BBC’s Top 20 F1 drivers ever (list)


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    You know what?… I like the Champion of Champions results here on F1 Fanatic more than the BBC list. It reflects my personal opinion more. In fact, I think it reflects overall assessment better as a whole, because it is international, not exclusively British.

    Edit: No offense whatsoever though towards the British. It is only that all nations naturally tend to over- or underemphasise certain drivers’ certain performances.


    Senna number one, no surprises there. I would not have put Fangio second myself, but I’m quite happy he is this high up the list, as it gives a lot of recognition. In the 1950s, Fangio actually had the problem that no other driver could match his level. In the seasons 1950-1957, he was never really outclassed: he should have won the championship in 1950 (he won every race in which he didn’t retire) and in 1953 he was the best Maserati driver by far.

    You can compare his situation to what Vettel is experiencing today: he has never been challenged by any driver. For both situation you could ‘blame’ their cars for them getting not the recognition they deserve. But the drivers know: both Fangio and Vettel were/are respected by their colleagues.

    As a sidenote: the BBC list is completely irrelevant, as it is a case of comparing apples and oranges. Formula 1 anno 1950 was a matter of dragging a car with way too much power for its chassis around a bunch of public roads. F1 became more sophisticated over time, and each era had its own unique challenges. Therefore one can conclude that Fangio was the best driver of the 1950s, Clark of the 1960s, Stewart the 1970s and so forth. So.. this list reflects the appreciation of a certain F1 fan for drivers, but cannot be considered as more than that. At least in my opinion.


    @andae23 I kind of disagree. I think, from a driver technique point of view, the aim always remains the same: finding the most grip overall in every millisecond. The factor which determine this process are also practically the same: four tyres, chassis weight (distribution), mechanical grip provided by suspension, track grip, etc. (I think the most significant change, which affected driver technique, was the appearence of aero grip.) The assets of the driver are also the same: steering lock, gears, wheel, pedals, etc.

    The only thing that has changed, and changed extremely, are the weights of these elements. While by no means I am stating that driving a current F1 car is the same as driving an 1960s F1 car, there are some fundamental things, which did remained the same. Just get in GPL and an F1 car in iRacing (to take two state-of-art physics engine from the same designer, Dave Kaemmer) – of course, it is different, but not THAT different, I think.

    I think the drivers continuous strive for grip and the sense(s) tapping the environment for signals from its influencing factors are comparable and therefore drivers themselves are comparable.


    If I may take the middle ground, I do agree, @atticus-2, that the basic objectives of the driver are the same – manage and seek out grip in order to fling the car around a lap as fast as humanly possible. Granted, the fundamentals of each car remain the same – peddles to accelerate and brake, a steering wheel to maneuver, gears to change.

    However, @andae23 raises a valid point that the base characteristics of the F1 car have changed so much over the years that it is very difficult to compare them. For instance, the tail-happy 1950s F1 cars required heaps of opposite lock to even turn, had a manual gearbox with clutch pedal, and offered very little in the way of grip, mechanical or aero, thanks to skinny tyres and very basic bodywork.

    Conversely, the F1 cars of, for example, the early 1990s, were far more stable, requiring comparatively less driver input due to power steering, had a semi-automatic gearbox with push-button clutch, and offered loads of mechanical grip from slick tyres and active suspension, and more importantly, aerodynamic stability. The acceleration and deceleration forces are wildly different, as is the driving style needed to get the most out of the car.

    In essence, the modern F1 car requires a very different skill-set to extract the maximum out of it than the 1950s F1 car. Put, say, Fangio in a modern car, and he would inevitably struggle to acclimatize to paddle shifting, breakneck acceleration and cornering-g, and working all the knobs and dials on the steering wheel. Put, say, Vettel in a 1950s car, and he would struggle to get a hold of it, due to its slithering, edge-of-control nature being so different to what he usually drives. Hence, I still think it’s very difficult to compare drivers across different eras.


