Journal: Who is the Greatest Racing Driver of All Time?

Who is the Greatest Racing Driver of All Time?

By Yoav Gilad
September 1, 2014
118 comments

Photography by Yoav Gilad for Petrolicious

Last week we asked about movies, and many, including the top three, had to do with racing. And it got me thinking about who the greatest racer of all time is. Certainly some have more wins than others and everyone has their favorites whether due to on-track heroism or off-track attitude, not that those two attributes are mutually exclusive.

But a case could also be made for drivers like Sir Jackie Stewart, a triple world champion himself (in only nine seasons!), who was also crucial in advancing and advocating safety in the sport. But lets not limit it to Formula One, there are plenty of heroes who rallied, raced Le Mans, Indianapolis, and countless other venues that were not Grand Prix.

Who is the Greatest Racing Driver of All Time?

And if you’re wondering who’s in the photo below, it’s Sir Jackie (right) with Mr. Norman Dewis, Jaguar Test Driver and skilled racer in his own right.

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CharlieGoldfin
CharlieGoldfin
2 years ago

Tazio Nuvolari! Greatest driver of the past, the present, and the future.

Geordie Prodis
Geordie Prodis
3 years ago

It says CHOOSE ONE!
Pedro Rodriguez

Mustafa Uyal
Mustafa Uyal
5 years ago

Ayrton Senna, Jim Clark hard to choose one.. and Gilles Villeneuve for pure entertinment

Anon
Anon
5 years ago

Keiichi Tsuchiya has been my idol for a long time
Hate me as much as you want but i will still ove his dorifting ass

Agusti Magnet Muntane
Agusti Magnet Muntane
5 years ago

For me Graham Hill, the getlemen of racing.

MadPirate05
MadPirate05
5 years ago

Fangio, four years in a row World Champion on four different constructor’s cars

Marco Chino
Marco Chino
5 years ago

No one mentioned Graham Hill, seriously?
2 Times F1 World Champion
Indianapolis Winner
Le Mans Winner
5 Times Montecarlo Winner

Ben
Ben
5 years ago

Jacky Ickx…

Libero Antonio Di Zinno
Libero Antonio Di Zinno
5 years ago

Yoav,…

For pure passion Villeneuve.

For pure dedication Senna

For all humility in the face of greatness Clark

For pure Spirit in an age of unfettered daring Nuvolari

For the elegance of a grand champion and gentleman Fangio

But at the end of the day the man who scores highest in all these characteristics

SENNA.

Sifu Alex
Sifu Alex
5 years ago

So many greats but the criteria is not clear so I’ll vote for each era, Fangio, Hill, Stewart, Senna, Schumacher and Vettel. Sébastien Buemi is fast becoming the best to look for in the future.

Paul Hage
Paul Hage
5 years ago

Tazio Nuvolari – Enzo Ferrari identified Nuvolari and Moss. He related seeing Nuvolari demonstrate his method. He drove flat out – on entering a corner he threw the car into a controlled slide that ended as the car was aligned for maximum exit speed. Never lifted the throttle (well, almost never). Ferrari noted the ability of Moss to excel in anything he drove. Moss lives in my memory for the same reason, and because I lived during his era.

Enrico
Enrico
5 years ago

Gilles Villeneuve, Tazio Nuvolari

Mick Levanon
Mick Levanon
5 years ago

The choices are many, fangio, senna, Andretti, Donahue, seb loeb, Jim Clark, Stewart, gurney, moss. But for me there’s only one. Nuvolari. In cars, on motorcycles. By the time the F1 championship started in 50 he was too old. But prior, wow!

Matthew
Matthew
5 years ago

I’ll throw a curve ball… and I don’t really like him but Sebastian loeb, but there are so many greats

Walter Havens
Walter Havens
5 years ago

No mention of Rick Mears. He owned Indy until his career ending wreck.

Rob
Rob
5 years ago

Well by four it should be someone that has exceptional wins in a wide range of racing in F1, Indy, and road racing as well as perhaps off road, the driver should also still be driving in a ripe age as some of these guys still are approaching their 70s, and still very competitive. It’s kind of like a rock star that is always on top and that is Few and far between.

Hugh McKenna
Hugh McKenna
5 years ago

Dan Gurney. He won in all types of vehicles, plus manufactured winning cars.

