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The 10 Greatest Race Car Drivers of the Modern Era

Posted in General, Racing by Kurt Ernst | February 12th, 2010 | 69 Responses |

It’s impossible to put together a list like this without raising controversy. Race fans are a rabid bunch, and seeing your favorite excluded for his rival is sure to hit a nerve. Why would I choose one driver over another with more victories or championships? Because of passion and because of what they’ve brought to the sport of motor racing. That said, here’s my list of the greatest drivers of the modern era, which I’m defining as from 1960 to present day (so spare me the hate mail on why Juan Manuel Fangio was excluded).

Ayrton Senna

1) Ayrton Senna: Ayrton Senna da Silva was a three time World Driving Champion, killed in a tragic accident at Imola in the 1994 season. Perhaps best known for his balls-to-the-wall driving style, Senna had the uncanny ability to make up for a car’s weaknesses. His skill at driving in the rain was second to none, and his drive to win astonished team mates and rivals alike.

A 1989 collision at Suzuka with Alain Prost, then his teammate, determined the championship that year. In a move no sane (or less talented) driver would have attempted, Senna attempted an inside pass on Prost. Prost, who had the line, slammed the door on his teammate and both cars went off track. Senna pitted to repair the crash damage and went on to win the race (and, conceivably, the championship); however, the FIA disqualified Senna for cutting a chicane and illegally entering pit row. The championship went to Prost, his main rival.

In 1990, Prost (now driving for Ferrari) and Senna tangled again at Suzuka. This time, Senna held his line in a corner as Prost attempted to overtake. The cars tangled and both were taken out of the race. Senna won the championship based upon his point standings.

Senna’s move to the Williams team in 1994 once again gave the driver a competitive car and team. We can only speculate on what Senna would have achieved had his career not been cut short.

Lewis Hamilton

2) Lewis Hamilton: It was the second race of the 2007 F1 season, the Malaysian Gran Prix, where Lewis Hamilton first caught my eye. Hamilton, a rookie driving for McLaren, was being pressured by a much faster Ferrari driven by Felippe Massa. Massa, a seasoned F1 veteran, grew impatient looking for an opportuity to pass. Approaching a right hand corner, Hamilton went wide, appearing to let Massa by; it was a trap, and Hamilton knew that Massa couldn’t carry the speed through the corner. Massa, now off the racing line, was forced to slow and let Hamilton resume the lead. A few laps later, approaching another right-hander, Hamilton sucked Massa into attempting another pass, with even worse results. Massa, unable to slow his Ferrari enough to stay on track, ran into the grass and lost two positions. Hamilton the apprentice had become Hamilton the master.

If you needed further proof of the young driver’s talents, it came on Season 10, Episode 8 of Top Gear. Driving their “reasonably priced car” on a track slick with rain and oil from an earlier car’s testing, Hamilton turned in a lap at 1:44.7. The record, set by the show’s ringer driver (The Stig) on a dry track is 1:44.4. Mark Weber, the only other F1 driver to run the track in the wet, managed a time of 1:47.1. Nigel Mansell, the F1 driver closest to The Stig’s time, managed a 1:44.6 on a dry track. Jeremy Clarkson has repeatedly said that a wet track will add three seconds per lap, which would give Hamilton a time of under 1:42, nearly two and a half seconds faster than The Stig.

Hamilton brought excitement back to F1, and drives with more passion than the sport has seen in a long time.

Mario Andretti

3) Mario Andretti: If ever there was a name synonymous with racing, it’s Mario Andretti. Andretti and Dan Gurney are the only two drivers to win races in Formula 1, IndyCar, World Sportscar Championship and NASCAR. Andretti has also campaigned successfully in midget cars, sprint cars and drag racing. He’s won four IndyCar championships and is only the second American (after Phil Hill) to win a Formula 1 World Driver’s Championship. He’s raced road courses, ovals, dirt tracks and drag strips, and was named United States Driver of the Year in the 1960s, the 1970s and the 1980s.

Transitioning from one form of racing to another can be extremely difficult, which is why so few drivers reach championships in different series. Andretti not only achieved this, he made it look easy. For four decades, if you wanted a fast, competent driver in open wheel, stock car or dirt track, Andretti was the go-to guy. He set the bar high for future generations of drivers.

