Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport. It sees the best drivers in the world, the finest circuits and the latest cutting-edge technology all combine to make the greatest spectacle on four wheels. Since its start in 1950 every F1 driver has vied to the best driver in the world.
There are many that give a subjective opinion on who is the best. Many will say Lewis Hamilton or Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna or Jackie Stewart. But few, if any, have delved into the data to come up with a definitive data-led answer. Here at BetVictor we are doing just that. By the end of this article we will have determined who is F1’s greatest driver, the true F1 Champion of champions.
A Brief History Of Formula 1
F1 can trace its roots back to the earliest days of motor racing. The first plans for an F1 drivers’ championship started in the late 1930’s, although these had to be postponed due to the onset of World War II.
In 1946 the idea was reignited and by September of that year the first Formula 1 race was held, the 1946 Turin Grand Prix. By 1947 the World Drivers’ Championship was formalised paving the way for the first F1 World Championship race at Silverstone in 1950.
It was not the easiest start for the F1 World Championship though. In 1952 and 1953 the authorities had to run Formula 2 regulations due to concerns about the amount of Formula 1 cars available.
A British era of domination started when Mike Hawthorn became the first UK driver to claim the title of Formula One World Champion in 1958. Between 1962 and 1973 British and Commonwealth drivers won nine drivers’ championships. British teams won ten constructors’ titles, with wins from Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, John Surtees, Jack Brabham, Graham Hill, and Denny Hulme. Honourable mention has to go to Sir Stirling Moss who is widely thought to be the greatest driver never to win the World Championship.
In 1968 the iconic British Racing Green Lotus became the first team to carry advertising on their cars.
In 1975 Niki Lauda claimed his first of three world championships, his first two coming for the fabled Ferrari team, the third for McLaren. In 1976 Lauda won six of the first nine races before a crash at the German Grand Prix left him with life-threatening burns. Amazingly he returned to racing six weeks later and that year’s championship went down to the wire. James Hunt pipped Lauda to the world championship in the final race – a story that was highlighted in the epic 2013 film Rush, available on Netflix.
By 1977 Lotus were breaking new ground again. They introduced F1 to ground effect, a method of sucking cars into the track giving them phenomenal grip, with the Lotus 78. The successor of this car, the Lotus 79, became the first ground effect car to with the world championship, at the hands of Mario Andretti.
1984 saw McLaren start a period of dominance. McLaren won the drivers’ championship seven out of eight years with Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. The team’s vertex during this period came in 1988 when they won 15 of the 16 races.
The 1990s saw both McLaren and Williams dominating, each team claiming a combined 16 titles: McLaren seven constructors’ and nine drivers’ and Williams nine constructors’, seven drivers’.
Between 1999 and 2004 Michael Schumacher won five consecutive drivers’ championships and six consecutive constructors’ championships for Ferrari. Schumacher retired in 2006 which coincided with F1 becoming more competitive once again.
The 2006 World Champion, Fernando Alonso, was paired with rookie Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton surprised many with a run of nine podium finishes in his first nine races. Hamilton was pipped to the world title by Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen by a single point. Both Hamilton and teammate Alonso finished the season with 109 points. Ferrari also won the Constructors’ Championship that season after McLaren were disqualified over the suspicion that they had gained an unfair advantage by getting hold of confidential technical information from Ferrari.
In December 2008 the Honda Racing F1 Team decided to pull out of the Formula 1 World Championship. This decision surprised many including their contracted drivers, Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, and the management team headed by Ross Brawn. The team was sold for £1 and rebranded as Brawn GP. Honda provided a $100 million budget and Mercedes provided engines. Nobody could have guessed that, after the turbulent start to their life as a new F1 team, the Brawn GP would be competitive. Even the F1 betting elite would not have been placing bets on them before pre-season testing. Due to their innovative double diffuser Brawn GP was besting the competition many times in the pre-season test . Their race season continued in the same vein with the BGP 001 winning its debut race with Jenson Button at the wheel. In fact, Button went on to win six of the first seven races that season. A lack of development to the car curtailed their winning ways as the other teams caught up. But Jenson Button was able to hold on to claim his one and only championship by nine points over Sebastian Vettel. At the end of the year the team was sold to Daimler and rebranded as Mercedes GP for the 2010 season.
2010 began the start of four years of dominance by Red Bull Racing and Sebastian Vettel. RBR seemed almost unstoppable claiming both the Constructors’ Championship and Drivers’ Championship every year.
Never to be a sport that stands still, 2014 ushered in the Turbo-Hybrid Era, a change of rules on the power unit for F1 cars. This was an era dominated by the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team claiming victory in the drivers’ championship in 2014,2015,2017,2018,2019 and 2020 seasons with Lewis Hamilton and in 2016 with Nico Rosberg. Mercedes franked this form with eight constructors’ championship titles in a row from 2014-2021.
2021 became one of the most talked about F1 Seasons of all time. The on and off-track rivalry between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton and their respective teams created the drama. The ebb and flow drew to a climax with both drivers level on points as the pair entered the final race of the season, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix . Verstappen, who entered F1 as the youngest ever driver (aged 17 years, 166 days), was ahead although level on points. It came down to a heads-up fight between the two title protagonists. Lewis Hamilton appeared to be winning the battle until the closing stages of the race. With five laps remaining Nicholas Latifi crashed in the wake created by the proceeding car of Mick Schumacher. The damaged car on track forced the F1 Race Director, Michael Masi, to call out a safety car and bunch up the pack. Max Verstappen’s Red Bull Racing Team took the opportunity to pit and give him new tyres, as at this stage as he had nothing to lose. In what turned out to be one of the most controversial endings to a F1 season ever, Masi first decided that the five lapped cars that sat between the leader Hamilton and second place Verstappen would not be moved out of the way. This decision he later changed before getting racing resumed for a one-lap shootout. With new tyres on, and no other cars to hinder his progress, Max Verstappen stormed past Hamilton at the fifth corner and maintained the lead to become the first ever Dutch Formula One World Champion.
