1. Juan Manuel Fangio
Juan Manuel Fangio, was an Argentine racing car driver. Fangio dominated the first decade of Formula One racing, winning the World Drivers’ Championship five times – a record which stood for 47 years until beaten by Michael Schumacher!
Fangio is considered the gold standard, the original racing driver, the all-time great, a towering figure that cast a shadow on every F1 driver that drove after him. He ranked in the top 2 of every F1 World Championship he participated in except his last (where he only took part in two of the first five grands prix). Even more impressive is that he made his F1 exploits in his 40s. He is also the only driver to win F1 titles with four different teams and still holds the record for the most percentage wins and percentage pole positions. A truly unforgettable and outstanding driver!
2. Mario Andretti
An Italian-American race car legend who transcended motorsport. A household name all over the world, Mario Andretti is one of only two drivers to win races in Formula One, Indy Car, World Sportscar Championship and NASCAR. He also won races in midget cars and sprint cars. During his illustrious career, Mario Andretti won the 1978 Formula One World Championship and four Indy Car titles. To date, he remains the only driver ever to win the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500 and the Formula One World Championship, and the only driver to have won a race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Formula One, and an Indianapolis 500. Mario Andretti remains the last American to have won a Formula One race victory—back in 1978 at the Dutch Grand Prix.
Mario Andretti is also the only person to be named United States Driver of the Year in three separate decades (1967, 1978 and 1984). He was also one of only three drivers to win races on road courses, paved ovals and dirt tracks in one season, a feat that he accomplished four different times. For all these feats, Mario Andretti is considered the definitive race car driver by most historians and critics.
3. Tazio Nuvolari
Tazio Giorgio Nuvolari was an Italian racing driver. He first raced motorcycles and then concentrated on sports cars and single-seaters. He was known as ‘Il Mantovano Volante’ (The Flying Mantuan) and nicknamed ‘Nivola’. His victories—72 major races, 150 in all included 24 Grands Prix, five Coppa Cianos, two Mille Miglias, two Targa Florios, two RAC Tourist Trophies, a Le Mans 24-hour race, and a European Championship in Grand Prix racing. Ferdinand Porsche called him “the greatest driver of the past, the present, and the future.” That tells you all you need to know. Legend.
4. Ayrton Senna
Ayrton Senna da Silva was a Brazilian racing driver who won the Formula One World Drivers’ Championship in 1988, 1990 and 1991. Senna began his motorsport career in karting, moved up to open-wheel racing in 1981, and won the 1983 British Formula Three Championship. He made his Formula One debut with Toleman-Hart in 1984, before moving to Lotus-Renault the following year and winning six Grands Prix over the next three seasons. In 1988, he joined Frenchman Alain Prost at McLaren-Honda. Between the two of them, they won all but one of the 16 Grands Prix that year, and Senna claimed his first World Championship. Prost claimed the championship in 1989, and Senna his second and third championships in 1990 and 1991.
Senna has often been voted as the best and most influential Formula One driver of all time in various motorsport polls. He was recognised for his qualifying speed over one lap, and from 1989 until 2006 he held the record for most pole positions. He holds a record six victories at the Monaco Grand Prix and is the fifth-most successful driver of all time in terms of race wins.
5. Lewis Hamilton
With the title of this article called ‘Top 10 best racing drivers of all time’ It would be wrong to not include the current Formula 1 World Champion on this list. Based on his incredible track-record, Lewis Hamilton has cemented himself as a Formula 1 legend. After going six years without a title after 2008, this year he took home his six Formula 1 World Champion trophy. With an impressive 73 wins and 83 pole positions we are only going to watch this increase over the next few years.
6. Michael Schumacher
Michael Schumacher didn’t just dominate his era, he rewrote the history of Formula One while he was at it and launched himself adamantly into the pantheons of the greatest to ever drive a F1 car. Schumacher is the only driver in history (to date) to win seven Formula One World Championships, five of which he won consecutively. The most successful driver in the history of the sport, Schumacher holds the records for the most World Championship titles (7), the most Grand Prix wins (91), the most fastest laps (77) and the most races won in a single season (13), and according to the official Formula One website (Formula1.com), Schumacher was “statistically the greatest driver the sport has ever seen” at the time of his retirement from the sport.
