Formula One has been an extremely thrilling sport for a long time and has grown in popularity over the years because of its irresistible attraction. Everyone who loves fast cars watches Formula 1, and while it’s highly enjoyable to see these super-fast cars zoom on the tracks, driving an F1 car isn’t easy at all. It requires an expert level of skill and some Formula 1 drivers have shown to have an insane talent for racing in the past decades. There have been certain legendary drivers who consistently maintained themselves as the best during their career and made many fans fall in love with them thanks to their incredible racing techniques.
These top F1 drivers seemed to have a natural talent for driving fast cars and their amazing skill at racing at the highest level for years made them much-respected figures in the field of sports. While there have been amazing drivers over the years, there have also been drivers who just didn’t have the talent to be racing in Formula 1. These drivers were mainstays at the lower positions in their careers and earned the wrong kind of reputation due to their poor racing skills. While the top F1 drivers were almost worshipped by fans of the sport, the less talented ones had to endure constant criticism from fans and critics alike.
As Formula 1 has remained the stage to give racers opportunities to fight it out in the racing tracks, here we’ll look at the 15 most talented and 15 least talented F1 drivers in its history.
30 NOT-SO-GREAT: Giedo van der Garde
Giedo van der Garde seemed like a promising talent when he started to race for lower-tier F1 teams like Caterham and Sauber, but it was the former with which he attained his bad reputation. He failed to thrive for them and mostly ended up in the bottom positions in the races he competed in. In Sauber, things got worse for van der Garde when he was dropped to a test driver because of his awful performances, as he ended up suing them, disgracefully ending his underwhelming F1 career in the process.
29 Most Talented: Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel might've experienced a slight dip in form in recent years, but he's still one of the most talented Formula One drivers of the 21st century. Vettel was the one who helped Red Bull become a heavyweight in F1 and experienced some glorious years with them. He won the Formula One Championship four times in a row from 2010 to 2013! Vettel also became the youngest World Champion in F1 history, winning it the age of 22! He's extremely unprecedented dominance in his F1 career and is definitely among the brightest talents to ever grace Formula One.
28 NOT-SO-GREAT: Bruno Senna
The nephew of the great Aryton Senna, Bruno Senna seemed intent on proving that he had inherited his Uncle's driving skills when he started competing in Formula One. Bruno would compete for teams like Hispania, Renault, and even Williams, but failed to prove himself to have even a percent of the talent Aryton had. Bruno made 46 stars in his career, in which he retired from the races on 11 occasions. He garnered a terrible 33 points in his whole F1 career and had a highly forgettable F1 career which proved he was nowhere even near his uncle's level.
27 Most Talented: Kimi Raikkonen
Given the nickname of “Iceman”, Kimi Raikkonen is definitely one of the coolest Formula One drivers to ever compete in the sport. Raikkonen has been racing for more than a decade now and has excelled for every team he’s raced for. With 20 career race wins and 95 podium finishes, Raikkonen has also won The F1 Championship once in 2007. Raikkonen has been consistently terrific in racing in Formula One and is currently also competing for the F1 Championship, which proves that despite whatever age, his natural talent will always maintain his excellent standards.
26 NOT-SO-GREAT: Yuji Ide
Yuji Ide became one of the oldest drivers to compete in Formula One in 2006 when at the age of 31, he decided to give it a try. But Ide wasn't at all proficient with the skill needed to race in Formula One and went onto have a disastrous career. He would be forced to retire in his debut race and was part of some controversial crashes after that. Ide would only finish one race successfully in his career and a horrible crash in his fourth and final race perfectly summed up how much of an untalented driver he really was.
25 Most Talented: Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso has shown immense consistently at racing at the highest level in Formula One over all these years and his peak years in the mid-2000s proved how much of a talented driver he really was. Alonso broke through with the Renault team and won two World Championships as a part of it. He's raced over 300 times in F1 and won 32 of those races and has been a really impressive driver at that. Alonso is calm and calculated while driving and proved to have a natural talent for racing with his excellent performances over the years.