— Formula 1 (@F1) December 13, 2021
Which Formula One Constructor Is The Best?
There have been a total of 211 constructors that have competed in F1 since the Constructors’ Championship was introduced in 1958, representing 24 different nationalities.
When looking at a constructor there are two variables, the maker of the chassis and the maker of the engine. In some cases, this would be the same, like Ferrari who have always made their own engines. In other cases, the engine has been provided by another company.
With this in mind, we will look at the most successful constructors based on their chassis only. Our results will consider only championship winning years. After all, you can’t claim to be the best F1 constructor if you didn’t win the championship.
15 different chassis constructors have won the world championship. Ferrari has taken the most titles, with 16, but this doesn’t tell the whole story. Different seasons see different amounts of races, so we need to look at the win percentage of each year a team won the championship.
List of constructors’ champions by season ordered by win percentage:
From this we can see that the most dominant team in any given year was McLaren in 1988. They won 15 out of 16 races in that season, an impressive 93.75% win percentage.
A single season does not make a true overall champion though, so we must combine the data from all seasons.
List of constructors’ champions ordered by win percentage combined over all winning seasons:
From this we can see that, despite winning eight fewer constructors’ championships than Ferrari, Mercedes are the most successful F1 Constructor of all time. In their eight title winning years Mercedes amassed a total of 111 wins in 160 races, a win percentage of 69.38%. Ferrari can boast just a 47.37% win rate across their 16 winning seasons.
Which F1 Engine Is The Best?
So, we now know Mercedes make the best chassis, but does that mean they make the best engine? In terms of a single year it would be unwise to bet on Mercedes. McLaren’s 93.75% win percentage in 1988 was powered by Honda; this would again top the list. But what about aggregated data over all seasons and constructors?
List of constructors’ champion engine providers by win percentage:
Once again, Mercedes tops the table. Being victorious with McLaren in 1998, Brawn GP in 2009 and as a works team from 2014 to 2021. They narrowly pipped Climax who won the Drivers’ Championship and Constructors’ Championships four times a piece, in 1959, 1960, 1963 and 1965.
How Many World Championships Has Each Of The F1 Drivers Won?
There have currently been a total of 853 drivers compete in at least one F1 race. Despite this only 34 drivers have ever been crowned F1 world champion.
List of F1 drivers’ world champions:
As these drivers often drove at different times, and under different sporting regulations, it is not a fair comparison to count the number of world championship titles held. Determining the greatest F1 driver of all time needs us to look deeper.
Finding the best Formula 1 driver is not an easy task. We will look at years in which the driver’s championship has been won. There have been different points systems over the years and seasons with different amounts of races. In some years not all points earned counted towards the championship standings, meaning you can’t just take the championship points. Drivers also did not always compete in every grand prix of each season, so this needs to factored in also. So, we have looked at the amount of points a driver could have earned and then looked at who got the greatest percentage of the points available to them.
Which Formula One World Champion performed best over a single season?
As we can see Alberto Ascari claimed the highest percentage of points available to him in the 1952 season. But, as previously noted, we look at the combined data across all championship winning years.
List of percentage of possible points earned during F1 championship winning seasons:
We have our answer… based on percentage of points earned during winning seasons, Lewis Hamilton is the best F1 driver of all time.
It is worth noting that in motor racing consistency is key. Delving even deeper into the data we see how consistent Hamilton is. Over the course of his F1 career Lewis has entered 288 races. He could have earned a total of 7268 points in this time; he claimed 4165.5 points. That means that Lewis has won 57.31% of all the points he could have during his time in the pinnacle of motorsports.
Michael Schumacher fans may still dispute this result, after all he is often quoted as the best driver of all time. In Schumacher’s 308 race entries he claimed 39.65% of the points available to him. Michael Schumacher was one of the greatest F1 drivers of all time, but in terms of consistency during championship winning seasons and over his F1 career, Lewis Hamilton stands on the top step of the podium.
Formula 1 2022
The 2021 season produced an epic showdown between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. Verstappen claimed his maiden world championship on the final lap of the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi. The 2022 F1 season is all set to be as exciting with a 23-race calendar.
Provisional 2022 Formula 1 Race Calendar
The F1 drivers grid in 2022
Bet on Formula 1
Put yourself in pole position with BetVictor’s markets and F1 odds. When it comes to F1 betting we always have a wide range of options to choose from. If you are looking to place a season-long bet, we have Formula 1 outright markets that allow you to get odds for the F1 Drivers’ Championship and the F1 Constructors’ Championship.
As each race draws closer, we also have betting for F1 races individually. You can bet on the results of individual races, including the driver and team to win, podium finishes, pole position, grid position of the winner, fastest lap, first retirement, driver vs. driver bets, handicap bets, and more.
Even after the race has started you can continue to bet on F1. Our In-Play betting markets include race winner, the driver to win the next lap, the next retirement, and you can even bet if there will be a safety car.
Make your best bet on F1 with BetVictor.