Formula 1 is considered to be the pinnacle of motorsport. The drivers are the superstars here, but many people may be unsure of just how good they really are. There are several factors that go into why F1 drivers are the best in the world.
F1 drivers are the best in the world, as they have years and often decades of experience racing in karts, cars, and other single seater formula racing series. F1 drivers also train constantly to remain in peak mental and physical condition, and there are only 20 seats available in the sport.
The fact that Formula 1 features the best drivers in the world has been a hot topic of debate over the years, with fans of other motorsports claiming their drivers are better. But below, we’ll take a closer look at all the reasons F1 drivers really are the best around.
Are F1 Drivers The Best in The World?
Formula 1 drivers are the best in the world. There are only 20 race seats available on the F1 grid, and so it’s incredibly competitive to reach the racing series, never mind the high level of competition within it. It’s the pinnacle of motorsport where every driver dreams to race one day.
Formula 1 drivers are considered by many to be the best in the world. The most elite racing drivers in the world all strive to win the Formula 1 World Championship – the most coveted prize in the world of motorsport.
The Long And Tough Road To F1
Formula 1 has always been the series that young racing drivers aim to be in. With so much popularity, it takes a lot of experience, talent, and money to make it to Formula 1, never mind trying to win the World Championship too. The path to get into Formula 1 is a long and difficult one that drivers must endure.
The requirements that drivers need to meet just to get into Formula 1 are also the strictest compared to any other racing series. This ensures that the drivers must be experienced and talented enough to join the sport, and it’s unlikely that any driver that’s not good enough will be able to make it onto the grid.
F1 Driver Requirements
First of all, in order to compete in Formula 1, a driver must have a team to join. Drivers can’t simply join the sport through a backmarker team. Finding a seat in Formula 1 is all about timing. For example, one of the most talented youngsters, Oscar Piastri (who won his debut Formula 2 season), was unable to join the grid in 2022 because all seats had already been taken.
However, once the driver has a Formula 1 seat available, they also need to have an FIA Super Licence. This is a special kind of license that allows drivers to compete in F1 – no Super Licence means no F1 seat.
Getting A Super Licence
Drivers need to have at least 40 points within 2 years before they are eligible for a Super License. Super License points are scored in junior series such as Formula 2, and other popular racing series such as IndyCar and Formula E. Each series gives drivers points based on their finishing position – for example, winning the F2 title gives the driver 40 points (enough for an F1 seat).
In addition to having enough Super License points, drivers must have completed at least 300 kilometers (186 miles) in a ‘recent’ Formula 1 car. They also need to pass a mandatory test that evaluates their knowledge of the Formula 1 sporting regulations.
KEY POINTS• F1 drivers are the best in the world, and there are only 20 of them on the grid each year
• The road to F1 is tough, with most racers having the dream of making it to the pinnacle of motorsport
• Aside from having talent, F1 drivers also need to obtain a Super Licence to be able to race
What Makes F1 Drivers The Best?
There are a few different factors that make F1 drivers the best in the world, and it comes down to what they have accomplished, and what they are up against when racing in Formula 1. The sport has been attracting the best drivers in the world ever since its inception.
Every racing driver starts off dreaming of racing in Formula 1 one day. As we have seen, simply making it to Formula 1 is a challenge on its own. Going up against 19 other drivers who have just as much experience, if not more, creates an extremely difficult racing environment.
Formula 1 drivers are fearless, ruthless, and they will race as hard as possible when they are in the car. Over the years they have learned advanced driving techniques which they have at their disposal while they’re in the car and fighting against their opponents.
One of the main factors that separate the 20 Formula 1 drivers on the grid from the rest of the world is their experience. Formula 1 drivers often start their racing careers as young as the age of 3. This gives them lots of time to develop their skills go-karts and learn things like racecraft.
While the drivers don’t necessarily race against others competitively when they are 3 years old, their racing careers can start at around the age of 6 or 8. There are karting competitions around the world for drivers ages 6 and up.
The average driver on their path to Formula 1 will move up into cars when they are around 14 years old. At this age, drivers are allowed to enter bigger single-seater series such as Formula 4 or Formula 3, which gives them an introduction into single-seater cars. It’s an easy transition from there to Formula 4.
Each stage of the process acts as a sieve, and only the best drivers will make their way through to the next series based on their experience and their results. The higher up the drivers go, the more difficult the competition gets in terms of the drivers that they need to race against.
Another factor that makes Formula 1 drivers the best in the world is the competition that they have to face on the track. In order to get to Formula 1, drivers need to fight their way through the rankings of junior single-seater series against some of the best young drivers in the world.
