I was skimming through a few articles today and came across one piece that was titled ‘The Top 10 British F1 Legends’. Intrigued by this, I read on and whilst I agreed with some drivers positioning, I was quite surprised at others. I suppose everyone ranks people differently, because it’s a matter of opinion, but John Surtees was only ranked 9th. What shocked me even more (even though I am a huge fan) is that James Hunt was ranked 2nd. With it coming up to the British Grand Prix, I thought I would have a go.
10. Damon Hill – Like father like son
Son to Graham, but certainly worthy of being in the top 10. Damon started out on bikes but moved his way up to Williams F1 just before the death of Ayrton Senna. Despite the grief everyone was suffering, Damon picked up the team and lost the championship win after a controversial crash with Michael Schumacher. For the next two years Damon was named as Michael’s biggest title contender, and in 1996 beat the German along with Jacques Villeneuve for the crown. He currently works with SkyF1 giving his analysis. In his career, he attained 1 championship, 22 wins, 42 podiums and 20 pole positions.
9. Tony Brooks – The Racing Dentist
It’s frustrating, Tony left BRM and then the next year Graham Hill won the championship with them. So you could question where he would have come, had he stayed at the team. Having said that, Tony was a respectable driver and Jack Brabham thought very highly of his abilities. A long with Stirling Moss, they are considered the best drivers to not have won the world championship. Despite his 38 race starts, Tony did manage to win 6 races, as well as achieve 10 podiums and 3 pole positions. Stirling also considers him to be ‘the best driver in the world who nobody knows about’.
8. Mike Hawthorn – The first British champion
At 6ft 2 it was hard to miss him, but his championship days didn’t last long. Good friend Peter Collins died at the German Grand Prix in 1958, so Mike decided to retire at the end of the season; The season he became the champion. Sadly after a road crash with a lorry, Mike passed away. Mike was known for having a heated rivalry with Luigi Musso, who like Collins and Hawthorn passed away in France that same year. He raced his way to 3 wins, 18 podiums and 4 pole positions.
7. Lewis Hamilton – The Rookie that shone
Despite what some people think, you can see a bit of Ayrton Senna in him . To miss out on the Formula 1 World Championship by one point in his first year, is just incredible. His personality is sometimes debated, but when it comes to his driving there’s just no question that he’s one of the best. His overtakes are mature, and well thought of. Considered to be one of ‘the top 3’ in the current championship, he will be one to watch for many years to come. Despite only having 1 championship in his name, Lewis has achieved 21 wins, 52 podiums, 27 pole positions and counting.
6. Nigel Mansell – Brave, Stubborn but quick
Brave is an understatement, he raced his way to the Formula Ford championship…with a broken neck. He is undoubtedly quick, and in tricky situations Nigel shone. He took the fight to the likes of Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Nelson Piquet sr, but after Alain took his seat at Williams he turned his back on Formula 1. He also raced in CART IndyCar series as well as a brief time in British Touring Cars. His skill earned him a world championship, as well as 31 wins, 59 podiums and 32 pole positions.
5. Graham Hill – The Monaco King
One of the people’s favourites to watch in his time. He arrived at Lotus just after the deaths of Jim Clark and Mike Spence, and picked up the team to go on to win the world championship that year. A bit like Jim Clark, Graham also raced in other competitions like Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500. The only driver in fact to win all 3 competitions, which is known as the ‘Triple Crown of Motorsport’. He is also noted for being exceptional around the Monaco street circuit, winning 5 times. Graham and son Damon are the only father-son duo to win the Formula 1 world championship, and Damon’s son Josh is currently racing in Formula 3. Like the following 4 drivers, Graham was inducted into the International Motorsport Hall of Fame. A plane crash, ended his life, but with 14 wins, 36 podiums and 13 pole positions he left his mark.
4. John Surtees – A champion on 2, and 4 wheels
You know you’re good when you can win championships in both Formula 1, and a motor bike championship (Blue Riband 500cc). You also must know you’re good, when your fans are petitioning for you to be knighted. John is an ambassador behind the Racing Steps Foundation. Familiar? That’s because drivers like Jack Harvey and James Calado (GP3&2 drivers) currently have backing from them. RSF helps drivers with talent and potential with funding. His bike career is more impressive than his time in Formula 1, but he did win a world championship with Ferrari, as well as attaining 6 wins, 24 podiums and 8 pole positions.
3. Sir Stirling Moss – Always a bridesmaid
Stirling Moss is a class act. He proves that you don’t need to have won a world championship, to be considered as one of the best. Sir Stirling competed in more than 80 cars in his day, in different formula’s. He had perfect sync with his cars, and knew exactly where to put the car into what corner. Sadly a near-fatal crash at Goodwood ended his career in racing. He is however still involved in the sport, doing presenting, driving historic cars and even presented Lewis Hamilton with his 2nd place trophy at the British Grand Prix in 2011. Despite not winning a championship, Stirling did achieve 16 wins, 24 podiums and 16 pole positions.
2. Sir Jackie Stewart – The Flying Scot
The knighthood was well deserved. Sir Jackie has done so much for the safety of Formula 1, which in itself is commemorable. But what makes him even more special, is that in his era of racing a small error could cost him his life. To still race despite all of that, shows how determined and passionate he was about the sport. His figures of what he achieved is extremely credible, racing himself to 3 World Championships, 27 wins, 43 podiums and 17 pole positions. During the Belgian Grand Prix of 1966 after a crash, he was left trapped in his car for almost an hour. Jackie campaigned for better safety and is credited with bringing in full-face helmets, drivers seatbelts, medical teams, safety barriers and bigger run-off areas.
1. Jim Clark – British Legend
Jim was renowned for being able to race any car, in any conditions. He not only raced in Formula 1, but also competed in NASCAR, British Touring Cars, and Le Mans. Clark didn’t complain, he simply drove the car to the finish line. In 1967 Jim started from pole position at the Italian Grand Prix, but a puncture made him drop to the back of the grid. After having his wheel changed he was an entire lap down and came out in 16th place, though the race was not over. Clark charged through the field and soon re-took the lead, however on the last lap he ran out of fuel and finished 3rd. Jim won 2 championships, and achieved 25 wins, 32 podiums and 33 pole positions. A crash at Hockenheimring (Germany) cost him his life, but his legacy in British F1 still stands.