Not many sports have a history as rich as Formula One. This is a category of automotive sports that has been around since 1950. It is without a doubt the highest level of automotive sports. Yes, NASCAR fans are not going to like to hear this, but there is a lot more skill involved in racing a Formula One car through complicated circuits than going around and around an oval guiding a NASCAR car. Sure, every category has its merits and its flaws, but there is no doubt in anyone’s minds that the most skilled drivers in the world are racing Formula One.
Still, there is one thing about Formula One that is very similar to NASCAR. Much of the sport has to do with the cars. Yes, the cars are a vital piece of this puzzle. It is nearly impossible for a driver, no matter how great he or she is, to take home a championship with one of the worst cars available. Nevertheless, there have been people in the history of Formula One who have pulled off some of the most unbelievable upsets with some of the worst cars in the grid. At the same time, there have also been countless instances of drivers who were given amazing cars but just could not make it work. On this list, we want to delve a little bit into some of the greatest drivers that have ever climbed onto a Formula One car, and some of the worst ones as well. With the 2018 season heating up, there are also some guys on this list who might be able to change their status here once the year is over. You be the judge.
20 Good Pilot: Fernando Alonso
Let’s start off this list with a man who could easily be considered one of the best Formula One drivers of all time. Fernando Alonso is someone who spent almost two decades racing at the highest level of automotive sports.
This man is a Formula One legend, and he has a pair of world championships to prove his worth. But that is not the only thing.
Alonso is the kind of driver who showed fans his skill even when he didn’t have the best cars available to him.
The man was pure class, and it didn’t matter whether he was racing for Ferrari or if he was racing for McLaren Honda.
19 Good Car: Damon Hill
Considered by his fellow British men one of the best drivers of all time, Damon Hill is one of those guys who would be nowhere if not for the car he was given. We are most specifically talking about his 1996 campaign in which he won the Formula One world championship. During that season, his Williams car was so above the rest that even the greatest driver of all time, Michael Schumacher, only managed a third place in the championship that season, almost 20 points behind Hill. And if you need any proof that Hill was bad, all you need to know is that the season following his championship, Williams dropped him.
18 Good Pilot: Juan Manuel Fangio
Yes, it takes courage for you to get into a Formula One car and drive at the speed these guys go. Nevertheless, there are so many safety measures today that the work is relatively risk-free. That was not the case back in the 50s when one of the all-time greats in all of racing competed. We are talking about Argentinian driver, Juan Manuel Fangio.
This legend is a five-time Formula One champion and finished his Formula One career with the ridiculous statistic of having more than 46 percent of wins during his career. Yes, this guy won almost half of all the races he competed in at the highest level of the sport.
17 Good Car: Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen is still very young, and he has a lot of time to develop as a driver. Nevertheless, Verstappen might be one of those drivers who reached this level of the sport a little bit too young. The kid became a professional Formula One driver at 17 years old. That is not even old enough to drive in most countries. Still, there is no denying the talent is there.
The only problem is that Verstappen has an incredible car, but most of the time he can’t keep it in the race.
Call it youth or whatever you will, but this kid destroys more cars these days than anyone else in recent seasons.
16 Good Pilot: Mika Hakkinen
When you think about sports, Finland is not usually the place your mind goes to unless you are talking about certain events in the Winter Olympics. However, if there is one sport in which the Finnish have managed not only to make themselves relevant but to always be at the top tier when it comes to talent, it is Formula One. If you have any doubt about that, just go check out this season’s current standings and you will see a pair of Finnish drivers in the top five.
While the guys today are good, it will be tough to top one of the all-time greats to come out of that Nordic country. We are talking about two-time world champion Mika Hakkinen.
15 Good Car: Juan Pablo Montoya
We were picking on Max Verstappen for the number of times he broke down or destroyed his car. Yes, that is a way to make you look bad as a driver, and certainly a fact that will make people believe you would not be able to be at the level you are at without said car. Following that line of thought, it would be impossible for us not to pit Juan Pablo Montoya right next to Verstappen.