Yen-Hsen Liem
Yen-Hsen Liem
5 years ago

Hmm… tough call. I’d have to say the top two all time are Juan Manuel Fangio and Ayrton Senna.

Number one? Probably Fangio by the slimmest of margins.

Miguel Vergara
Miguel Vergara
5 years ago

Tough call!! Let’s split by characteristics:
Most Skilled: Senna, Jimmy Clark, Pedro Rodriguez
Strategic: Walter Röhrl, Schumacher, Prost
Daredevils: Harry Toivonen, Colin McRaeSteffan Bellof, Johnny Ceccoto, Senna,

Leo Bila
Leo Bila
7 years ago

In my opinion the most skilled are rallye drivers, and my hero is still Walter Roehrl! Watch him racing pikes peak with his Audi Quattro and you know what i’m on about. 🙂

Beau
Beau
8 years ago

Senna, Stewart, Clark, Fangio

Joe
Joe
8 years ago

Ken Miles

Máté Boér
Máté Boér
8 years ago

Sir Stirling Moss – because of the unforgettable Mille Miglia win! 😉

Jono51
Jono51
8 years ago

Every generation has its own heroes, and if I was going to vote for my own it would be Jim Clark. But I think the fact is Fangio was actually the best.

Giuseppe Filippone
Giuseppe Filippone
8 years ago

I am no where near an expert in this topic and I imagine that saying one driver is the best among all comes down to having personally seen many many drivers race and attain victory, as well as seeing various racers style on the track, demeanor, and the consideration the type and era of racing they were involved in. All that being said, I have been reading a brief biography of Tazio Nuvolari, and I have to say that this was a very impressive man indeed. The stories I have read about him defeating Mercedes and Auto Union on their own ground more than once in a decidedly sub par Scuderia Ferrari Alfa Romeo is the stuff of legends.

So I guess I will put up my vote for Tazio Nuvolari

t mant
t mant
8 years ago

AJ Foyt? Tough and aggressive. Never backed down.

Carlo Chateau
Carlo Chateau
8 years ago

Without doubt, Prost would have to rate amongst the greats, however the man who beat him at Monaco by over 1.5sec in the same car, just considering that very achievement has to be considered the greatest. Think about that gents… 1.5 sec faster than Prost in the same car…
Senna, fastest, most dedicate, ruthless yet most human all drivers – the greatest by a considerable margin.

Luciano
Luciano
8 years ago

Juan Manuel fangio
Not only he won 5 titles but he do that with cars that drive as fast as today cars but without any technology or safety measures as today

fer
fer
8 years ago

Juan Manuel Fangio. Connoisseurs know that. It´s a fact.

Dean
Dean
8 years ago

What? No mention of Jim Clark? Wow.
Jim Clark.

Antonio1750
Antonio1750
8 years ago

This is always so subjective.

For example:

If you ask who is the most successful F1 driver?
Then the answer is easy – MICHAEL SCHUMACHER as the record books speak for themselves and cannot be questioned.

If the question is: Who is the Greatest? Then it gets subjective and its down to personal choice and opinion.
In my opinion the greatest driver of all time is: STIRLING MOSS

If the question is: Who is my favourite? That too is easy: JEAN ALESI (Just narrowly beating Gilles Villeneuve)

Enrique
Enrique
5 years ago
Reply to  Antonio1750

The most successful F1 driver is Juan Manuel Fangio. he won 47% of the races he started. He races during 8 years. He was World Champion on 5 and runner-up (second place) in another 2.

Antonin
Antonin
5 years ago
Reply to  Antonio1750

Jeannot for ever!!

Eric P.
Eric P.
8 years ago

Young and old, no one has filled me with more awe to watch than Sebastian Loeb.

BlueBug
BlueBug
8 years ago

The question depends on how you make the call. Is the question about speed only, or about sportsmanship?

If it is about speed only, tally up the number of wins and championships and the answers will be statistically correct.

If it is about sportsmanship, with the concomitant issues of character, then I would suggest the following:

1) Jackie Stewart
2) Ayrton Senna
3) Phil Hill
4) Sterling Moss
5) Mario Andretti

Why that order?

Stewart’s contributions to safety place him at the top. His other qualities and attributes are well known and obvious.
Senna’s bravery, meticulousness and strength of character in spite of Prost’s pettiness, his faith, his decency and compassion for others, especially in founding a very successful children’s educational charity in Brazil.
Hill shared many of the personal qualities of these two previous men and a great love of the art and sport.
Andretti is a great all-rounder, and has contributed mightily to the sport and to worth causes.