It is argued that Schumacher played a pivotal role in taking Ferrari back to its old lofty heights and beyond to make it the most successful team in Formula One history. Between 2000-2004, the Schumacher-Ferrari tsunami blew the competition out of the water becoming the only driver to finish in the top 3 in every race of a season in F1 history, and making over two dozen records in total.
7. Niki Lauda
The Austrian driver had exceptional success in Formula One. He was Champion driver three times and is the only driver to have been champion for both Ferrari and McLaren, who were the biggest Formula One car manufacturers at the time.
Lauda started out with Formula Two in 1971 and quickly progressed to Formula One. He drove for March and BRM before settling with Ferrari, where he drove from 1974 to 1977. He won the Spanish Grand Prix and secured six pole positions and became the dominant driver in Formula One in 1976. If you’ve not watched the movie Rush, then it’s well worth a watch.
8. Alain Prost
This French intellectual embarked upon his career with a theoretical approach and won four World Championships. He had an intense rivalry with Ayrton Senna and although Senna often triumphed, statistically Prost was one of the greatest drivers of all time and is regarded as the greatest by many Formula One fans. From 1987 until 2001 he held the record for most Grand Prix victories, and is considered as one of the greatest F1 drivers ever. Prost drove carefully, in a measured way, but saved his energy for the end when he went all guns blazing. His speed was awe inspiring and his tactics heroic. His methodical, tactical approach won him the nickname, Le Professeur.
9. A.J. Foyt
A.J. Foyt (“Super Tex”) is an American retired automobile racing driver. He raced in numerous genres of motorsports. His open wheel racing includes United States Automobile Club Champ cars and midget cars. He raced stock cars in NASCAR and USAC and won several major sports car racing events. He holds the USAC career wins record with 159 victories, and the American championship racing career wins record with 67.
He is the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500 (which he won four times), the Daytona 500, the 24 Hours of Daytona, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Foyt won the International Race of Champions all-star racing series in 1976 and 1977. In the NASCAR stock car circuit, he won the 1964 Firecracker 400 and the 1972 Daytona 500. Foyt survived three major crashes that caused serious injuries, and narrowly escaped a fourth. Foyt’s success has led to induction in numerous motorsports halls of fame.
10. Richard Petty
Statistically, Richard Petty is the most accomplished driver in the history of NASCAR to date. He won the NASCAR Championship a record seven times (tied for most wins with Dale Earnhardt), and won a record 200 races during his career. Richard Petty also won the Daytona 500 a record seven times, and won a record 10 consecutive races in the 1967 season. His other accomplishments included winning a record number of pole positions (127) and over 700 Top 10 finishes in his 1,184 starts, including 513 consecutive starts from 1971 to 1989. Richard Petty was a member of the inaugural class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010. Legend
Other notable entries whilst doing our research
11. Dale Earnhardt
Dale Earnhardt, also known as The Intimidator, was an American race car driver and team owner, best known for his involvement in stock car racing for NASCAR. Earnhardt began his career in 1975 when he participated in the 1975 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway as part of the Winston Cup Series (later the Sprint Cup Series).
Considered one of the best NASCAR drivers of all time, Earnhardt won a total of 76 Winston Cup races over the course of his career, including one Daytona 500 victory in 1998. He also earned 7 NASCAR Winston Cup Championships, which is tied for the most all time with Richard Petty. His aggressive driving style earned him the nickname “The Intimidator”.
On February 18, 2001, at Daytona International Speedway, while participating in the Daytona 500, Earnhardt was involved in a last-lap crash and unfortunately died of his injuries. He has been inducted into numerous halls of fame, including the inaugural class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
12. Jimmie Johnson
Jimmie’s love of racing began when he started racing motorcycles at the age of four eventually transitioning into stock racing in 1988. Jimmie is often regarded as one of the best stock car drivers in history, and perhaps one of the best drivers in the world right now. His 83 wins and 35 poles in the NASCAR Cup series speak for themselves, not to mention the seven Cup titles that he has won in his long and distinguished racing career.