24 NOT-SO-GREAT: Nelson Piquet Jr.
The son of another Formula 1 legend, Nelson Piquet Jr. was out to prove his inherited talent and was snapped up by the Renault F1 team in 2008. While Piquet did show little spikes of talent, his career was extremely underwhelming due to the fact that he had to retire 11 times of the 28 races he competed in. He didn't seem to have the talent to consistently drive long races in F1 and was quite poor at regular intervals. To make things worse, Piquet was disgracefully fired from F1 after being part of some controversy, perfectly topping off his disappointing career.
23 Most Talented: Niki Lauda
Niki Lauda is regarded as one of the bravest racers in Formula One history because he was absolutely fearless in making sure to win every race he competed in. His fearless ways almost cost him as he suffered a horrible accident in 1976 and was scarred for life. Despite that, Lauda kept on racing and won three World Championships in his career. He won 25 of the 177 races he competed in and was an absolute marvel with a vehicle. His career was told in the 2013 film Rush, which validated his incredible talent and never-say-die attitude which separated him from the rest.
22 NOT-SO-GREAT: Giovanna Amati
Coming from a wealthy background, Giovanna Amati used her power to her advantaged and influenced Brabham to get her in as one of their drivers. This was actually a great publicity stunt for them, but Amati would prove to be a disastrous signing as she had no experience whatsoever in F1 racing. She made a mockery of herself in her three outings in Formula One, hilariously spinning six times in her debut F1 practice. Amati was sacked after three horrible outings and made such a nasty impression that no F1 team has employed a female driver since.
21 Most Talented: Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton is currently the best driver in Formula One and has seemingly gotten even better in his many years being part of the sport. Hamilton is definitely the best British driver of all time and holds the record for All-Time most career points (2,755), the most wins at different circuits (26) and all-time most pole positions (75). He's won the F1 World Championship four times in his career and is extremely talented in driving his vehicles around the circuits. Hamilton has been dominating the F1 scene for many years and is poised to win his 5th World Championship later this season as well.
20 NOT-SO-GREAT: Sakon Yamamoto
Sakon Yamamoto's F1 career seems a parody of its own as he's renowned for his hilariously terrible outings in the racing tracks. Yamamoto's career started disastrously as he was forced to retire in his first four official races in embarrassing fashion. While his performances would go slightly upwards from that, Yamamoto was a mainstay in the last positions of the races and just didn't seem fit for F1. Some of his hilarious crashes make Yamamoto remembered as one of the clumsiest F1 drivers ever and prove how he just wasn't cut out for it.
19 Most Talented: Jackie Stewart
Touted as one of the greatest British drivers of all time, Jackie Stewart was an amazing influence on many racing fans back in his time because of his terrific racing skills. Stewart was named "The Flying Scot" because of how amazingly he could handle fast cars and wheezed past his opponents with ease. Stewart would win the F1 World Championships three times and ended his career on a high by winning it in his final F1 season in 1973. Stewart brought much success to Scotland and is remembered as one of the very finest F1 drivers of all time.
18 NOT-SO-GREAT: Luca Badoer
Luca Badoer was actually pretty successful in Formula 3000, which is why he gave Formula One a shot, a decision which would come back to haunt him. Badoer started his F1 career on the completely wrong foot as he was forced to retire in his debut race itself. In the 50 starting races he had in Formula One, Badoer was forced to retire in 24 of those races. Not only that, but he also held the record for most Grand Prix starts without a single point, something which proves just how bad he was in Formula One.
17 Most Talented: Alberto Ascari
Alberto Ascari raced during a period when there weren’t enough safety precautions in Formula 1, but he earned the reputation of being one of its finest racers thanks to his smooth driving skills. Alberto Ascari earned his reputation while driving for Ferrari and won the F1 championships twice in a row in 1952 and 1953 as well. He won 13 races among the 32 he competed in and was renowned for his precision and accuracy in steering his car, making him one of the safest and best drivers to have competed in this dangerous sport.