Those who make it to the next stage will face even fiercer competition with faster and more ruthless drivers. Not only do these career steps force drivers to improve their abilities, fitness, and mindset or fall out, but they also ensure that the best drivers make it through to the next steps on the motorsport ladder.
Formula 1 is the culmination of where all of the best drivers will end up. Drivers who have spent decades racing against drivers with similar experience and abilities and won will find themselves in Formula 1. That’s no easy task though, there are thousands of drivers racing in junior single-seaters, and the best drivers need to prove that they are better than the rest.
When the drivers are in Formula 1, they will be racing against 19 other drivers who have gone through the same process as them, with the same level of experience, the same pace in a car, and the same abilities. From there it’s all about finding a way to beat the other 19 drivers and become the Formula 1 World Champion.
Formula 1 cars are the most innovative and state-of-the-art race cars in the world. Driving them is not easy though. In fact, the average person would not be able to drive a Formula 1 car without months of training beforehand. Even then, they’ll be no match for a Formula 1 driver who has more than 20 years of experience in racing.
The first factor that makes these cars so difficult to drive is the G forces. Simply sitting in a Formula 1 car while it’s being driven at full pace is difficult. Drivers can sometimes pull up to 5 Gs during braking and cornering, enough to tire out the average person’s neck muscles after a couple of laps.
Controlling The Car
Keeping a Formula 1 car under control is incredibly difficult too. The car has over 1,000 horsepower, all controlled by the driver’s right foot with no traction control. The brakes can slow the car down from 200 miles per hour in a matter of seconds, with the driver pushing down on the pedal with around 160 kilograms (355 lbs) of force.
The temperature inside an F1 cockpit can reach 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius) during a race, causing dehydration. On top of simply driving these cars around a race track, drivers need to be able to keep their focus for over an hour and a half while racing against other drivers of the same caliber.
KEY POINTS• F1 drivers might start their racing careers when they are just 3 years old
• Gaining racing experience through karting and junior formula racing is essential
• Once drivers get to Formula 1, the level of competition only increases
What About Pay Drivers?
Pay drivers have been a massive talking point in Formula 1 for many years. The way the motorsport world works, whether you’re in karting or Formula 2, is that the driver (or their sponsors) pays the team for their race seat. Drivers often don’t get paid until they reach Formula 1.
The most talented Formula 1 drivers will usually be picked up by the teams whether they have sponsors who can pay for their seat or not (all modern Formula 1 drivers have their own sponsors regardless). But sometimes talent isn’t enough to make it into F1.
KEY FACT: Pay drivers will have their sponsors pay the team for them to be given a race seat
The argument is that pay drivers are taking up seats in the premier class of motorsport simply by paying teams enough money for them to race. This leaves the seat occupied, while other drivers who might be more talented unable to find a seat in Formula 1.
As frustrating as this might be, the reality is that drivers who make it to Formula 1 (even pay drivers) have to be good enough to race there. They might not be the best of their Formula 2 class, but they have scored enough Super License points and have proven their worth as racing drivers through years of experience and achievements.
Who Is The Best F1 Driver Of All Time?
The best F1 driver of all time by sheer numbers is Lewis Hamilton, with more than 100 wins and 100 pole positions, along with 7 World Championships. Other drivers that are often considered the best of all time include Michael Schumacher, Ayrton Senna, and Juan Manuel Fangio.
It’s impossible to say who the best F1 driver of all time is because drivers race in different eras of F1, with different rules, different cars, and even with different levels of competition.
Hamilton & Schumacher
By the numbers though, Lewis Hamilton is the best that the sport has seen so far, breaking numerous records set by Michael Schumacher such as the most wins, most pole positions, and most points scored by any driver. Hamilton has also tied the record for most World Championships by any driver with a total of 7.
Another candidate for the best Formula 1 driver in history is Ayrton Senna. Senna was known for his sheer pace in the car, and his fearlessness on track. He often dominated his rivals and his teammates, winning 3 World Champions. He had 41 victories and 65 pole positions, a record that was later broken by Schumacher. Senna tragically passed away at the 1994 Imola Grand Prix.
Juan Mauel Fangio
Finally, Juan Manuel Fangio is also a great contender for the best Formula 1 driver. “El Maestro” as he was known, was an Argentine driver who achieved a record that still stands to this day, winning the World Championship 5 times with 4 different teams.
The Best Drivers In Formula 1 History
Aside from the drivers who have been the most successful in terms of statistics, there are a few drivers who stand out from the crowd for a number of other reasons. These exceptional drivers have become some of the best drivers in the world, shaped by their experience in Formula 1.
