The world of race car driving is thrilling and exhilarating, with speed, precision, and strategy all coming together to create some of the most exciting competitions in sports history. From the screech of the tires on the pavement to the smell of gasoline in the air, there is nothing quite like the rush of watching skilled drivers push themselves and their cars to the limit. And while countless race car drivers have made their mark in the world of auto racing, a select few have risen above the rest to become true legends of the sport.
Whether it is competing in the high-speed world of Formula One or enduring the grueling demands of endurance races, these car racing legends have carved out a place for themselves in the annals of history and become household names for generations of racing fans.
In this blog, we will closely examine the legendary race car drivers in history. So buckle up and get ready to go on an exciting journey through the world of auto racing as we pay homage to the true titans of the track.
Juan Manuel Fangio
No. of Wins: 24
Championships: Formula One (1951, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957)
Years Active: 1950 - 1958
Juan Manuel Fangio, also known as "El Maestro," was a remarkable Formula One driver who dominated the early years of the sport with five F1 titles. Fangio's unmatched winning percentage of over 46% solidifies his status as one of the greatest race car drivers ever. He holds the record for the most Argentine Grand Prix wins and served as the honorary president of Mercedes-Benz Argentina. Fangio's lasting impact is commemorated, and his remarkable legacy resonates across the racing world and beyond.
No. of Wins: 27
Championships: Formula One (1969, 1971, 1973)
Years Active: 1965 - 1973
Jackie Stewart, one of the greatest race car drivers, was a triple Formula One champion and a trailblazer for safety in motorsport. He showcased his prodigious talent with three World Drivers' Championships and two runner-up finishes in his nine-season career. In a ranking conducted in 2020, Stirling Moss was positioned as the fourth-best driver in the world. Beyond his racing accomplishments, Stewart was dedicated to enhancing safety in racing, advocating for advancements such as full-face helmets, seatbelts, medical units, etc. Even after retiring, he remained a prominent television commentator, commercial spokesman, and advocate for safer racing conditions.
No. of Wins: 25
Championships: Formula One (1975, 1977, 1984)
Years Active: 1971 - 1985
Niki Lauda, a famous race car driver and aviation enthusiast, won three Formula One titles, the first being in 1975. His career was marked by triumph and adversity, including a life-threatening crash in 1976. He bounced back to secure his second championship in 1977 and a third in 1984. Lauda demonstrated his business acumen off the track, holding managerial positions at Ferrari and Jaguar. He played a crucial role in bringing Lewis Hamilton to Mercedes and worked with them until his passing in 2019.
No. of Wins: 51
Championships: Formula One (1985, 1986, 1989, 1993)
Years Active: 1980 - 1993
Alain Prost is a retired French race car driver regarded as one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time. He won the F1 Drivers' Championship four times and held the record for the most Grand Prix wins for over a decade. Prost began his F1 career with McLaren in 1980 and won the championship in 1985, 1986, 1989, and 1993. He received the "World Sports Award of the Century" in the motorsport class, further cementing his status as a true legend on the track.
No. of Wins: 25
Championships: Formula One (1963, 1965)
Years Active: 1960 - 1968
Jim Clark, a legendary racing driver, was a formidable force in Formula One during the 1960s. With two F1 titles in 1963 and 1965, Clark showcased his unrivaled talent and fearless spirit, even in treacherous conditions like the rain-soaked race at Spa in 1963. Apart from F1, he triumphed in the prestigious Indianapolis 500 in 1965. Regarded as one of the best drivers of all time, Clark's untimely demise in 1968 during an F2 race at Hockenheim cut short his promising career, leaving a lasting impact on the world of motorsport.
No. of Wins: 91
Championships: Formula One (1994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004)
Years Active: 1990 - 2012
Michael Schumacher is an ex-Formula One car racing legend widely regarded as one of the best drivers of all time. With seven F1 championship titles and 91 wins, he holds several records, including the most wins and most races won in a single season. Schumacher played a crucial role in turning around Ferrari's fortunes, leading the team to five consecutive world titles and 48 wins between 2000 and 2004. His impressive career stats of 91 wins, 155 podiums, and 68 pole positions cement his legacy as one of the most exceptional race car drivers in F1 history. However, his skiing accident in 2013 left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair, leaving fans to wonder how he would have fared in other motorsport disciplines like NASCAR or IndyCar.