16 NOT-SO-GREAT: Narain Karthikeyan
Narain Karthikeyan made history by becoming the first ever Indian to race in Formula One and despite having a decent amateur career, he couldn’t adapt to the competitive environment of F1. He never even made a podium finish in his career and was mostly a mainstay in the bottom positions of the race. While Karthikeyan drove for low-tier franchises like Jordan, HRT and Hispania Racing F1, he could never prove his talent and earned the reputation of being quite poor. He seemed too slow to actually excel at F1 and didn't really have the talent to thrive in it.
15 Most Talented: Stirling Moss
Stirling Moss is still renowned as the greatest driver to never win a Formula 1 World Championship, as he was regarded as the best during his F1 career in the 50s. Moss was an absolute master in driving fast cars and set many records during his racing career. He won 16 of the 67 races he competed in and set the bar very high while competing for Maserati and R.R.C Walker racing team. The unlucky Moss finished 2nd on 4 separate occasions in F1 but is widely regarded as one of the best ever due to this incredible driving skills.
14 NOT-SO-GREAT: Chanoch Nissany
Chanoch Nissany immersed himself in the history books when he became the first and only driver to be associated in Formula One, but his career wasn't memorable at all. Competing for the Minardi F1 team, Nissany was kept as a test driver for one season and had a complete nightmare. He was only given one opportunity to test-drive a practice session in the 2005 Hungarian Grand Prix, in which he also failed miserably. Nissany wasn't given an opportunity afterward and it was because of his complete lack of skills at driving an F1 car that he failed so badly in it.
13 Most Talented: Mika Hakkinen
Mika Hakkinen brought back success to the McLaren team in the 90s when he came up as a terrific Formula One driver, who stood out despite competing against some of the best racers ever. Hakkinen was known for his unique ability at thriving in racing at slippery surfaces and excellent ability at "oversteering" as well. Hakkinen was dominant in the late 90s and won the F1 championships twice in a row in '98 and '99 in spectacular fashion. He won 20 races in his career and his incredible talent for driving places him among the all-time greats.
12 NOT-SO-GREAT: Jean-Denis Deletraz
Jean-Denis Deletraz really didn't have any business competing in Formula One and actually got his opportunity because he had the ability to bring sponsorship money with him. He was quite rich and himself paid his driving teams to compete for them and he raced three times in 1994 and '95. Deletraz paid Larrousse and Pacific Team Lotus to compete for them and was forced to retire in his first two races. He could barely finish 15th in his 3rd one, seven laps behind the winner, something which made it apparent that Deletraz had no business in F1 and was an absolutely abysmal driver.
11 Most Talented: Jim Clark
Jim Clark is remembered as one of Britain's greatest talents because of his terrific Formula 1 career, in which he took Lotus to unprecedented heights. Clark won the F1 championships twice and in the 71 races he competed in, he won 25 races. Not only that, but he created some seemingly unbreakable records in attaining the F1 Grand Slam(which includes pole position, winning the race, recording the fastest lap and led every lap) an unprecedented 8 times in his career! He also attained 100% points in his championship seasons, something which proves how much of a legendary driver he really was.
10 NOT-SO-GREAT: Adrian Campos
After having modest success in his amateur career, Adrian Campos decided to give Formula One a try and had a chance to succeed for the Minardi team in the 80s. He set a record for himself, but a very bad one at that as he did not score a single championship point in his F1 Career. In the 21 F1 races, Campos retired on an astonishing 14 occasions and couldn't even qualify for the main races on 4 occasions. Campos had an awfully short F1 career which was mostly made up of a series of embarrassments.
9 Most Talented: Nelson Piquet
Nelson Piquet actually started his Formula One career quite late in his life, but he showed immense ability to pick up the traits and secrets to winning quickly after debuting. Piquet would win the Formula One Championship three times in his career and became a huge name in Brazilian sports because of it. Piquet was known for his competitive spirit and was a wizard inside the F1 car, showing an immense ability to handle dangerously high speed. Piquet earned many accolades throughout his F1 career and is recognized as one of its absolute greats because of his fantastic work.
