Sebastian Vettel has raced away (quite literally) with the F1 Driver’s Championship. Such was the size of his domination that his eventual victory was assured weeks, if not months ago. For the drivers he left in his wake their only thought concerned who was going to finish in second place.
He’s certainly on his way to becoming one of the finest drivers the sport has ever seen but he’s going to have to displace these greats (presented in no particular order) if he wants to be remembered forever.
Moss never won a championship and that fact would differentiate him from the other drivers featured on this list, (he’s referred to as the greatest driver never to win a World Championship). His battles with Juan Manuel Fangio became the stuff of legend and his driving and sporting fair play influenced many drivers down the line. After a crash in 1962 at Goodwood left him in a coma and partially paralysed, Moss retired from F1 but continued to drive in other sports over the years. His presence can still be felt today across motor racing.
Smooth (not his hair, his personality) and always thinking of the best ways to outsmart his opponents, Jackie Stewart was the showcase for the “thinking man” driver. Not one to use brute force to make his way past an opponent, his finesse and control over a Formula One car made his driving look effortless. Rewarded with three title wins (’69, ’71 and ’73) Stewart joined the ranks of British drivers who had a huge impact on the sport. Add to that his pursuit of safety in the sport and Stewart becomes the quintessential F1 gentleman.
In what has become a long line of Ferrari F1 champions it should be known that Ferrari hasn’t always had it their way. Lauda, an Austrian, arrived at the team in 1973 and within two years had won the team’s first title since ’64. He won the title again in ’77 and if it wasn’t for a horrible accident in the ’76 season he could, and probably would, have won the title three years in a row. He retired in 1979 but came back with McClaren to win another title in 1984.
The greatest driver the sport has ever seen? Quite possibly, Schumacher’s relentless pursuit of more titles, grand prix wins and records ensured his place in F1 history with an outstanding seven world titles won during his first stay in F1. With his impressive consistency (five titles in a row from 2000-2004), Schumacher dominated the sport in the early 2000s, a kind of domination that hasn’t been seen before and probably won’t be seen again. An uncompromising driver, Schumacher is the very definition of a modern F1 driver; a born winner.
In an odd coincidence, Asif Kapadia’s documentary on the racing giant came out a day after Vettel’s championship win. Seventeen years on from his death, Senna’s popularity remains undimmed. He was relentless in his approach to the sport and ruthless when it came to winning a race. A driver who pushed the limits of what could be done in an F1 car (in an era where the car resembled a toboggan bobsleigh with fins and wheels), he was flamboyant and charismatic, a driver with a huge heart. His death at Imola in 1994 robbed the sport of one of its great personalities.
Is there anyone we left off that you think should be included on the list? Have your say below.