13. Jim Clark
Recognised as one of the greatest drivers in his generation, Jim Clark never seems to be mentioned as much as some other Formula 1 drivers, which is odd, because he was perhaps one of the greatest of all time. In his Formula 1 career, Clark won two world titles and achieved 25 wins, 32 podiums, and 33 pole positions, and many thought he was truly untouchable.
14. Sébastien Loeb
Loeb is a rally, racing, and rallycross driver. He competed for the Citroën World Rally Team in the World Rally Championship (WRC) and is the most successful driver in WRC history, having won the world championship a record nine times in a row. He holds several other WRC records, including most event wins, most podium finishes and most stage wins.
Besides his success in rallying, Loeb is a three-time winner at the Race of Champions, after taking home the Henri Toivonen Memorial Trophy and the title “Champion of Champions” in 2003, 2005 and 2008. In 2004, he won the Nations’ Cup for France with Jean Alesi. In 2006, he finished second in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Loeb was named the French Sportsman of the Year in 2007 and 2009, and made knight of the Legion of Honour (Légion d’honneur) in 2009. In 2012, he won the rallycross final in his first appearance at X Games XVIII. In 2018, Loeb won the Spanish round of that year’s World Rally Championship, in a rare entry six years after his retirement as a full-time rally driver.
15. Nigel Mansell
This aggressive and competitive British driver had an exciting style on the track that drew gasps of admiration from fans. He started his career in kart racing and suffered a horrendous accident in Formula Ford racing, coming perilously close to being paralyzed. However, despite being told he would never drive again, he was behind the wheel in Formula 3 when he suffered another horrific injury. He still raced on and qualified to race for Lotus in Formula One in 1980, and entry into the Austrian Grand Prix where he suffered another accident, burning himself badly.
He moved to Williams in 1985 and won eleven races in eighteen months. He moved to Ferrari in 1989 and started his career with a win in Rio. After a switch to Williams, he secured the World Championship in 1992. Nigel Mansell won both the Formula One World Championship in 1992 and the CART Indy Car World Series in 1993. He was the reigning F1 champion when he moved to CART, becoming the first person to win the CART title in his debut season, and making him the only person to hold both titles simultaneously. Legend.
16. Tom Kristensen
He holds the record for the most wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with nine, six of which were consecutive (from 2000 to 2005). He is considered by many to be the greatest driver ever to have raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, earning the nickname “Mr Le Mans”. Elsewhere Kristensen also holds the record for most wins at the 12 Hours of Sebring with a total of six.
17. Sebastian Vettel
The German driver dominated the sport between 2010 and 2013 winning his titles four years in a row, his first triumph in 2010 saw him become Formula 1’s youngest world champion. After impressing in the junior categories, Red Bull signed Vettel to their young driver programme in 1998, in 2000 he was invited to join Red Bull junior team. He was a third driver for BMW Sauber before making his big move to Toro Rosso in 2007, he impressed once again and was retained for 2008 and from then on he went from strength to strength. He won his first GP and Toro Rosso’s only win in Italy that season which no doubt earnt him the switch to the Red Bull senior team in 2009. He lost out to Jenson Button and Brawn GP in 2009 but in the 2010 season he went one better.
Despite not being top of the drivers standing for the whole of the season he won the championship at the final race in Abu Dhabi, as he finished with his fifth win of the season and became the youngest world champion in Formula 1 history. After three more titles with Red Bull he decided he needed a change and in 2014 he agreed to join Ferrari for the departing Fernando Alonso for the 2015 season. His first season with Ferrari saw him adapting to the team after being in the Red Bull programme for so long, he still managed to win three races that season which was three more than teammate Kimi Raikkonen. However since Vettel joined the team Ferrari have not been able to win either the drivers or constructors title, losing out to Mercedes each year. Both the 2017 and 2018 season has seen Vettel and Ferrari apply more pressure to Mercedes but once again the Silver Arrows reigned supreme.
It is said that the first car race was held on the day that the second car was built. Car racing has been around for centuries and has no doubt grown in popularity through the years, during this time we have seen an abundance of talented drivers on the track. Below are the drivers that we think are the best of the best, the unforgettable and the truly remarkable.
All these racing drivers are legends in their own right. No doubt you have your own opinion, who are your top 10 racing drivers of all time?
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