8 NOT-SO-GREAT: Marco Apicella
Marco Apicella's career almost finished as soon as it started, as he could only compete in one single race in his whole Formula One career. Apicella's impressive work in Formula 3000 in Japan made Jordan F1 team sign him up in 1993. He would even qualify for the main race and qualified in the 23rd position but was forced to retire on the first corner of the opening lap of the car thanks to a multiple-car collision. He was replaced and sacked immediately and had one of the shortest F1 careers in history, proving how useless he really was.
7 Most Talented: Alain Prost
Alain Prost could be recognized as a "tactician" when it came to driving in Formula One and unlike others, he liked to plan his way into victory. Not only was he extremely talented in handling the vehicles, but he knew how and when to go all out to win. This reaped its rewards as Prost would win the Formula One championship an amazing four times and defeat some very strong opposition. He also won an amazing 51 races in 202 he competed in his career, something which proves how much of a terrific winner and insane racer Prost really was.
6 NOT-SO-GREAT: Al Pease
After serving in the British Army and working as an illustrator, Al Pease eyed success in Motorsports when he joined Formula One in 1967. But the unique thing about Pease was that he only raced in three separate Canadian Grand Prix to please his natives. His first attempt was horrible as Pease was disqualified from the race for being too slow! He was given the black flag for being absolutely horrible and he’d also fail miserably in his attempts in '68 & '69. Pease seemed pleased to compete in F1 occasionally, but he is definitely the worst one to ever race an F1 car.
5 Most Talented: Juan Manuel Fangio
Juan Manuel Fangio is arguably the pioneer of Formula One racing and it was because of his terrific work in the 50s that the sport started to grow in popularity. Fangio was extremely dominant in the first decade of Formula One and won the World Championship five times, including four in a row from 1954-57. Fangio was an absolute natural at driving fast cars and won the championships with four different teams! It was the amazing work Fangio did that set the benchmark in F1 and he definitely established himself as one of the greats of all time with his fantastic work.
4 NOT-SO-GREAT: Taki Inoue
While Taki Inoue wasn’t really a bad driver in his amateur career, when he decided to join the “bigger leagues”, it was rather obvious that he wasn’t ready for it. Inoue’s F1 career would be remembered for some bizarre incidents such as his car being towed by a course car and him being run over by a safety car. Apart from that, he really didn’t seem to have the skills to excel in F1 and only completed 5 of the 18 races he competed in Formula One. Inoue ended up having a horrible career in F1, which will be remembered for the hilariously stupid incidents he was involved in.
3 Most Talented: Ayrton Senna
Ayrton Senna is widely recognized as one of the most influential figures in Formula One history and it was his insane driving skills which earned him huge popularity in the 90s. Despite competition from Alain Prost, he succeeded in pulling off some amazing wins during his career. Senna won the F1 World Championship three times in his career, including twice in a row at 1990 & '91. While his passing during an F1 race in 1994 is still the darkest day in its history, Senna is still remembered for his insane racing techniques which made him one of the greatest of all time.
2 NOT-SO-GREAT: Alex Yoong
Alex Yoong sought to bring pride to Malaysian sports when he became the first Malaysian to compete in Formula One, but what would follow wouldn't exactly be "successful". Yoong was just levels below the other racers in F1 and couldn't manage to get even close to their level. In the 14 stars he made, Yoong would be forced to retire in eight of them and was often eliminated from the races in extremely humiliating fashion. Yoong was almost the "blooper real" of some races and after only two seasons, he left F1 as one of the worst drivers of all time.
1 Most Talented: Michael Schumacher
Michael Schumacher set the bar for greatness extremely highly throughout his Formula One career as he is recognized to be one of the greatest sportsmen of all time. Ever since debuting in 1991, Schumacher went on an incredible run in which he broke almost every record and showcased his unmatched talent for racing. Not only did he become the most celebrated F1 racer by winning the World Championship an unprecedented 7 times, but he also holds the record for most Grand Prix wins (91) among many others. Schumacher is widely recognized as the greatest of all time in Formula One history and his greatness will probably never be matched.