No. of Wins: 41
Championships: Formula One (1988, 1990, 1991)
Years Active: 1984 - 1994
Ayrton Senna is regarded as one of the most significant race car drivers in motorsport history. His unwavering commitment to perfection and relentless drive to push the boundaries set him apart from his peers. His three Formula One championship and 41 race wins, including an astonishing 15 wins in the 1988 season, cemented his status as an actual car racing legend.
Sadly, his career was cut short in 1994 when he was killed in a high-speed crash at the San Marino Grand Prix. Despite his untimely death, Senna's legacy symbolizes raw talent, dedication, and the pursuit of excellence.
No. of Wins: 103
Championships: Formula One (2008, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020)
Years Active: 2007- Present
Lewis Hamilton is a British race car driver widely considered one of the finest drivers in the history of Formula 1. He has won a record-breaking seven world championship titles, tying him with Michael Schumacher as the most successful and famous race car driver in F1 history. With 103 career wins, Hamilton holds the record for the most victories in Formula 1, and he has also set numerous other records, including the most pole positions and the most career points. With a contract until 2023, Hamilton shows no signs of slowing down and is expected to continue breaking records and winning races.
No. of Wins: 31
Championships: Formula One (1992)
Years Active: 1980 - 1995
Nigel Mansell, one of the iconic race car drivers and car racing legends, achieved remarkable success in both the CART Indy Car World Series and Formula One. He secured the Formula One World Championship in 1992 and is listed as the seventh-highest race winner in the sport's history. Despite retiring, Mansell's extraordinary talent led to his recognition as one of the top five Formula One drivers of all time. In 2008, he was acknowledged by the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, and The Times of London Newspaper ranked him among the 50 greatest race car drivers, placing him at number nine.
No. of Wins: 12
Championships: Formula 1 (1978)
Years Active: 1960 - 2000
Mario Gabriele Andretti is a car racing legend in the world of motorsports. His name is synonymous with excellence on any race track. He is a highly celebrated race car driver known for his versatility and success across various motorsport categories, including Formula One, IndyCar Series, NASCAR, and endurance racing. Andretti's impressive career includes wins in the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500, and the Formula One World Championship, making him the only race car driver to accomplish this feat. He has also been named the United States Driver of the Year three times in different decades. Even after being retired for over 25 years, Andretti remains a famous racing car driver and a highly respected figure in motorsport, continuing to drive the 2-seat IndyCar at over 200 mph and serving as a global ambassador for the sport.
No. of Wins: 53
Championships: Formula One ( 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013)
Years Active: 2007 - 2022
A famous racing car driver, Sebastian Vettel, left an indelible mark during his prime years in Formula 1. With four consecutive championships from 2010 to 2013, he became the youngest world champion, setting numerous records such as most wins in a season, most consecutive race wins with nine in 2013, and most podium finishes. Although his performance declined after regulation changes in 2014, Vettel remained highly regarded until his retirement in 2022. He challenged Lewis Hamilton closely in two title fights and left a lasting legacy of sports records.
No. of Wins: 14
Championships: Formula One (1962, 1968)
Years Active: 1958 - 1975
Graham Hill, a British racing legend, is considered one of the greatest drivers of all time. He won two Formula One Championship titles and triumphed in all three races of the "Triple Crown of Motorsport" - the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Monaco Grand Prix, and the Indianapolis 500. Hill's son, Damon Hill, also became an F1 champion, making them the only father and son duo to achieve this feat. Tragically, Hill's career was cut short when he and five other team members died in a plane crash. His legacy lives on, and he remains an iconic figure in motorsport.
No. of Wins: 79
Championships: World Rally Championship (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012)
Years Active: 1999 - 2022
Sébastien Loeb, a famous race car driver, is widely acknowledged as the most excellent rally driver in history. With an unmatched record of nine consecutive World Rally Championship wins starting from 2004, Loeb solidified his status as a legend in the world of race car driving. He holds multiple WRC records, including the most podiums, stage wins, and event wins, making him the most successful race car driver in the sport's history. Loeb's exceptional career extends beyond rallying in prestigious racing events such as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the X Games, and the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, where he established a record in 2013.
