• Dec 13, 2009
Autosport recently held one of those this-has-to-be-about-creating-controversy polls to find the greatest F1 driver of all time. But this was more like the Screen Actors Guild Awards than the Oscars, in that it was 217 Formula 1 drivers -- going all the way back to 98-year-old Paul Pietsch, who raced in the 1930s -- doing the voting. From among all their peers, the group chose Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna as the number one F1 stunner.

Still, there are plenty of "What?!" moments. Ayrton we're solid on, and only three drivers from the past two decades made the top ten, one of them being Fernando Alonso at the number nine spot. But seriously -- Lewis Hamilton at number 17 ahead of Jack Brabham, Graham Hill, and Kimi Raikkonen? Jensen Button at number 30 ahead of Alan Jones, Guiseppe Farina, and Phil Hill? We say, "Hmmm..." Have a look at the list yourselves, where you can vote for whether a driver should be ranked higher or lower. Hat tip to Marien.

[Source: Autosport | Image:AFP/Getty]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 32 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Absolutely!!! Mario, when I was growing up, was the guy that EVERYBODY acknowledged as the prototype of the racing driver ("Who do you think you are, Mario Andretti?" was an almost generic reference to speed).

      I met him at a Del Mar race in the early 90s; He was sitting at a sponsor's tent, at a table to sign memorabilia, with nobody to sign for... I was in shock... I mean, this guy drove & won in EVERYTHING... with LeMans being the only thing that he didn't win, among the icons in racing. I quickly bought a cap and ran up to him to have him sign. Frankly, he seemed kinda ticked to be committed to a table to sign for nearly non-existent fans but, still, one of my great memories.

      Finally, think about the last time he was in an Indy car... Driving fast in the build-up to the Indy 500, only to end up flying the car in a truly nasty-looking crash, but walking away. Frankly, if he'd focused just on one series (especially F1), his historic standing (ironically enough) might have shone more brightly. Those that never saw him run in any of the series or are familiar with his accomplishments, look at records in any one series (esp. other than Indy Car) and figure he wasn't as great a driver as he actually was.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I've never heard either of those. However, I've heard "Who do you think you are? Stirling Moss?" and "... Nigel Mansell?"
        • 5 Years Ago
        that's in the US. the rest of the world asks : "who do you think you are , Schumacher ?" even today after he retired , Schumacher is the standard word for fast driver. i personally saw that happen in Europe , Africa and Asia.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Understood... on the other hand, I'm talking before Schumy was even born... in the late 60s and early 70s (dating myself here). Andy Granatelli STP Special. GT40.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Senna was the greatest of all in my book but I'm not sure about Lewis Hamilton being ahead of Kimi.
      • 5 Years Ago
      . . . Senna had to scrap and 'go to war' for every win.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This is why various sports Hall of Fames require someone to be retired/out of the sport for a certain number of years for them to be eligible... so the hype surrounding a "current" career won't influence votes... people can look at a competitor's impact on the sport in more of a long-term role...
        • 5 Years Ago
        I should qualify my statement... this is in regards to current drivers being ranked so high when they haven't had that many seasons of success.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree it is very difficult to judge a driver who is still driving against guys who are retired.

        I will say I am impressed that Alonzo is ranked so high by his retired peers. It will be interesting to see how things work out for him at Ferrari.

        I also found it interesting where Kimi wound up on the list and that in the secondary voting people want him higher. This matches my opinion of him. I think he could have been one of greats. He might not be a great developer of a bad car but if you put him in a fast car he wins and wins often and seem almost impervious to pressure.

