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Formula One is a sport fueled by prestige, a rich tradition and a deep history. Names such as Jim Clark, Gilles Villeneuve, Graham Hill all jump out as having achieved great things within the sport. However, a select few have risen to the very highest echelons of Motorsport history.
Whilst sentiment usually dictates many to label Senna as the greatest driver to grace the circuits and pit-lanes, Schumacher has the stats and numbers. His incredible record of seven world titles speaks for itself and his dominance of the sport in the early 2000s have elevated him to legendary status.
An illustrious career that saw the German drive for teams such as Benetton, Mercedes and the car he was to do the most damage with, Ferrari. Famous for his unmatched talent, infamous for his perceived lack of sportsmanship, he was never too far away from controversy, one of many occurring in the climactic 1994 Australian Grand Prix.
It’s hard not to be romantic about the sport when figures such as Senna fought so admirably for it. As a cultural icon of Brazil, Senna will always be regarded as the greatest driver in history in some parts of the world. His tragic death at the San Marino Grand Prix brought to an end a very promising career for the Brazilian star, a career which had already secured him three world titles.
His connection with the sport has never been recreated and many current drivers, such as Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, have described him as their idol, their reason for engaging in the sport. He was a celebrity, a star persona and one of the most talented racing drivers to ever exist.
Lauda was always a long-shot, a driver that never showed much promise until given a chance in F1. Making the most of that chance, he soon found himself racing for Ferrari, winning races and obtaining three world titles.
Many will recall the incident in 1976, at the Nurburgring, where his car burst into flames, almost killing Lauda, prompting him to take a break from the sport as he recovered from his injuries. He returned a year later to pick up another world title, earning himself a place on this list as one of the greatest drivers ever.
Juan Manuel Fangio
Before Schumacher, it was Fangio who held the records. Five world titles when the sport was still becoming what it is today. Many argue that Fangio gave the sport the kick it needed. He drove at a time when safety in the sport was non-existent and the cars rattled like death-traps; his incredible record of having won 45% of the races he started will likely never be beaten.
Fangio knew who to race for, usually getting himself behind the wheel of the fastest car in those days, whether it be Ferrari, Alfa-Romeo or Maserati. His drive at the 1957 German Grand Prix is commonly referred to as one of the greatest in history.
The Frenchman, known by many for his rocky relationship and rivalry with Senna, was one of the greatest drivers in the early 1990s, a true champion of the sport in every way you looked at it.
He could win races with bad cars, such as Renault, and win titles with great cars, such as McLaren. He also had races with Ferrari, continuing his feud with Senna, and a season with Williams, where he won the title in 1993.