AJ Foyt

4) A.J. Foyt: Love him or hate him, there’s no denying the acerbic Texan’s skills behind the wheel of a race car. He ran the Indy 500 for 35 consecutive years and won the event four times. He’s the only driver to win the race in both front and rear engined cars, a feat he accomplished twice with each configuration. He’s won the 24 Hours of LeMans, the Daytona 500, the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. He’s won 138 USAC sanctioned events ranging from stock car to IndyCar, and has won 12 driving championships in various disciplines.

Mark Donohue

5) Mark Donohue: One of the most versatile drivers of the modern era, Donohue competed in series ranging from endurance racing through Trans-Am and NASCAR. Donohue ran five Indy 500s and won the race in 1972. He competed in Formula 1 in 1971, 1974 and 1975, although Roger Penske was unable to field a competitive car in the series.

Donohue was a mechanical engineer by trade, and possessed an almost unnatural ability to set up a race car. No matter what the car or the series, Donohue could turn a couple laps, return to the pits and tell you how to make it faster. His skill at race car development led him to collaborate with Porsche on the design of the legendary 917-10 and 917-30 race cars. When asked by a Porsche engineer if the 917-30, capable of up to 1,500 hp, finally had enough power, Donohue replied, “it will never have enough power until I can spin the wheels at the end of the straight in high gear”.

Donohue died of injuries sustained in a testing crash at the Austrian Gran Prix in 1975.

Jackie Stewart 1969 Matra

6) Jackie Stewart: Now Sir Jackie Stewart, OBE, he has won three World Driving Championships and competed successfully in the Can-Am series. He is largely responsible for the modernization of safety in motor racing.

At the start of Stewart’s career, the odds of a Formula 1 driver being killed within 5 years were two out of three. After a crash in heavy rain at Spa Francorchamps in 1966, Stewart was extricated by a pair of fellow drivers who witnessed the crash. No ambulance was dispatched to the scene, so Stewart was driven in a borrowed van back to the track’s first aid center. Eventually, an ambulance arrived and Stewart was taken away for treatment.

Many of the modern safety measures, such as seat harnesses, full face helmets, run off areas, safety barriers and on scene first responders were a result of Stewart’s efforts to make the sport safer. As the voice of racing for ABC Sports, Stewart also introduced the sport to many Americans, myself included. His combination of driving ability, desire to improve the sport and efforts to popularize it makes him one of the greats.

Richard Petty

7) Richard Petty: The man synonymous with stock car racing in America, even his car number (43) is the stuff of legend. Petty, known simply as “The King” amassed seven NASCAR championships and 200 victories over a career that spanned four decades. He still holds the record for number of poles won (127) and number of consecutive starts (513, from 1971 to 1989).

Petty came to prominence as a driver in a era where stock cars were just that; modified versions of cars available in dealer showrooms. Today’s tube frame, purpose built race cars bear little resemblance to the lumbering, ill handling dinosaurs of years passed. To be successful required a driver to correct for all of a car’s inherent weaknesses, an no other NASCAR driver demonstrated that ability better than Richard Petty.

Sebastian Loeb

8 ) Sebastian Loeb: The most successful driver in World Rally Car history, Loeb has amassed an impressive six championships and fifty four wins in his eleven year career. In a series where car control is king, and where the racing surface varies from snow to dirt to asphalt, Loeb has repeatedly proven that his talents are second to none.

Loeb has also successfully competed in the 24 Hours of LeMans and has tested with the Renault and Torro Rosso Formula 1 teams. His ambition to compete in the 2010 Formula 1 season was cut short by the FIA, who would refused to grant Loeb a Super License, as he had not spent sufficient time in open wheeled cars at lower levels.

Loeb remains the driving force behind the Citroen Total Petroleum World Rally Team, and it remains to be seen how many more championships he is capable of.

Alex Zanardi

9) Alex Zanardi: Winner of two IndyCar Championships, Zanardi also had two stints in Formula 1. Zanardi is perhaps best known for his horrific 2001 crash at Germany’s Lausitzring, where his car spun up the track and was cut in half by Alex Tagliani’s. Both of Zanardi’s legs were amputated above the knee, and he came very close to dying of blood loss. The crash ended his open wheel career, but not his racing career.

By 2003, curious about his ability to return to racing, Zanardi had an IndyCar specially modified with hand controls. CART allowed him to complete the thirteen laps missed after his 2001 crash, and his speed of 193 mph would have put him fifth in the field.

Zanardi has since gone on to enjoy modest success in the World Touring Car Championship. Although he may lack the championships and diversity of other drivers on this list, his passion and love of the sport make him one of the all time greats.