Perhaps the greatest Colombian driver in recent memory, Montoya was also one of the craziest people to ever hold a Formula One’s driving wheel.
All we need to say to prove that is that out of the 17 races during his first season, he only completed six.
14 Good Pilot: Alain Prost
Another all-time great who had to prove with his skill that he was someone who deserved to be considered one of the best ever, Alain Prost was the kind of guy who could have been given the worst car in a given year’s Formula One championship and he would still be able to score some points in any race. The man was just that good, and he has four world championships to his name. Not to mention he was part of one of the most heated and amazing rivalries in the history of Formula One when he competed against Ayrton Senna. Many say the duels between those two were some of the greatest of all time.
13 Good Car: Lance Stroll
You know that rich kid in your class who always gets his way because his daddy has all the money in the world? Yeah, in the Formula One world that is Lance Stroll.
The son of Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, Lance is one of those people who could afford to only care about driving his entire life.
Although we have to admit that the kid was good when he was competing in the Formula 3 European championships, one of which he was champion in 2016, he is just not at the Formula One level yet at just 19 years old. Maybe he will get better with more experience, but only time will tell.
12 Good Pilot: Nelson Piquet
The 1980s and 90s were truly a time of wonder for racing fans. There was so much talent in the Formula One ranks that you could never really choose who you were going to cheer for in the next race. Most of the drivers were talented enough to win races with terrible cars, but one of the few to actually win a championship with a bad car was Brazilian great, Nelson Piquet.
One of the most foulmouthed athletes to ever give an interview, this guy was a wonder to watch whenever he got in his car. The first time he took home a Formula One driver championship was in 1981. That same year, his teammate finished 10th.
11 Good Car: Romain Grosjean
It’s not hard to gather haters on the Internet today. It doesn’t matter what sport you play or compete in, there are going to be people hating on you. Still, it is undeniable that one of the drivers in Formula One today with the biggest legion of haters is Romain Grosjean.
Just write his name on Reddit and you will get to enjoy yourself for hours trying to put together all of the reasons why people think he is terrible. No, he never really had an amazing car, to begin with, but Grosjean is indeed a bad driver at the Formula One level. This season he doesn’t even have a point to his name and is ranked 19th in the standings. Meanwhile, his teammate, Kevin Magnussen, has already scored 27 points and is in the top 10.
10 Good Pilot: Kimi Raikkonen
We already mentioned how great Finland is at giving the world some of the best drivers in recent memory. One of their guys who is still active in Formula One today is Kimi Raikkonen.
Racing for Ferrari for the past five seasons, Raikkonen has not been fighting for championships because their car has not been up to par with the top-level competition.
Nevertheless, this is a man who has been able to keep himself relevant in the Formula One landscape regardless of what car he drove.
Seriously, in his first Formula One season, Raikkonen managed to snatch a 10th place finish driving a freaking Sauber.
9 Good Car: Gerhard Berger
Someone who was a solid driver throughout his career, but never really someone who made the most out of the car he had was Austrian standout, Gerhard Berger. This guy was good, but he was never really Ferrari good back in the 90s when he raced. What Berger became most known throughout his career for were his pranks, and how he managed to get one of the greatest drivers of all time to open up personally and became his good friend. We are talking about Ayrton Senna, who developed an incredible bond with Berger because of the many pranks they played at each other. Apparently, there was even a time when Berger filled Senna’s bed with frogs.
8 Good Pilot: Sebastian Vettel
One of the most entertaining things about Formula One these days is that we still get to watch two of the most talented drivers of all time go head-to-head every weekend. One of those two is Ferrari’s, Sebastian Vettel. This 30-year-old German star came into Formula One as one of the youngest drivers around, but he quickly went from being a talented prospect to becoming one of the best drivers in the world. Vettel proved his worth to the Formula One crowd when he earned an eighth place in the 2008 drivers’ championship while racing for Toro Rosso. His teammate that year finished 17th.
