Formula One: Hall of Fame

Deepti Narwani Deepti Narwani

The recent Mexican Grand Prix saw Lewis Hamilton take the chequered flag to claim his fourth world championship and firmly cement his place in Formula One history.

But how does the Briton rank against the other all-time greats?

LEWIS HAMILTON

Championships: 4 (2008, 2014, 2015, 2017)
Wins: 62
Career Win %: 30% (wins/ 206 starts)
Pole Positions: 72

Hamilton clinched his maiden title with McLaren in 2008. His championship deciding race is till today one of the most dramatic races of all time. The Briton took the crown from his season=long rival, Felipe Massa, on the final corner of the final lap.

His next two back-to-back titles came in 2014 and 2015 after defeating his Mercedes Benz team mate, Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton’s 2017 Mercedes was not always the fastest nor was it the most consistent but he always delivered when it mattered the most. The Briton’s journey to his fourth world title saw him claim the all-time Formula One pole position record, he now holds the baton with 72 pole positions to his name.

Regardless of circuit or conditions, Hamilton repeatedly reminds us why when fuel is at its lowest, he is the fastest man on four wheels. Time and time again, in that final phase of qualifying, he delivers a masterclass of precision.

At just 32 and with a team that has just won four consecutive drivers and constructors championships, the King of Speed looks set to break many more records before he hangs up his helmet.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL

Championships: 4 (2010-2013)
Wins: 46
Career Win %: 23.4% (wins/ 197 starts)
Pole Positions: 50

While Hamilton recently joined the elite four-time world championship club, his 2017 season championship rival, Sebastian Vettel, has been a member for some time.

Before joining Ferrari in 2015, Vettel enjoyed a period of absolute domination with Red Bull Racing having achieved 38 wins, 44 pole positions and 4 world championships with the team.

Vettel claimed his first title in 2010 to become the youngest Formula One champion in history.

The following year the German claimed an astonishing, 11 wins as he wrapped up the championship with four races to spare.

2012 proved to be slightly different with Ferrari and Fernando Alonso challenging Vettel right down to the wire. Vettel prevailed and claimed his third world title and Ayrton Senna’s record as Formula One’s youngest-ever three-time world champion.

2013 proved to be Vettel’s most dominant year yet as he claimed 9 back-to-back wins and a total of 13.

Vettel’s high level of commitment and an uncanny ability to understand all aspects of the car and engineering differentiates him from his rivals. It was his hardworking nature that enabled him multiple world title wins.

ALAIN PROST

Championships: 4 (1985, 1986, 1989, 1993)
Wins: 51
Career Win %: 25.3% (wins/ 202 starts)
Pole Positions: 33

Nicknamed ‘The Professor’ due to his cerebral approach to racing, Alain Prost will be remembered as one of the most tactical Formula One drivers. During his famous battles with Ayrton Senna, the Frenchman knew he could not beat his nemesis on outright speed, so he instead developed a ‘less is more’ style.

Prost earned his first title in 1985 with McLaren and went on to win his second with the UK-based team in 1986. After losing to his team mate, Senna, in 1988, Prost came back in 1989 more motivated than ever to win the title. He succeeded in doing so but not before a controversial clash with Senna.

Unable to work with his team mate anymore, Prost moved to Ferrari to continue his career but his criticism of the Maranello based team after a lacklustre 1991 season saw his swift dismissal.

Left without a drive in 1992, the Frenchman spent the year as a TV commentator but returned with Williams–Renault in 1993 to win seven races and clinch his fourth and final championship.

In a career filled with conflict and controversy, Prost is often overlooked as an all-time great. Yet the Frenchman won 51 races – more than any other driver at the time of his retirement.

JUAN MANUEL FANGIO

Championships: 5 (1951, 1954-1957)
Wins: 24
Career Win %: 46.2% (wins/ 51 starts)
Pole Positions: 29

Recognised as the first true great of the Formula One world championship period, Juan Manuel Fangio was often referred to as ‘El Maestro’.

In an era when driver safety was almost non-existent, Fangio chose to not sacrifice his safety for unnecessary recklessness. He possessed the ability to win a race at the slowest possible speed, a quality which many of his rivals envied.

The Argentine clinched his first title in 1951 with Alpha Romeo. However, an unfortunate crash during a non-championship race in 1952, saw him sit out the season to recover. He returned to full racing fitness for the 1953 season but sadly for him, his Maserati was no match for the Ferrari.

Despite a series of strong performances with Maserati during the earlier half of 1954, Fangio decided to finish his season with Mercedes Benz. Strong performances in the Mercedes provided him with his second world championship. Another strong season for Fangio, saw the Argentine score his third world championship in 1955.

With Mercedes Benz pulling out at the end of 1955, Fangio moved to Ferrari for the 1956 season where he dominated and took his fourth championship. His fifth and final championship came in 1957 after a switch back to Maserati.

In the 51 races that Fangio started, he won 24 of them. His natural talent shone no matter which team he was a part of, evident by the fact that he won the championship with 4 different teams – a record which the 5-time world champion still holds.

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER

Championships: 7 (1994, 1995, 2000-2004)
Wins: 91
Career Win %: 29.6% (wins/ 308 starts)
Pole Positions: 68

Without a doubt, Michael Schumacher will go down as the greatest name in Formula One history. To date, the German is the most successful Formula One driver ever with seven world championships and a remarkable 91 race wins.

The German first lay waste to Formula One history books after securing his maiden title in 1994 with Benetton after a controversial clash with championship rival, Damon Hill, during the season finale. Schumacher had an excellent but less controversial 1995 season where he again beat Hill to the title in the Benetton.

After winning back to back championships, the German joined Ferrari and their mission to get back to winning ways. After a few difficult years, one of Formula One’s most dominant era’s began when Schumacher and Ferrari clinched five back-to-back drivers and constructors titles.

The German retired in 2006 but returned to racing once again in 2010 this time with the new Mercedes Benz team. His return proved to be far from successful, scoring only one podium finish during his three years with Mercedes. At the end on 2012, the seven-time world champion retired from the sport once again.

Though his ethics were often questioned, as was his comeback, his race craft when in his prime was like non-other.

Choosing the best driver among the five is extremely difficult. Having raced in different eras, an outright comparison is nearly impossible to pick. One thing is for sure though, these Formula One drivers will be long be remembered as legends of the sport.

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