There have been many wildly successful Formula 1 drivers over the years – Senna, Hamilton, Vettel, Lauda, Schumacher… to name just a few!
But who is the most successful of them all? A difficult question to answer. And of course, before you can work out who is the most successful F1 driver you need to first define success. For instance:
- Is it down to number of race wins?
- Win percentage?
- Number of fastest laps?
- Are being the most successful and being the greatest the same thing?
Clearly, there are a variety of factors by which we can measure a driver’s success, but no single factor can define success by itself. So, enough with the half-baked theories and never-ending debates. RaceChip have collated the most important statistics, looking specifically at drivers who have competed in 50 Grands Prix or more, to come to the internet’s first numerically objective conclusion on who is the most successful Formula 1 driver of all time.
If you’d like to see the full table of data, you can do so here. Data is current as of April 2018.
Most wins in career
|Driver||No. of Grand Prix||Total Wins|
Highest win percentage
|Driver||No. of Grand Prix||Win Percentage Over Career|
|Juan Manuel Fangio||51||47.1%|
Most 2nd & 3rd places
|Driver||No. of Grand Prix||2nd & 3rd Places|
Most pole positions
|Driver||No. of Grand Prix||Pole Position|
|Juan Manuel Fangio||51||29|
Fastest laps over career
|Driver||No. of Grand Prix||Fastest Laps|
|Juan Manuel Fangio||51||23|
Lowest crash percentage over career
|Lowest Crash %||No. of Grand Prix||Crash %|
|Juan Manuel Fangio||51||2.0|
Who is F1’s most successful driver?
|3||Juan Manuel Fangio||5.94|
After collecting all the data that we deemed made a successful driver, we used a formula to normalize each statistic. This allowed us to measure the drivers out of ten in each category. We then took these results and condensed them into a single average for each driver, allowing us to numerically rank them based on everything we’ve shown you. It is also important to note that we weighted the categories according to what we thought was more relevant in relation to the concept of success, and to balance out the fact that some drivers have had vastly more races.
Being a great driver and being successful are different things: the former is an internal and theoretical potency for brilliance, while the latter is a more quantifiable case of getting results. What we mean by this is that a great driver can have all the skill and instinctive ability, but if they don’t have the right team, car, engine and even luck, it will harm how successful they can actually be.
Our results were fascinating. Coming in at number one was a driver who won multiple categories in our study: with an average of 8.38 out of 10, Michael Schumacher stormed in to take first place. While most people probably saw this coming, what’s truly outstanding about this result is that even though he has by far and away the highest amount of crashes of the top ten, Schumacher is still way ahead of the competition.
Second place is similarly predictable. Lewis Hamilton reliably maintains a strong average in every statistic, giving him a final result of 7.04. He still has a long way to go before he can overtake Schumacher, but Hamilton has only been racing in Formula 1 for 12 years while Schumacher stopped after 19 years – if can maintain his high standard of driving for the foreseeable future, could Hamilton one day become the most successful driver? Only time will tell.
Juan Manuel Fangio takes third place; an understandable result considering his incredible win percentage as well as his other various appearances throughout this study. He was a driver of real skill and it would be fascinating if we could match him up against the drivers of today.
The rest of the top ten list is made up of mainstays we’ve already encountered throughout this study. The appearances of Ayrton Senna and Jim Clark in the list are impressive and make you wonder what heights they could have reached were it not for their untimely deaths in their early 30s.
Driver fact files
With these tables, it can be hard to get a rounded view of the drivers and their careers. We’ve picked out some of the category winners and looked at them a little more in depth.
Juan Manuel Fangio: highest win percentage
Kimi Raikonnen: most 2nd & 3rd places
Lewis Hamilton: most pole positions
Michael Schumacher: most Championship wins, total wins, podiums & fastest laps
So there you have our top ten list of The Most Successful F1 Drivers of All Time. Do you agree with our criteria for success and the results they gave us? Or do you think there are other factors that should be taken into consideration?