montoya is bad and schumi is everything.
    If you look good at the Montoya’s f1 carreer you can say he did really well with the cars he had…
    At Williams he was the better of Ralf (except for his rookie year)…
    everyone blames him for not taking the championship while they forget his car wasn’t a championshop winning car (except for Mclaren 05, and he was the best in second half of that season, bad luck and helping kimi (ex. belgium) hide it)
    03 he had to win it imho. And what ppl tend to forget is that Ferrari was so dominating nobody could win it except for Schumi!

  11. From the current grid in F1, I would drop Fisi, Coulthard, Button, Yamamoto and Wurz.
    Fisi – Had his best days with Jordan….say no more
    Coulthard – Has always been #2 driver..over rated
    Button – Moved to wrong teams at wrong times…
    Yamamota – Last year should have been the end of him
    Wurz – Good tester, never quite made the cut.

    I would replace them with – Adam Carroll GP2, Bruno Senna, Lucas di Grassi, Gary Paffett & Piquet Junior.

    Young blood needed and the oldies going nowhere weeded out..Please lol x

  12. “Formula 1 is the number one form of motorsport – but does it also have the best racing drivers in the world?”

    I think no. Pressuming, F1 should be the fastest motorsport, then it should have the best drivers in the world.

    But that’s not the case, at least in this decade.

    I would definetly drop guys like Yamamoto, and consider several old guys that had their glory in the past (Fisi, Coulthard, Barri, Ralfie, Jarno).

    And i would wait proper drivers to get in the cars. I would ask Michael to get in a car again, ask Monto to came back, ask Bernie to return to the past!, ask Max to stop f*cking it up.

  13. Again, I ask, Fer no. 65, which other series in the world has better drivers? Yamamoto is the only one who is out of his depth. Yeah folk like Ralf and Jarno and Fisi are not superstars and not stellarly quick, but you’d take them over, pretty much anyone in Champcar/IRl except the absolute top guys in them. I think there’s (a) a bit of hypercriticism and (b) forgetfulness that it’s 75% car and 25% driver so drivers supposedly off the pace of Alonso etc. aren’t neccessarily vastly inferior, they’re just stuck in crappy machinery. They’re still all damn good drivers compared to pretty much any other series in the world.

  14. Don’t go and forget Gary Paffett!

  15. Robert, we can’t compare the drivers if we don’t see them in exactly the same cars, that’s why i would consider the oldies. I wouldn’t drop them inmediately.

    I bet that there are several drivers that should be able to match the 22 stars we see 18 sundays per year. As drivers get seats not 100% by their abilities, they need loads of money to get in.

    Many F1 drivers were surely beated by others that didn’t have the chance. Ralf for example, if it wasn’t for being the young brother of the then double world champion, im sure it would have been harder for him to get the Jordan seat back in 1997.

  16. I really think the current F1 grid has as much strength in depth as any driver line up in all the time I’ve been following the sport.

    I’d drop Yamamoto and bring in Glock. Fisichella, Ralf Schumacher and Coulthard all certainly have the ability to be in F1, but there is a reasonable argument that they’re past their best and its time they moved aside.

    In that case, I’d bring in Bourdais, Paffett and Romain Grosjean (the last one a bit of an eccentric hunch – a roll of the dice as it were). A decent case can be made for about a dozen other guys though.

  17. Paraphrased to keep this short….

    “..If you’re talking entertainment, it might not be. If you’re talking average driver skill, I’d say it is.”

    -F1 is becoming a business and not a Motorsport, therefor it doesn’t need, nor have the best drivers. Its all about who can bring you the most money, it just happens that most of the time that is the winning driver… Not always though. They are great at driving underpowered computer assisted parade billboards but real cars?

    “Fair enought, Number 36, but what would you suggest IS the number one form of motorsport? ”

    -I must say I personally think that WRC has the most skillful drivers and unpredictable action. It has the same amount of passing as F1…. NONE, atleast they race at different time intervals.

    The problem with comparing the two sports/drivers is the same as comparing to F1 teams, they are so drastically different that its hard to compare skill wise. Unless of course we go by “Race of Champions” which is almost always won by the rally guys.

    PS: I’m surprised I didn’t get blasted for the Tony Stewart remark!

  18. You didn’t get blasted because no F1 fan has ever heard of Tony Stewart, Dan. ;)

  19. I would replace Ralf, Coulthard, Yamamoto and Liuzzi with Sebastien Bourdais (who’s already on his way, like you said), Timo Glock, (GP2 leader, some F1 experience, not a genius, but deserves his place, considering the current grid), Robert Doornbos (Champ Car rookie of the year, 2nd to Bourdais, considerable F1 experience, but not a genius either), and Nelson Angelo Piquet (runner-up in GP2, after a hard-fought battle with Lewis Hamilton last year… again, considering the current grid, it’s fair enough)

  20. Not sure who I’d dump but I’d like to see Tony Stewart, Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon step up the F1 plate.