While some of these drivers might not have 5 World Championships to their name, there is no doubt that they are some of the best drivers to have stepped foot in a Formula 1 car. Some of these drivers are younger and have many more seasons ahead of them, giving them a good chance to break records in the future.
Others are on the verge of retiring, and have already achieved a lot in the sport. Some of these drivers have already retired, and are still widely regarded as some of the best drivers the sport has ever seen.
Oftentimes, the Formula 1 community does not recognize how great a driver is until they have retired. Many of these drivers were disliked during their years of success, but after they have retired everyone remembers them and how great they used to be for Formula 1.
Sir Jackie Stewart
With 3 World Championships to his name, Sir Jackie Stewart is one of the legends of Formula 1. The Flying Scot was known as one of the best drivers of his time, achieving his 3 World Championship wins in just 99 Grands Prix (4 years in modern Formula 1).
Sir Jackie Stewart was meant to retire on his 100th Grand Prix, but the death of his teammate Francois Cevert at the 1973 United States Grand Prix sent him into early retirement. He was also one of the drivers to push for further safety developments in Formula 1 – making the cars and the sport safer.
Jim Clark was another Scottish racing driver with 2 World Championships to his name. He was always in connection with Lotus, and he’s famous for being an incredibly versatile racing driver, taking part in Formula 1, the Indy 500, sports cars, and more.
Clark suffered a fatal crash at Hockenheim as his car collided with the trees 150 miles per hour (240 kph). The cause of the crash is a mystery, with many believing that it was caused by a punctured rear tire.
Alberto Ascari was famous during the 1950s as the Italian Formula 1 driver emerged as one of the most successful of the time. Despite only entering 33 races, Ascari won 13 of them, claiming 2 World Championships in the process.
Ascari was famous for racing with Italian brands such as Ferrari and Maserati, and he’s the only Italian Formula 1 driver to win the World Championship with Ferrari.
Niki Lauda is most famous for his rivalry with James Hunt and the crash he had at the Nürburgring in 1976. However, he’s got a natural ability to feel the car like no one else. Lauda was famous for being able to get the best out of his equipment and being the hardest working driver on the grid.
Lauda won 3 World Championships and is the only driver in the sport’s history to win the championship with both Ferrari and McLaren, the 2 oldest and most successful teams in the sport.
Alain Prost, nicknamed The Professor, was rivals with Ayrton Senna. However, he was quite the opposite of the Brazilian legend with a smooth driving style and calculated decision-making from within the driver’s seat.
Alain Prost won the World Championship 4 times. Prost also held the record for the most Formula 1 victories until Schumacher surpassed it in 2001. Prost is still actively involved in Formula 1 to this day.
Nigel Mansell is an incredibly talented driver who won both the Formula 1 World Championship and the IndyCar World Series. Despite only winning the Word Championship once during his career, he was plagued with reliability issues that cost him some incredible results.
His incredible pace in the car and his ability to keep control of his car in difficult conditions set him apart from the rest of the field, and he has always been remembered as a legend of the sport.
Sebastian Vettel is a 4-time Formula 1 World Champion, and he holds the record for being the youngest ever Formula 1 World Champion (and double, triple, and 4-time champion). He’s also the only driver in the history of the sport to score 50 podiums for 2 different teams.
Vettel is much like Lauda in his approach to Formula 1, believing that hard work is the top priority. He is known for having long debriefs with his engineers, and also famously analyzing data and telemetry after winning the 2010 World Championship before heading off to celebrate.
Fernando Alonso is one of the most talented drivers in Formula 1 when it comes to all-around ability. From incredible raw pace on track to amazing wheel-to-wheel abilities, Alonso is perhaps the perfect blend of everything needed to create a Formula 1 driver.
Alonso has won the World Championship twice, going up against Michael Schumacher who was statistically the best driver at the time during his dominant Ferrari era.
Max Verstappen is a born and bred Formula 1 driver. His father, also an F1 driver, drilled the sport into him from a young age and it paid off. His mum was a champion go-karter too. Verstappen has an aggressive, almost Senna-like driving style that makes him incredibly fast on the track.
Verstappen was the youngest ever Formula 1 driver with his debut in 2016, and he also broke the record of being the youngest ever Formula 1 race winner, previously set by Vettel in 2008. Verstappen won the World Championship in 2021 fighting against Hamilton.
F1 drivers are the best in the world. Many people believe that it’s not so, but there are a lot of different factors that make this statement true. All drivers aim to race in Formula 1 during their career, and this alone shows that it attracts the absolute best, and there can only be 20 on the grid.
I created and have been writing on this site since 2019, collaborating with drivers, coaches, engineers and manufacturers to provide you with the most reliable information about motorsport. Find out more about me here.