The Top 100 F1 Drivers of All Time – Alan Henry, 2008

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It’s a book called “The Top 100 Formula 1 Drivers of All Time”, it’s written by a British journalist, and Michael Schumacher isn’t in the top ten. This is going to go down well.

Alan Henry makes some interesting arguments and unusual choices: so we have Juan Manuel Fangio behind not one but two of his contemporaries.

Lewis Hamilton isn’t just one the cover – he’s in the list as well, along with Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. And he’s ahead of one of them…

Some people find lists like this tedious and pointless exercises – to the rest of us it’s a harmless bit of fun that lets us argue the case for out favourite drivers.

I was expecting this to be one of those enormous coffee table jobs with glossy photographs and microscopic text but this is actually a ‘proper’ book compiled of 500-odd word biographies of the drivers Henry counts among the top 100.

A few thing struck me as odd about this book. First, for most of the time unless you read the cover you wouldn’t know this was a ‘top 100’ – there’s little argument about why one driver appears above another.

Most of the passages are straight biographies but occasional ones focus almost entirely on a single season of a driver’s career (like Jenson Button’s) and others miss out recent years. Several drivers from the pre-Formula 1 era are included as well.

But if you take the book for what it is – brief biographies of some of F1’s greatest drivers – you’ll probably enjoy it. Not a bad gift idea for a new F1 fan. Those who already know their Rosemeyers from their Raikkonens may find it a bit lightweight.

Icon Books
ISBN 978-1840468-94-6

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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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23 comments on “The Top 100 F1 Drivers of All Time – Alan Henry, 2008”

  1. Having had a look at this book yesterday it seems like it would get lost among the many other “Best Driver” compilations. There’s nothing in it that sets it above its rivals. There’s also not enough insight to hold your interest if you know a bit about F1 already.

  2. TommyBellingham
    2nd March 2008, 13:24

    F1 racing are doing the 100 greatest drivers of all time. Did anyone get the email about voting for it? Will be interesting to see what the turn out is

  3. Good to point out that this work may be helpful for new F1 fans- such as myself- and not very interesting to those who know the sport well already.

    Indeed, if this is mostly a snapshot of many drivers in the sport, perhaps the title and cover photo are just part of the PR work to sell the book. After all, even being new to the sport, I would seriously question putitng Hamilton on the cover if this were truly reflective of the 100 greatest drivers in the history of F1.

  4. I know you can’t reveal it, but you got me thinking about a Top 10 list without Schumacher… obviously I would include him on my personal list, but let me try to point ten drivers that could be greater than him, and why:

    1 – Alain Prost
    2 – Ayrton Senna
    3 – Nelson Piquet

    All of them were multiple champions against stronger opponents (including one another, besides Lauda and Mansell) than Schumi had in his way…

    4 – Juan Manuel Fangio – a multiple champion, that didn’t face an opposition as strong as in the 80’s, but raced when staying alive longer enough to grab five titles was itself a huge merit…

    5 – Alberto Ascari – First back-to-back champion, who died before having the chance to be another Fangio, but, during his two-year reign, was the most dominant driver ever, even more than Schumacher…

    6 – Niki Lauda – If Schumacher impressed me by healing fast from a broken leg in 1999, if Hakkinen surprised me for recovering from a coma to become a double champion, Lauda deserves all laurels for, after almost dying trapped in a burning car, coming back to win the title at the following year (1977) and, later, a third and last one (1984).

    7 – Rudolf Caracciola – Since he included the 1930s European Grand Prix Championship years… the first german racing driver to become a national hero, three times champion, when staying alive that long with top performances was even more impressive than in the 1950s

    8 – Emerson Fittipaldi
    9 – Nigel Mansell

    Those two could have won more title than they did, the first because of a dumb team move, that ruined five years as a potential championship contender, the second because of a mix of poor luck and wilder than he should postures. But both proved their value and versatility by winning Indycar Series Championships when they were as competitive as Formula 1.

    10 – Jack Brabham – On the list not for his three titles, but for being the only world-championship winning driver and constructor at the same year (1966)…

  5. Schumacher not in the top 100? Thats the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Wait,no. Including Raikonen,Hamilton and Jenson in the top 100 is more ridiclous. Enough said.

  6. Oops, typo error! Schumi is in the top 100 but not in the top ten. He is only the greatest, ever!

    1. Second or third greatest, actually. There has never been, nor ever will be, another Nuvolari. And in second place is Fangio, whose versatility is beyond compare.

  7. And a bit of a cheat, too…..

  8. I dont really know much about this stuff but from what i do know, Jim Clark, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Schumacher and Hakkinnen would have to be mine.