10) Racer X: Who is Racer X? He’s the driver you’ve never heard of, competing on a dirt track in the midwest or a road course in the southeast. His sponsorship, if he has any, is modest; it keeps him in tires and spare parts to keep him racing.

Becoming a famous race car driver is a lot like becoming a famous rock star; you can only get so good, and then you need to get lucky. Somewhere, in a smoky dive bar, is a guitarist whose skills rival Jimi Hendrix. Somewhere, racing karts, midgets, sprint cars, stock cars, rally or formula cars is a driver better than Senna, better than Loeb, better than Donahue. He or she has a trophy case full of gold painted plastic, wood and marble, but unless they wind up in the right place at exactly the right time, you’ll never know their name.

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69 Responses

  1. inthebuff says:

    What? No Danica?

    Seriously, Jimmie Johnson is not on the list? 4 straight championships in any sport is pure dominance. Your bias toward F1/Indy Car is showing.

    • Mark says:

      inthebuff-shut your Yankee ass up. NASCAR ovals do not have the technicality of F1 tracks. Johnson can only drive a fast car around left turns.

  2. Marco says:

    Hamilton? Over Schumacher? not a chance. Maybe in 10 years but not yet.

  3. Vernon says:

    Unacceptable that Dale Earnhardt is not on the list. Seriously, the man was voted unanimously by his peers, including Richard Petty, a man on the list, as the greatest stock car racer to ever live.

  4. Kurt says:

    Vernon, I chose Petty over Earnhardt for two reasons:

    1) Petty raced true “stock ” cars for 31 years by the time NASCAR changed the rules in 1989; Earnhardt had only raced “stock” cars for 14 years. It’s my opinion that the “stock” cars required greater driver talent than the tube frame race cars of the modern era. To earn his victories, Petty needed to work that much harder.

    2) Petty amassed 200 wins in 35 years, an average of nearly six wins per year. Earnhardt had 76 wins over 27 years, an average of nearly three per year.

    On the flip side of that coin, it took Petty 21 years to rack up his seven championships. Earnhardt did it in 19.

  5. Kurt says:

    Buff, you’ll note that I didn’t include Michael Schumacher, either. He had seven F1 championships, including five that occured back to back.

    Having the good fortune of driving for a dominant team doesn’t make you a ten best driver, in my opinion.

  6. SNAK3 says:

    What about John Force? Anybody?

  7. Leo says:

    John Force? Are you kidding me?

    BTW author, Senna was killed at Imola, not Monza.

  8. Ernesto says:

    what about the other 9 drivers? they won racing in a donkey or something? Schumi is the most succesful driver in the history of he most important series in the world, that should count.

  9. Kurt says:

    Thanks Leo – I should have known better than to go from memory. Changes made.

  10. Kurt says:

    Ernesto, the others are listed after the jump. In my opinion, Schumacher was over-rated. There’s no doubt that he was a good driver, but I think his biggest talent was being on the right team, with the right resources, at the right time.

    I guess we’ll see who’s right when he races Hamilton this year, won’t we?

  11. TheDood says:

    Schumacher has 91 career F1 victories. He should be at the TOP of any ‘greatest driver’ list. Senna does not even have half that number. Hamilton, although a great young driver, has not yet earned his way onto this list. Sorry, but your list reaks of bias and not objectivity. Earnhardt, Prost, Piquet, Johnson, Mears, etc…….some mighty big names missing from the list!

    • Kurt says:

      Dood, regardless of the number of championships he’s won, it’s my opinion that Schumi’s greatest talent was being in the right place at the right time. He’s not exactly rocking the F1 world with his return, is he?

      In fairness, he’s been out of the game for a while, so I’d say let’s write off this season. Let’s see how he does against Hamilton next season, if he continues to race F1.

      • Wunderful says:

        Schumi was not at the right place at the right time, nor did he always have the best car. Look at his Bennetton. The Williams cars were both better those years and he still took the crown.
        When he moved to Ferrari, the car DNF 50% of the time and he still made second two years in a row to Hakkinnen. Lets not forget he broke his leg one of those years as well. What makes a race car driver great, is a driver who can make a car great. Schumi ended up with Ferrari being the best car because he made it the best car. Hamilton, Raikonon are all great drivers, but can not put together a car the way Schumi did.

        • Michael Schumacher says:

          Schumacher was the best… I agree with the former poster who pointed out that the benneton was inferior to the mclaren and still Schumacher topped it… Senna was in a superior car and still had Michael on his tail… If it wasn’t for Senna’s untimely demise at imola, schumacher would have taken the title anyway! He outclassed Senna entirely and he continued to outclass everyone for a decade!