    My list:
    1. Jim Clark
    2. Fangio
    3. Michael Schumacher
    4. Alain Prost
    5. Keke Rosberg
    6. Jochen Rindt
    7. Gilles Villeneuve
    8. Jochen Rindt
    9. Jackie Stewart
    10. Mika Hakkinen
    11. Sebastian Vettel
    12. Fernando Alonso
    13. Lewis Hamilton
    14. Graham Hill
    15. Jean Alesi
    16. Ayrton Senna
    17. Niki lauda
    18. James Hunt
    19. Stirling Moss
    20. Wolfgang Von Tripps.


    I respect your opinion, but if you were to take that list over to YouTube and post it there, in the comment section you’d be crushed (I repeat: crushed) by an army of Senna fans. :P


    Just out of interest, why is Senna so highly regarded?


    He was a fast driver I guess, a great qualifier. All the movies and documentaries around him have made him a larger than life star…

    I don’t rate Senna #1 either, but as low as 16th seems very controversial.


    @xjr15jaaag – I can think of a few reasons, most of these coming from the Senna documentary:

    – Commentators always spoke of how Senna would always “dance” with the car, making it snake around even on the straights or in mid-corner so as to extract the maximum amount of grip from the track. It’s a very distinctive driving style.

    – He was widely regarded as a rain master. He first grand prix victory came in heavy rain and by a one-minute margin. He out-paced Alain Prost in Monaco 1984, driving an unfavoured Toleman in the rain. He went from 5th to 1st on the opening lap at a damp Donington Park in 1993. Where other drivers would lose traction and spin, Senna would just keep on going.

    – His one-lap pace was impressive. Until Michael Schumacher, Senna held the record for most career pole positions, 65 in all.

    – There exists a great deal of mystique surrounding his career. He would speak of channeling God when driving to the limits of his ability. He could be very cruel (ramming Prost off track in Suzuka) or humane (stopping to help track marshals extract Erik Comas from a wrecked car). Not a popular theory, this one, but I think his untimely passing also added to this “aura”.


    @xjr15jaaag Why do you rank Jean Alesi higher than Senna and Stirling Moss?

    Also, Jochen Rindt appears twice on your list ;)


    @xjr15jaaag – Also couldn’t help but notice Nelson Piquet is missing from the list. Surely three championships has to count for something?


    I’m sorry but that is a terrible list. You are entitled to your opinion, and you may not like Senna but there is absolutely, categorically no way he should be that low. Not when you have Prost at number 4 and Senna was arguably the better driver in their years together(I know Kingshark disagrees, but this is mine and lot of other people’s view)

    And Jean Alesi, someone who won only one race in 200 odd starts ahead of Moss and Lauda, and given their absence Jack Brabham, Nelson Piquet, Alberto Ascari, Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti, Kimi Raikkonen, Nigel Mansell – I could probably name 50 better drivers than Alesi. James Hunt and Wolfgang von Trips? Keke Rosberg at no.5? Come on man.



    I could agree with the fact that Senna is slightly overrated, but he still deserves a spot in the top 10.. somewhere close to Prost.

    I do not know how anyone can take your list seriously though… you have Keke Rosberg in at #5 , Rindt in at #6 and #8 ?!? Both Keke and Jochen are ranked higher than Stewart, Alonso, Senna and Lauda !!!

    There is no Ascari on your list, but instead you have Graham Hill and wolfgang Von tripps.

    BBCs list might be slightly off… but yours was in a league of its own.


    Can someone write the full list?


    20. Jochen Rindt
    19. Graham Hill
    18. Jack Brabham
    17. Emerson Fittipaldi
    16. Nelson Piquet
    15. Lewis Hamilton
    14. Mika Hakkinen
    13. Nigel Mansell
    12. Gilles Villeneuve
    11. Alberto Ascari
    10. Fernando Alonso
    9. Niki Lauda
    8. Sebastian Vettel
    7. Jackie Stewart
    6. Stirling Moss
    5. Alain Prost
    4. Michael Schumacher
    3. Jim Clark
    2. Juan Manuel Fangio
    1. Ayrton Senna

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