  9. Got to agree with Steve, Jim Clark should be in there. Even Jackie Stewart thought of him as a hero, and he’s no mug. Don’t forget, he won at the Indy 500 as well as in F1. Glad Schumacher is not in the 10, too many instances of cheating, starting with deliberately crashing into Hill in Australia to win his first title. Not a very pleasant man, despite being a very good driver.

  10. To my opinion, the top 5 five are:
    1.- FANGIO: 5 times world champion with 4 different teams in 7 complete seasons. Won in almost 50% of the races he started. He had very hard competition: Farina, Moss, Brooks, Hawthorne, Ascari, Fagioli, all of them excellent drivers. He stunned the racing world with his win in Nurburgring 1957 in spectacular fashion. Cars at that time did not were much different one to another and had no safety devices (neither did the tracks). They did not produce high g-forces but were extremely hard to control and to walk out of them alive after a spin, contact, collision or mechanical failure. GP races lasted more than 3 hours.. for those who think they were not demanding. Fangio was 39 in his first F1 season. He retired at 47.
    2.- CLARK: Made pole in 45% of his starts. Could have won much more GPs if it wasn’t for his Lotus reliability problems. He won 4 races in 1967, Hulme won only 2 to claim the championship that year. Won 3 times in 1966 vs. Surtees championship 2 wins. He would’ve been 4 times WC under the so called “Medal System” recently proposed by Ecclestone. In his 72 starts he scored points in 40 races with 22 DNFs.. Only 2 of these DNFs were due to accidents or spins. He droved like a surgeon would operate. Raced “beast” cars, with no down force and powerful engines used for years to come. The best car-control driver in history. Best races: Monza 1967 and Indy 500 1965 (among many others). He died prematurely at the prime of his career.
    3.- SENNA: His level of driving reached spiritual heights, as described by himself. He was a machine programmed to win no matter what. His mission: to defeat the best driver at that time: Prost!. At the start of races, you can see drivers wondering around their cars in the starting grid, giving interviews, talking with their engineers. Senna always stayed in his car with his eyes closed focusing on his next masterpiece. His pure desire of winning at all cost is his most powerful strength, thou his most criticized aspect. He claimed to have a sort of ‘divine right’ to win. That made him very determined, but very careless towards his other drivers in the same track. He had a lot of contacts, some of them unfair, like the one with Nannini in Hungary 1990 for 2nd place. Or the one with Nakajima while being on the lead and trying to lap him in Brazil 1990. Not to mention his WC-deciding contacts with Prost. Once interviewed by Stewart, the Scot questioned his aggressive driving. Senna responded with irritation saying that it’s part of racing if you have the determination to win. He would’ve been my #1 driver if it wasn’t for his selfishness. A WC driver cannot be #1 after claiming he collided an opponent in purpose to win the title, despite of the past circumstances (at least Schumacher said his accident with Hill in Adelaide ’94 was unintentional). Being interview by ESPN about his 1990 title minutes after his collision with Prost, Senna said: “It’s not the best feeling at all, is it?”.. He worn himself out so much by his conflict with Prost that it may seem that he was not enjoying driving anymore, in fact it made him almost bitter. But that conflict also made him faster and fueled his success hunger. Senna had a hot head, but also had the best pair of hands any steering wheel has ever been embraced with. Would have been 5+ WC if it wasn’t for his shocking death that made him an instant legend. Best drive: All his poles and GP of Europe 1993.
    4.- SCHUMACHER: Very fast, very lucky. He finished in the podium in 2 out of every 3 races he started and won in more than a third of his starts. Well, he has all the records, enough said.. He did his job with excellence and race to perfection cars that were really a privilege to race with. But when he was under pressure, he did not was at the heights of expectations. Villenueve, Aloso and Hakkinen proove this point. He was not the cleanest of drivers either.. Ask Damon Hill in Australia 1994 or Villennueve in Jerez 1997 or any other driver in Monaco 2006. I don’t recall seeing a really good overtaking maneuver from his part (maybe until Brazil 2006) but boy do I remember him being passed in the most spectacular fashion by Villenueve, Montoya and Hakkinen (!!!!).. Schumacher knew how to take advantage of his opportunities, but any winning driver may have done the same. Yes, he was very fast and very consistent. His biggest strength: Concentration and physical fitness.. not to mention an indestructible Ferrari that did not know how to fail. An automatic winning combination. He’s biggest accomplishment was getting the job done. He does have the credit of making Ferrari WC after 20 years of failures. But, was Ferrari successful thanks to his driving?.. or was Schumacher successful thanks to the Ferraris he drove?? Heyday: When Gachot was thrown into jail and Eddie Jordan requested Schumacher services for the Belgian GP in 1991.
    5.- PROST: The brain. He could do with his brain what he could not accomplish with his hands. And by the way, he had a lot of talent in his hands. He had non-driving skills that, for starters, would give him the fastest car in the grid thanks to his setups and strategy. Excluding the pre-MP4 McLaren, he won races for every team he drove for. He had a perfect communication with the car, he knew exactly how to read its behavior in the track and how to translate it to his mechanics. He was not the most skilled driver in history, not a Clark nor a Senna talent by all means. But he knew how to take advantage of his intelligence to have results in races.. yes races, not qualifying, not fastest lap of a race, entire races!! A concept he understood only to the same level as Fangio and Stewart. A mature-controlled driver. He had the capacity not only to know what was going on with his car, but also what was going on with his competitor’s cars and strategy. His dark side: Not wanting to race in unfavorable conditions, like when he waved his hand asking for the race to be finished in a soaking GP of Monaco 1984, or when he withdrew from Australia in 1989 under similar conditions. Not to mention his contact with Senna in Japan 1989 or when he declared that he could not be as fast as Senna in 1988. Pity! His greatest drive: Mexico 1990.

