Ayrton Senna (Brazil)
In many people’s view the greatest ever, Senna won three championships – 1988, 1990 and 1991 – and came close several more times. He was renowned for his incredible speed and commitment, something that could bring him into conflict with other drivers. Senna began racing in go karts in Brazil in 1973, and came close to winning in his first season in F1. He did so in 1985, and later his battles with fierce rival Alain Prost became legendary. Senna died tragically when his car crashed heavily at Imola.
Lewis Hamilton (United Kingdom)
In most people’s opinion the greatest current driver, Hamilton is already a three-time world champion at the age of 31. He honed his skills in karting, starting out aged eight, and two years later he told McLaren boss Ron Dennis he wanted to race for the team. He made his F1 debut in 2007, winning four races and just missing out on the title. He was champion the following year, and repeated the achievement in 2014 and 2015 after moving from McLaren to Mercedes. Hamilton is known for his commitment, overtaking ability and stylishness. Many experience day companies in the UK offer driving experiences at well-known race tracks across the UK where you can experience what it must be like to be a race car driver. One of these is Goodwood motor circuit in Chichester, south England.
Juan Manuel Fangio (Argentina)
The 1950s were dominated by Fangio. In his late thirties by the time of his debut, he used wide experience of other types of racing to superb effect, winning five titles between 1951 and 1957. No driver has a higher win percentage than Fangio’s 46%, and Stirling Moss – his team-mate at Mercedes in 1955 – called him “the greatest”. Fangio was not as elegant a driver as Moss, but he was effective just about everywhere, and this versatility contributed to his success.
Michael Schumacher (Germany)
With seven championships and 91 wins, “Schuey” is the most successful Formula 1 driver of all. His talent was clear from the moment he won his first kart race aged six. He moved into F1 in 1991, scoring his first win at the difficult Spa circuit in 1992. After Senna’s death in 1994, Schumacher became almost unstoppable, winning the 1994 and 1995 titles with Benetton. He then won five successive championships for Ferrari between 2000 and 2004. Schumacher retired in 2006, apart from an unsuccessful comeback between 2009 and 2012.
Jim Clark (United Kingdom)
Tragically killed while still in his prime, Clark is sometimes considered to have been better even than Senna. He won the championship in 1963 and 1965, working closely with Lotus boss Colin Chapman and managing managed to remain popular with his rivals even while destroying them on the track. In 1963, he won seven out of the year’s ten races, while in 1965 a sequence of seven successive victories was interrupted only because he missed Monaco to compete in the Indianapolis 500 – which he won.