F1’s greatest winners (F1 in numbers)

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Drivers who won the most Grands Prix (inset: Schumacher's 91st F1 win)

Since Giuseppe Farina’s victory in the first ever F1 world championship race at Silverstone in 1950, Formula 1 drivers have been locked in battle to see who can be the fastest for the longest, and win more races than anybody else.

These are the seven drivers who have held the title of F1’s most prolific winner at the end of each season – from Farina to Schumacher.

The first three champions

Giuseppe Farina, the first world champion, scored three wins in 1950, a tally matched by Juan Manuel Fangio. But the following year Fangio left Farina behind as he claimed his first title.

Fangio was temporarily overhauled by Alberto Ascari who dominated with Ferrari in 1952 and 1953. But in 1954 Fangio drew level with Ascari’s total once again.

The Argentinean driver dominated the sport until his retirement in 1958, racking up five world championships. His 24th and final victory was also his masterpiece – recovering a deficit of over a minute at the Nurburgring to beat Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins.

The flying Scotsmen

Jim Clark won two world championships for Lotus, and with better reliability would surely have had more titles and race wins. Late in 1967 in Mexico City he matched Fangio’s record, and began what could well have been the march to a third title with another win at Kyalami, South Africa, in 1968. But we’ll never know how far he could have pushed the record, for he was killed at the Hockenheimring in an F2 race later that year.

It fell to another brilliant Scotsman, Jackie Stewart, to take up the challenge. He amassed 27 victories in 99 starts, retiring on the eve of what would have been his 100th after team mate Francois Cevert’s fatal accident at Watkins Glen.

Stewart’s reign as the most prolific winner of all time is the longest to date at 14 years. The late 1970s and early 1980s saw several one-time champions like James Hunt, Mario Andretti, Jody Scheckter and Keke Rosberg many of whom spent only a few seasons with a top team, and fell short of Stewart’s total.

Prost and Schumacher

The first of many: Prost wins at Dijon in 1981

But Alain Prost mastered the art of being in the right team at the right time. Not only did he beat Jackie Stewart’s record at the 1987 Portuguese Grand Prix, but by the time he retired from F1 in 1993 he had almost doubled the benchmark tally to 51 wins. Without stiff opposition from the likes of Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell (72 wins between them), Prost could have gone even further.

Michael Schumacher had just two wins to his name when Prost left Formula 1. But with the French master leaving, Senna losing his life the following year, and Mansell bowing out in 1995, suddenly there was a power vacuum at the top of Formula 1. Allied to unrivalled strategist Ross Brawn, whether at Benetton or Ferrari, Schumacher was a relentless winning machine.

Still it took him until the 2001 Hungarian Grand Prix to match Prost’s record. But he kept the torrent of victories flowing for another five years – with some stemming of the flow in 2005 when his Ferrari-Bridgestone package proved less competitive – before taking his 91st and final win at Shanghai in 2006.

Aiming for 100

All these drivers owed some portion of their success to the quality of their machinery. Some faced stiffer opposition than others, and later drivers had the advantage of there being twice as many events on a modern F1 calendar as there were in the 1950s, to say nothing of more reliable cars.

The inevitable question is, who will be the next driver to push the record further – and can they take it as far as 100 victories?

If so, it will likely be a long time before we find out. Fernando Alonso has the most wins of any active driver with 21. Assuming a 17-race calendar is the norm in future, it would take him until the 13th race of 2013 to equal Schumacher record if he won every race between now and then??

Read more about F1’s most prolific winners

Images (C) Ferrari spa, Michelin

Author information

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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21 comments on “F1’s greatest winners (F1 in numbers)”

  1. the new force india livery is Orange and Brown !!!!

    check out their new site theme(burgundy is replaced by orange) !!!!!!!!!!!!


    Sorry for going off topoc :-)

    1. Heyyyyy the VJM02 pic are out


      its same as the one on the calender

    2. wow, there are self proclaimed winners, they got the trophy for the proof :-D

  2. I dispute claims of a power vacuum. Schumacher’s biggest rival was not a driver but a designer: Adrian Newy.

    1. Perhaps Keith can do a Newey vs. Schumacher graph? You do bring up a good point that Newey and Schumacher were battling for the title during most years (1994-2003). Only when Alonso came did he break Newey’s challenge to Schumi.