  21. Why is it so many are so willing to throw away experienced talent and ‘roll the dice’ on complete no-name, green horn, novice, rookies who offer NOTHING. Virtually every offering above, new drivers entering F1, is justified with the phrase ….. he deserves it! Poppycock! WE deserve better! I don’t buy an F1 ticket to see kids LEARNING f1. Compare each teams ‘matured’ drivers over their rookie drivers, Fisi over Kova, Heidfeld over Kubica, Wurz over Rosberg. Maturity means something. Moves like replaceing Fisi with Piquet or replacing Heidfeld with Vettel would be FOOLISH !!! Drivers that are MORE DESERVING than the new comers from the junior ranks are Klien and DeLaRosa and Montagny. These drivers could offer more to their respective teams and put on a better show for the F1 following.

  22. Without a doubt, montoya. A mix of a strong caracter, and a set of circumstances, gave him no option but to move back to the usa. An interesting move, if he could light the world on fire, over there. A thing he is having a hard time doing.
    Bourdois, another pilot that is good enough to make the cut, thanks berger for looking outside the envelope. From the marketing point of view, we should not forget, rossi, he was close to making a deal, last year, and he should have, if you ask me. Would be an interesting question for him, if he was frank with his answer.The worst case would be to be as bad as fisico, but i do not think worse.

  23. But Number 38, there’s a problem here. Some of these matured guys already got their shot to win, and they didn’t. Fisi proved that in the last 2 years – and Kovalainen has been beating him as of late. Heidfeld is doing well, but Kubica has been beating him consistently since France. Wurz got that 3rd and 4th, but otherwise, Rosberg has beaten him all season.

    I’m not saying experience isn’t important. It is. However, these youngsters look very good indeed. But how will we know if they’re good enough if we don’t give them a try? After all, there have been drivers who did well in the lower formulae but suck in F1 (Liuzzi and Trulli). And vice versa (Mansell, notably). So there’s no way to know for sure unless they get an F1 shot. And to be honest, I rate Piquet and Vettel. I think giving them good race drives will prove to be a brilliant decision.

    But to avoid what happened most notably with the Red Bull program (Klien, Liuzzi, Speed), they have to be guided well, to be motivated properly. Otherwise, we will never see their full potential.

  24. Hey ‘journeyer’ let’s expand your thesis….”Fisi …. Kovalainen has been beating him as of late. Heidfeld is doing well, but Kubica has been beating him consistently since France. Wurz got that 3rd and 4th, but otherwise, Rosberg has beaten him all season.”

    You seem willing to dump the top performers at half season, using that thought….
    shall we kiss Alonso goodbye, I mean Hamilton’s ahead in points at half season, dump Coulthard ….. after all Webber looked good for a race or two, golee….we could even toss Button out, he’s a non-producer. I did use names to make my point but perhaps, and I’ve used names to continue your thought, but perhaps for the better good NO NAMES are needed. Drivers are abbused in the current F1 environment, they are treated like mere low level EMPLOYEES. Teams rarely make sufficent comittment to those who actually produce the results they expect. You mentioned Trulli (sucks) but a review of the 2005 season shows he had 46 points before Silverstone, he was 4th in the Drivers standings for Renault then old Flavio gave him the pink slip. There is nothing wrong with Trulli, it was Briatore who ended his run, and let’s consider Trulli’s car the passed two years !!!!!!!
    If I had to replace Fisi I’d put Trulli back in the Renault !!!

    I’m trying to make a point…..the seasoned drivers are BEST for the sport, rookies are a necessity, everyone is a rookie once but, to wish for more and more rookies is foolish. I don’t buy a GP ticket to watch kids “learn”. Let’s look at some of the names mentioned above (in various postings) ….. Speed, Luizzi, Klien, Albers, Wilson, Pizzonia (anybody remember him), and several more……..
    All of them lost their seats through no fault of their own, Team management made the call, not us, and each was replaced with yet another low end driver
    who PRODUCED NO BETTER !!! Now enter Bourdais and Vettel and maybe Piquet, and who knows who else……. I see no assurance of “improvement” in 2008.

  25. Montoya isn’t even in the top 22 among NASCAR drivers, let alone the top 22 from all forms of 4 wheeled motorsports.

  26. Let’s consider the Red Bull challenge. This was a competition held over the past five years or so to find the best up and coming young American driver(s) and get them into F1. What we found was Scott Speed and he didn’t make the cut after more than a year behind the wheel.

    What we’re asking for here is somebody who can race f***ing anything. How about Ricky Carmichael and Floyd Landis?

  27. Out with
    Yamamoto(not up 2 it)
    Wurz(test driver)
    Couthard(past peak)
    Ralf(past peak)
    Rubens(past peak)
    In with
    Piquet jr
    Will Power
    Robert Doornbos

  28. well i think that lewis hamilton is the best f1 driver

  29. None of them? They might be good at driving an open wheeler around a flat asphalt track but good overall DRIVERS? Not at all. Most of the top boys from the WRC would be winners, Sebastian Loeb is probably the best one at the moment but lots of others are excellent too. Of the older generation I think Walter Rohrl would be the obvious first choice.

    Kimi Raikkonen is a former F1 world champ but was properly schooled in the WRC for several years. People good at crashing while steering left (NASCAR) isn’t even close to a list of good drivers.

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