After that, he made his way to Red Bull Racing and quickly became a four-time world champion.
7 Good Car: Pastor Maldonado
Venezuela cannot catch a break in anything recently. The country is going through one of the roughest patches any country has been going through economically in recent memory. But even in sports, they are having a hard time. A guy who was supposed to give them some relief on this matter was Pastor Maldonado, who even showed a little promise at the beginning of his Formula One career.
People had hoped he would be the next great Latin American driver to compete at the Formula One level.
Nevertheless, he did not manage to get anything out of the cars he was given and was even outperformed when previously mentioned Romain Grosjean was his teammate.
6 Good Pilot: Lewis Hamilton
Talking about some of the greatest drivers of all time, it is impossible not to mention Lewis Hamilton. Yes, this 33-year-old driver is still competing in Formula One, and he probably will still be competing for a while, but he has already solidified himself as one of the greatest drivers of all time. Hamilton is someone who expanded the horizons of the sport. He was not only the youngest world champion ever when he took home the crown in 2008, but he was also the first black driver to become a champion in Formula One. That is a huge deal that can only be compared to the Tiger Woods revolution in golf.
5 Good Car: Andrea de Cesaris
Let’s talk a little bit about someone who really liked breaking records. Well, at least he has one record in the history of Formula One. Andrea de Cesaris was someone who managed to maintain his status as a Formula One driver for 15 seasons.
Yes, this guy raced a lot, but he was never good enough to win a single race in those 15 years.
Nevertheless, he has a record to his name that fits very well with the place we are putting him on this list. After all, you can’t get the most out of the car you have if you don’t finish races. And Cesaris has the record of race retirements in Formula One with an astounding 148.
4 Good Pilot: Ayrton Senna
Legendary is the only word we can use to describe Ayrton Senna. This man represents one of the biggest “what if” stories in the history of sports. A three-time world champion, Senna might have become the greatest champion of all if not for the tragedy that struck the racing world when he crashed into a wall with his Williams and eventually lost his life due to the injuries on May 1, 1994.
Although no one knows how many more races and championships he would have won if not for the tragedy, Senna is still remembered as one of the best of all time and still has seven Formula One records to his name.
3 Good Car: Taki Inoue
One of the most mind-boggling happenings in the history of Formula One was when Japanese driver Taki Inoue was announced as a full-time driver for Footwork Heart in 1995. The previous season he had competed in one race for the MTV Simtek Ford team and did not even finish the race.
Guess what? The 1995 season did not go too well for him, and it was his only shot at being a full-time Formula One driver. But you can’t really blame a team for dropping him and other teams for not signing him as in the 17 races of that entire season Inue only finished five of them.
2 Good Pilot: Michael Schumacher
While there is a debate and a lot of people consider the late Senna to be the best of all time, the vast majority agree that although the Brazilian was amazing during his days, it is impossible for anyone to be compared to the greatness of Michael Schumacher.
A seven-time champion, the man is unmatched and has a ridiculous list of 25 Formula One records to his name.
Some of those include the most championship titles, most consecutive titles, most career victories with 91, and most races left in the season when becoming champion. That last one gives you a good idea of how great he was, as Schumacher was declared champion in 2002 with six races remaining on the calendar.
1 Good Car: Rubens Barrichello
The man who has most raced in the history of Formula One is also one of the biggest disappointments in the history of Formula One. Brazil is another country with a long history of amazing drivers who have competed at the highest level and won several Formula One world championships. It is only fair to imagine that the guy who most drove through Formula One circuits in his career would also be someone who won a championship.
But no, Rubens Barrichello was nothing more than a figurehead and someone who could not find a way to put himself at the highest spot despite having the best car available in at least six of the seasons he competed in Formula One.