No. of Wins: 6
Championships: World Endurance Championship (2013)
Years Active: 2012 - 2014
Tom Kristensen, a Danish racing legend, is considered one of the greatest drivers of all time. He achieved remarkable success in various championships, including Formula 3, Formula 3000, British Touring Car Championship, and Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters. Kristensen's most notable accomplishments came at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where he clinched an unprecedented nine victories, earning him the nickname "Mr. Le Mans." He also holds multiple wins at the 12 Hours of Sebring. With his Danish nationality, six Le Mans wins, and the 2013 World Endurance Championship title, Kristensen's legacy is legendary in the world of motorsport.
No. of Wins: 23
Championships: Global RallyCross Championship (2011 - 2015)
Years Active: 2005 - 2018
Ken Block was an American rally driver and entrepreneur. He was the first American to compete in the FIA World Rally Championship and gained fame for his exceptional driving skills. Block co-founded DC Shoes and later focused on Hoonigan Industries, an apparel brand for car enthusiasts. His viral YouTube series, Ken Block's Gymkhana, showcased his impressive car control. Although he passed away in a snowmobile accident, Block's contributions to motorsports and the automotive community remain unforgettable.
No. of Wins: 83
Championships: Nascar Cup Series (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2016)
Years Active: 1998 - 2020
Jimmie Kenneth Johnson is an American professional stock car racing driver. He was a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, and 2016. Johnson has 83 career race wins, including two victories in the Daytona 500. He is considered one of the greatest NASCAR drivers in history, with 222 top fives, 341 top tens, and 35 pole positions.
No. of Wins: 16
Years Active: 1951 - 1961
Stirling Moss, an eminent race car driver, left an indelible mark on motorsports. Despite never winning the Formula One World Championship, Moss's immense talent shone through with 212 victories in 529 races across various racing disciplines. Regarded as "the greatest race car driver never to win the championship," he consistently excelled, finishing second four times and third three times in seven years. Moss's affinity for British cars and his instrumental role in challenging the dominance of German and Italian teams solidified his status as a car racing legend.
No. of Wins: 74
Championships: United States Auto Club (1960, 1961, 1963, 1964, 1967, 1975, 1979)
Years Active: 1957 - 1993
A.J. Foyt is one of the greatest American race car drivers ever, with phenomenal success across different motorsport genres. He is a famous race car driver who won a record 159 USAC victories and 67 American Championship racing wins. He was the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500 four times, the Daytona 500, 24 Hours of Lemans, and the 24 Hours of Daytona. Foyt also survived three serious crashes during his career, leaving him with lifelong injuries. He has been inducted into numerous motorsport Halls of Fame and named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers.
No. of Wins: 32
Championships: Formula One (2005, 2006)
Years Active: 2001 - Present
Fernando Alonso is a two-time world champion known as a fearless, aggressive, and famous racing car driver. He has achieved 32 wins in his 359 races, including 22 pole positions and 23 fastest laps in Formula One. He made his F1 debut in 2001 and marked a win in the 2005 and 2006 Formula 1 Championships. In addition to his F1 success, Alonso has also won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2018 and 2019 and the World Endurance Championships in both years. Despite facing setbacks in his career, Alonso remains a fan favorite and is considered one of the best drivers.
Currently, Fernando Alonso is competing in the 2023 Formula One World Championship, driving for Aston Martin. He recently secured podium finishes in the Bahrain and Saudi Arabian Grands Prix, marking his 100th career podium.
No. of Wins: 200
Championships: NASCAR Cup Series (1964, 1966, 1971, 1973, 1974, 1979, 1981)
Years Active: 1958 - 1992
Richard Petty, a famous racing car driver, has achieved legendary status in the world of NASCAR. He holds numerous sports records, including seven NASCAR Championship wins between 1964 and 1981 and 200 total race wins, the highest of any NASCAR driver. Petty also won the Daytona 500 seven times and held the record for the most pole positions and top 10 finishes. He was a pure NASCAR driver and remains one of motorsport's most respected car racing legends. Petty was inducted into the inaugural class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010.
In conclusion, the world of motorsports has been graced by some of the most talented and accomplished race car drivers around the World. While this list highlights some of the greatest drivers in motorsport history, it is important to recognize that there are countless other exceptional drivers whose names may not be included here. The world of racing is filled with talented individuals who have made significant contributions and achieved remarkable successes in various disciplines and eras. From Formula One to rally, endurance racing to stock car racing, each discipline has its own legends and heroes. Their passion, skill, and determination have shaped the sport and left an indelible mark. It is a testament to motorsport's rich and diverse history that many more drivers deserve recognition as some of the greatest of all time.