  3. Something tells me I dont think you’ll need to do one of these graphs again for a while :P

  4. Whewbacca the Cookie
    28th February 2009, 16:19

    I doubt that any one driver will be as dominant as Schumi in the near future (perhaps ever even). Schumi was a great driver but also lucky to have the best car and not the strongest of set of rivals on track. Had Senna lived past ’94 things might have been different today. Same hypothesis goes for Prost and Hakkinen being a few years younger by the time Schumi started racing… But these are all moot points now :)

  5. Hamilton is the one with the best chances, since he hadn’t “waste” a season in a bad car yet, and won’t, unless McLaren falls off pace. On the other hand, Hamilton has had stiff opposition (Alonso, Massa, Raikkonen) until now, and the same scenario is set for the next few years. From 2008 on, he was lucky to have an underperforming team-mate…

  6. theRoswellite
    1st March 2009, 17:28

    Thanks Keith, nice article, especially in this last month before we get into the season.

    Since I’ve been paying attention to F1, 1959…, no period was so “dominated” by one driver as was Clark’s years (’62-’68). I don’t think any other driver even felt they could match his talent during that time. He was beaten in races and championships, but no one was confused about who the best driver was, and in a way I’ve not experienced except during Senna’s most dominant period.

    Certainly Prost possessed a kind of dialectic precision which could seem a bit unearthly,

    1. theRoswellite
      1st March 2009, 17:34

      ……..sorry my cat walked on the computer……

      Oh, and for me Mr. Schumacher spoiled his chances to be mentioned in this company by lacking a certain moral rectitude.

  7. In my opinion not the absolute number of wins count, but the number of wins relative to the number of events a driver competed in counts.

    An absolute comparison is not fair to those who competed in less events because there were not so many Grand Prix in a year as there are now.

    That gives us a whole new list:

    1. Fangio 47.0% (24 victories in 51 races)
    2. Ascari 38.2 (13 – 34)
    3. Schumacher 36.4% (91 – 250)
    4. Clark 34.2% (25 – 73)
    5. Stewart 27.0% (29 – 100)
    6. Prost 25.4% (51 – 201)
    7. Senna 25.3% (41 – 162)

    Alonso scores only 17% (21 – 123)

    This list tells us that Fangio was the most dominant driver of all time, followed by Ascari (in the same era !!), Schumacher and Jim Clark.

    1. Ignoring Lee Wallard, of course – one of my favourite F1 stats 8-)

    2. Since none of the regular F1 drivers (except for Ascari, once in 1952) participated in de Indianapolis 500 and none of the regular Indy 500 drivers competed in de regular F1 events during the years that the race counted for the F1 championship in my opinion they don’t count as F1 races.

      The Indy 500 was only on the F1 calendar to give the term World Championship more meaning because of a race outside Europe.

      But I agree that it is an interesting statistic.

  8. @Whewbacca

    Remember it took Schumi Nearly 5 years before he won a championship with Ferrari. He most certainly did not have the best machinery from ’96 – 2000.

  9. The fact that Prost, Senna, and Mansell evacuated about the time of Schumacher’s entry is an interesting insight. Senna dueled Prost dueled Mansell duled Piquet. Stewart also suffered some good competition. And they all dueled unreliability. Schumacher dueled a parade of great but never truly historic drivers: Villeneuve, Hakkinen, Coulthard, D. Hill. It was not until Alonso got a good car (and whenever Raikkonen had a reliable one) that we saw again a true phenomenon challenge Schumacher. And it was only Alsonso who proved to have the talent and cool to put it to him under any condition.

  10. Chris Miller
    1st May 2009, 12:06

    Has there been any female Grand Prix drivers? If, what was here name and did she win any races?

    1. Yes, more than one, and no.

    2. Italian Maria Teresa De Filippis entered 3 races in 1958 with Scuderia Centro Sud’s Maserati and DNQ in another one. Also failed qualification in Monaco 1959 driving a Porsche.

      Italian Lella Lombardi was the only woman scoring world championship points, at the 1975 Spanish Grand Prix in her March. She entered 12 Grand Prix in her career and failed to qualify in another four.

      Also in the seventies British Divina Galica failed qualifications in her only three attempts.

      Same for Italian Giovanna Amati in 1992: 3 attempts and 3 DNQ

      I can’t remember of other F1 female drivers. Waiting for Danica :-)

  11. What was the maximum number of competitors to participate in F1’s history?

    1. 39 in 1989, I think, though only 26 could start the race. One-third of the entry were eliminated in pre-qualifying and qualifying.

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