        The current teams seem to think he is not motivated, but that cool demeanor is what makes him good.
        • 5 Years Ago
        so why did phil hilll get the shaft?
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Carlo_Carrera

        i agree, Alonso aint a pitbull anymore.
        it's all about ferrari's sponsor deal.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Senna was great but so are a lot of other guys.
      The only purpose of these lists is to cause arguments.
      • 5 Years Ago
      If you keep this F1 centric, I can somewhat agree with the list. But I have massive respect for those that drove in the pre-war silver arrows era, especially Tazio Nuvolari, who I would rank number 1 as all time best Grand Prix (there was no F1 then) driver. If you look at the body of work to include F1 performances, I would move John Surtees to number one given he is the only man to ever be World Champion on both 2 and 4 wheels. Add to that his success at the Isle of Man and you will never see anyone duplicate the feat. Ninety percent of modern drivers or motorcycle riders would not have the guts to compete in that era's circuits and machinery for very little pay. In those days, you ran the full N-Ring Circuit plus Spa and Monza were no joke back then. In the 2 wheeled world, the Isle of Man paid championship points and many of the days riders skipped it due to the dangers. Just my humble opinion.
      • 5 Years Ago
      No way, Fangio is the greatest...he was a real driver, not a man inside a hyper computer-assisted car.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I told Juan Manuel Fangio (that he was the greatest ever) this very thing a few years ago in Monterrey and he responded that indeed it is difficult to quantify talent, especially since the equipment changes and evolves, so each driver is a driver of his own time. He said he felt, modestly that he, Fangio, when he was best, was in "sintonia" with his cars especially the Masers. But, having said that, and not wishing to pluck men out of their time and compare them to others in other eras, Fangio said in front others as well, that he felt a great affinity for Ayrton Senna and considered the greatest driver ever. Then Fangio smiled and said: "He has my style, you know."
        Carlos de Vasconcellos
        • 5 Years Ago
        @ Carlos: He was plainly trying to make the guy feel good. If Senna had an Fangio's style, he would have caused more crashes.

        Between them, Senna and Pierreluigi Martini caused more crashes than any other drivers.

        One of the most amazing seasons was 1980. Alan Jones gets my vote.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Fangio, you gave yourself away as the Stig.
      • 5 Years Ago
      it absolutely has to be senna.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Perhaps the 200+ F1 drivers who took part in the survey know more about what makes a great F1 driver than the fans do. The drivers' standards may be somewhat different than the typical fan, that is to say, they see things in the control of a race car and understand what they see better than any fan ever could.

        • 5 Years Ago
        of course they would all vote with Senna, he is the dead hero who died in the line of duty, that's the best kind of hero. but this top is subjective and meaningless. you can't really compare drivers from different eras racing on different cars.
      • 5 Years Ago
      He was the best I have ever saw. Mario is a close second. Mario could and did win in everything he raced.
      • 5 Years Ago
      i saw the accident live on tv .... and gerard berger's crash too.
      in those times they still were real hero's.
      some drivers wounded their hands from the real gear knob shifting that often and fast.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I agree completely about Sienna, but not so sure about Hamilton and Raikkonen. Personally, I consider the current F1 with all it technology and driver's aides to be akin the steroid era in baseball. The engineers and programmer win the races, not the drivers.
        • 5 Years Ago
        what drivers aides, exactly? the FIA has pretty much kicked every single last gizmo to the curb over the last few seasons. in fact, i'd have to say that with the (rather ludacrious) intro of engines and gearboxes that have to last multiple races, it's kinda tilted the playing field towards the drivers a bit. a guy like hamilton who has a smooth and clean line has certain advantages over someone who drove at the razors edge on sheer guts and talent (like f.e. gilles villeneuve.)

        beyond that, we really shouldn't forget that ayrton senna drove the bulk of his career in what (imo) was the absolute pinnacle of the gizmo wars in F1. 4WS, active suspensions, exotic metals in engines and turbos were all the rage in his prime. in fact, the first race ever won by a car with active suspension was driven by senna.

        if we're gonna 'taint' results based on the presence of gonzo technology, then he won't escape being painted with that broad brush.
        • 5 Years Ago
        For the record, 4 wheel steering never made it to the grid. It came close though.

        http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2007/03/22/banned-four-wheel-steering/
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