Is Lewis Hamilton the Greatest F1 Driver of All Time?

Posted on Friday, 24 January 2020

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Across many different sports, popular media says we are in the “GOAT” era. From Tom Brady in American football, to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in football, and the one and only Steve Smith in Test Cricket, the title of Greatest of All Time is now commonplace in sports discussion.

A recent addition to this debate is Great Britain’s Lewis Hamilton, who last year won his 6th Formula 1 world title in dominant fashion.

Does his recent record make Lewis Hamilton the greatest Formula 1 driver of all time?

Ahead of the new F1 season, which kicks off here in Australia in March, let’s try and find out!

Who are the other greatest F1 drivers?

Greatness is ultimately subjective, but statistics are regularly cited by fans assess superiority.

Formula 1 has been gifted with some of the greatest drivers in history. The debate of who is the greatest includes many drivers spanning the history of the sport, but most lists feature the following seven former (and current) world champions.

  • Michael Schumacher (Germany)
  • Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain)
  • Ayrton Senna (Brazil)
  • Fernando Alonso (Spain)
  • Juan Manuel Fangio (Argentina)
  • Alain Prost (France)
  • Sebastian Vettel (Germany)

The other greatest F1 drivers

In case we missed your choice as the Formula 1 GOAT, here are some honourable mentions who can legitimately claim to be among the best ever.

  • Niki Lauda (Austria – 3 world championships)
  • Mika Hakkinen (Finland – 2 world championships)
  • Jim Clark (Great Britain – 2 world championships)
  • Jackie Stewart (Great Britain – 3 world championships)
  • Sterling Moss (Great Britain – 16 Grand Prix wins)
  • Alberto Ascari (Italy – 2 world championships)

Has Lewis Hamilton won the most Formula 1 titles?

Michael Schumacher is the most successful driver ever to compete, with 7 titles over a supremely dominant 10 year period.

Lewis Hamilton is catching up, having just secured his 6th title with Mercedes in 2019. Crucially, the 35 year old Brit is still competing, and some fans expect him to at least equal the all-time record before he retires.

With 5 world titles of his own, the late-great Juan Manuel Fangio of Argentina dominated the sport throughout the 1950s in an F1 career that was relatively short.

Alain Prost of France chalked up 4 titles in a 13 year career and his famous rivalry with Ayrton Senna, who is regarded by many fans as the most gifted and exciting racer to ever compete.

Sebastian Vettel, along with Hamilton, is the only other driver here still competing – with 4 championship titles. The German dominated the track early on but has found himself chasing Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in recent seasons.

2 championship wins doesn’t tell the full story of Fernando Alonso’s F1 career. The Spaniard is widely considered by fans and pundits alike to be one of the greatest natural drivers to ever fasten an F1 helmet.

Will Lewis Hamilton Catch Up With Schumacher’s World Titles?

Michael Schumacher’s championship wins took place over a 15 year stint. He would return for a few seasons at Mercedes in 2010, but without much success.

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have the years, and the driving ability, to meet and even break the 7 title record in time. Hamilton himself is odds on favourite to match this record in 2020.

Juan Manuel Fangio’s staggering career ended with retirement in 1958 – how many more titles would he have won had he continued?

Ayrton Senna had three world championships at the time of his tragic death at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994; many fans and commentators believe the Brazilian genius would have won many more titles.

Which Formula 1 drivers have the most wins?

Once again, Michael Schumacher is statistically the most successful driver, with 91 Grand Prix wins to his name.

Before Lewis Hamilton’s dominant stint with Mercedes began, many fans and analysts suspected this record would never be broken. As of the start of 2020, however, Hamilton is only 7 wins behind him on 84. It is highly probable that Hamilton will match or even surpass this total during the new season.

With 53 wins, Sebastian Vettel has recently overtaken Juan Manuel Fangio’s tally of 51 Grand Prix victories. The 32 year-old German certainly has time to catch up with Hamilton and Schumacher, but will his car let him?

Ayrton Senna’s win record of 41 cements his legacy as one of the greatest ever. But could he have won 50, maybe even 60? Few would have bet against Senna becoming statistically one of the greatest of all time had he not tragically lost his life in 1994.

Fernando Alonso’s plaudits will tell you his win tally does not reflect his raw talent in racing. His later years were instead characterised by regularly over-achieving through incredible drives in his below-par McLaren.

Which Formula 1 Drivers Have The Best Win Rates?

Lewis Hamilton is on track to surpass Michael Schumacher’s once unbeatable grand prix win total. In fact, he has won 1 more race in his 13 completed seasons than the German had at the same point in his career. If Hamilton can keep winning, he stands a good chance of setting a new all-time record.

So Who is the Greatest F1 Driver?

Michael Schumacher is the most successful Formula 1 driver of all time. But was he the greatest driver?

One of the biggest criticisms of Formula 1 is the dominance of individual teams over extended periods. Schumacher, Hamilton and Vettel’s dominant eras all coincide with periods of on-track supremacy for their cars.

How much more dominant would Ayrton Senna or Fernando Alonso have been had they driven Schumacher’s Ferrari between 2000-04? Would Sebastian Vettel now be an 8-time World Champion had he moved to Mercedes in 2015? What would Fangio have been able to do in a modern Formula 1 car? The questions are endless.

There will always be a debate about who is greatest of all time. Without being able to place all the contenders in the same car, in the same year, to duke it out on the same track – we simply cannot know the answer for sure.

What we do know is that Lewis Hamilton now has golden opportunity to become statistically the most successful Formula 1 driver of all time.

In terms of closing a debate on who is the GOAT, that’s probably as close as we can ever get.

The first step to finding out takes place in Melbourne this March!

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