Carlos O
Carlos O
8 years ago

Probably Senna, of course.
But I can not understand why Prost is not mentioned more often. It is surprising that many of you have mentioned drivers like Piquet, Mansell, Lauda but not Prost, while Prost beated all these drivers, sometimes driving the same car (Lauda) or even a less competitive one (Prost vs Mansel&Piquet in 1986).

I recommend you to read this post about why Prost has always been undervalued:
In spanish: http://f1fanzine.blogspot.com.es/2013/05/en-defensa-de-alain-prost.html
Original version in english: http://www.talkingaboutf1.com/2011/07/in-defence-of-alain-prost.html

RS Anthony
RS Anthony
8 years ago
Reply to  Carlos O

Prost has always been undervalued because he was up against Senna who received God status after his death. Don’t look any further.
But I would be among the first to agree about how great he was. Maybe not the best in qualifying, but certainly one of the strongest as racing driver whose job is to score points consistently and win championships. Besides, people often overlook how fast Prost really was. You cannot keep up with an enlightened would-risk-it-all-type like Senna without being very quick yourself.

Carlos O
Carlos O
8 years ago
Reply to  RS Anthony

Totally agree. Senna is considered the fastest driver in F1 history and could not beat Prost easily… this tells a lot about Prost quality.

Palman
Palman
5 years ago
Reply to  Carlos O

Prost is one of the biggest brains in F1 history. I recently watched races from 80’s, man what a crazy racing that was. My impressions were: Keke Rosberg was a fine and very fast driver, Mansel was a beast and very unlucky, Senna was quick but very passionate (as every Brazilian), but Prost was racing calculator on track, very smart and very fast. My personal favorite is Mansel, but Prost marked that era, at least for me.

dennis white
dennis white
8 years ago

The question is answered pretty definitively by a number of great drivers, including Stewart and Schumacher at the beginning of the move “1”: Juan Manuel Fangio.

Phil was great in both sports and grand prix cars and Mario could do it all.

Ja
Ja
8 years ago

Tazio Nuvolari

CHL
CHL
8 years ago

I can’t pretend to know who’s the best, but my favorites are (in order) Nuvolari, Gilles Villeneuve, Senna.

LucHoNota
LucHoNota
8 years ago

JUAN MANUEL FANGIO

Walter Matias
Walter Matias
8 years ago

Ayrton Senna 🙂

John Davis
John Davis
8 years ago

Many great drivers – Fangio, Moss, Clark, Stewart, Senna, etc. But the most versatile and accomplished in his time I think it was Jim Clark,

B.Adrian
B.Adrian
8 years ago

Juan Miguel Fangio and Phil Hill. Fangio for his mazing record and skill. Phil for being the first american to win a F1 world championship. I can only imagine what a battle that was like.

Bill Giltzow
Bill Giltzow
8 years ago

It has to be Fangio. Only Mario Andretti and AJ Foyt come close to his skill level, and they never had as many championships. All three could drive any car on any surface, and Fangio had lots of dirt oval experience in Argentina. And he won in the point to point races in South America that were more difficult than anything in the US or Europe.

Jim
Jim
8 years ago

Mario, he won in everything he sat in. The only one”s that might have been better were Foyt, if he had decided to race in Europe, and Clark, if he had lived longer

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay
8 years ago

That’s easy! My son, of course. 😉

Andre L  Hulstaert
Andre L Hulstaert
8 years ago

Juan Miguel Fangio without a doubt (don’t know if I have firts namen correctly.

samir shirazi
samir shirazi
8 years ago

Ayrton Senna, ONLY

Gregor
Gregor
8 years ago

May be …. each period has it’s hero. But really?… no one thinks V. Rossi is up there with the greatest?? He climbed in a Ferrari and was about as fast as Kimi’s previous year’s pole. I guess for car nuts as us, it’s no as emotional to be amazed
by talent on two wheels as it is with cars…

Orionttu
8 years ago

Senna

Damon
Damon
8 years ago

Sebastian Loeb. World championship a record nine times in a row and Pikes Peak Hill Climb record holder.

Karst
Karst
8 years ago

Ayrton Senna, followed by Sterling Moss or Schumacher