  11. That’s a very thorough top five, Eugene! I agree with you about Prost’s best drive though I think that’s a real under-rated gem of a performance. It’s easy to get distracted by Mansell and Berger’s battle for second when you think of that race though!

  12. Eugenio has the right top five list. That list shows what made them the best drivers in the world. I would also include Tazio Nuvolari, Alberto Ascari, Rudolf Caracciola, and other drivers fro the era.

    1. Thank you for mentioning the best driver to ever hold a wheel ~ Tazio Nuvolari

  13. There’s no doubt that Schuey had some amazing skills back in the day. Senna still gets my vote for top though!..

  14. Its the same **** every time. It DOESNT MATTER who was the best. It cant be measured unless they drove in the same era and in the same car etc, but they never did. Therefore its all opinions and its fine that ppl have theirs, but some dude writing a book about it and not including “in my private opinion” in front of it, is just plain propaganda. Hope it wont sell at all.
    My top10 would be Caricciola, Fangio, Senna, Nuvelari, Schumi, Moss, Clark, Stewart, Mansell and Lauda. In no particular order though my alltime favourite was Caricciola.

  15. Mine would be (after some serious thought):

    1- Fangio
    2- Clark
    3- Ascari
    3- Senna
    4- Prost
    5- Schumacher
    5- Moss
    7- Stewart
    8- Lauda
    9- Piquet
    10- Brabham

    I left Caracciola, Nuvolari, Rosemeyer, etc out because they didn’t race in “proper” Formula 1. This was after their time, so…..
    Piquet and Brabham were very difficult decisions, because none of them were too spectacular and didn’t have too many fans around but, hey, no-one can’t say 3-time world champions aren’t really good!. After my top-ten, the positions start to become more blurry…..
    Alan Henry’s list makes me laugh, not because I don’t consider Moss a great great driver, but because his choices are quite capricious….. But I want to thank him for putting Patrick Tambay in no.66: I always loved Patrick and thought he could have been champion without so much luck and bad decisions. 1983 should have been his if not for his Ferrari breaking-up while leading at Germany, Austria and Britain, plus other problems in Holland and SouthAfrica and Rosberg taking him out of the lead at Long Beach. A truly underrated (gentleman) driver……..

    Getting back to the Top Ten, there’s no doubt for me: Fangio all the way……

  16. Apart from Michael Schumacher not in the top 10, it is very weird that Fangio is behind both Moss and Ascari. I believe Stirling Moss even admitted himself that Fangio was in a different league. He only managed to beat him fair ans square once, at Silverstone in … 1955 or so?

  17. Trevor Davies
    24th December 2013, 1:58

    Other sites rate Moss as Number 1!

  18. Trevor Davies
    28th December 2013, 8:13

    Why isn’t Moss at the top of the list?

    1. I rate Moss very highly as a driver, especially when the odds were stacked against him.
      But (and there’s always one!) he made terrible decisions when it came to cars, switching all over the shop in almost every season.
      Driving a Cooper at one GP then going over to a P25 BRM at the next is strange, as is stuffing a BRM engine into a Cooper …… he was overly patriotic and it cost him a Drivers Championship.
      Of course, he excelled at every facet of motorsport, so he is one of the true ‘Greats’.

  19. Trevor Davies
    20th January 2014, 11:28

    25 Devonshire Lane

  20. Trevor Davies
    20th January 2014, 11:31

    You might like to consider the staggeringly versatility of Sir Stirling Crauford Moss – Mille Miglia, F1 and Rallies …

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