          …Also, Fernando Alonso is a far more talented and intelligent driver than Lewis… So get your opinions sorted!

  12. Stephen Cox says:

    Your 10th place driver is the one that is most impressive. Well said and long overdue.

  13. Kurt says:

    Thanks, Stephen. I think you’re the only one who “got” what I was trying to say.

  14. William Sanders says:

    With no disrespect for Hamilton or Donohue, they don’t belong on this list; Donohue because his career was cut short and Hamilton because he just doesn’t have the tenure or accomplishments. No top ten list would be complete without Jim Clark, Michael Schumacher, and perhaps Dale Earnhart.

  15. William Sanders says:

    The world was cheated out of a great rivalry when Senna was killed. He was in his prime at his death and Michael Schumaker was just making his mark. That rivalry may have equaled the great one between Mario and AJ in the late 60s.

  16. Kurt says:

    William, I agree about Senna and Schumacher. Sadly, the rivalry (and animosity) between Senna and Prost was never fully resolved either.

  17. Samuel says:

    Ever heard of Ken Block?!?! he might not be in formula or nascar but if he was he’d be like the next dale earnhart. This guy has crazy skills. he has a drift video on youtube and he drifting all over the place with a subaru with 530 hp i believe it was. Anyways he was drifting around this dude riding is segway on a old airplane field. Well it looks like an airplane feild. he drifted around him like 10 time with his front bumper laess than a foot away in a complete on going circle while the segway rider was going down the airstrip. this guy is incredible. You may also heard of him from a popular racing game called dirt 2.

    • Kurt says:

      Sure have – we’re all Ken Block fans here. Is he a great driver? No doubt. One of the ten best? Not yet, but give him time.

  18. Edmund says:

    Drifting? Not really a form of racing if there are judges involved and you’re not trying to cross the finish line first. And have you seen Ken Block in the WRC? Not so hot. WRC is the most challenging form of racing. I put Loeb #1. And another thing, what’s this moden era non sense? The cars in the earliest days of road racing all the way through the 50’s were pretty challenging to drive I’m sure, especially considering how much more deadly they were. Anyway, this list like everything else is subjective and I appreciate your posting of it and the subsequent discussion it created.

  19. Kurt says:

    Edmund, I focused on the modern era only because there are so many great drivers in history. Was Fangio as good as Senna? What about Wilbur Shaw or Bill Vukovich? I’m not sure we’ve even got any kind of baseline for comparison.

    There’s no doubt that the earlier cars were more difficult to drive, which is one of the reasons I picked Richard Petty over Dale Earnhardt. There’s no denying that both were great drivers, but in my opinion Petty had to work just a little bit harder to rack up his victories. As you point out, this is entirely subjective.

    Thanks for the great feedback, and I’m glad that you understand the purpose of the list: to create discussion.

  20. Edmund says:

    NP Kurt. But for the record, I’m about as big a fan of NASCAR as I am drifting : )

  21. Tom says:

    What a silly list….Foyt, Petty Donohue? Never heard of them. And Zanardi failed in the sporst highest arena…F1. No Shcumacher, sounds like sour grapes, no Mika Hakinen? But the greatest driver of all, not just someone who should have slotted in at nuber 3 or 8, the driver that was and still is regarded by his peers, not just racing fanboys, is Jim Clark. Come on, do your research, I doubt that any driver from the US, maybe Andretti, would make the list.

  22. Tom says:

    “Sadly, the rivalry (and animosity) between Senna and Prost was never fully resolved either.”

    Not true, they of the best of friends when Senna died, and Prost was a bearer at the funeral. They made their peace.

  23. Vince says:

    I agree with lots of this but I think Colin McRae was great also, not because of his number of wins or championship he had but because he was a guy that gave 110% all the time. Earnhardt was like that and sutil is like that I think sutil could be great someday. But it’s hard to compare different types of motorsports.

  24. Vince says:

    And number 10 is so true.

  25. Kenny Shoulars says:

    Hmmm…How many Daytona 500’s, Indy 500″s, 24 hours @ LeMans have Senna or Hamilton won?? This is silly. Foyt is the greatest, Andretti a VERY close second. Their rivalry was epic. Formula1 is rife with “team orders” and every honest fan knows that in F1 it is all about the cars, not the drivers!

    • Brent Kaiser says:

      Jeff Gordon should be on this list more deservingly so than
      Jimmie Johnson. The bulk of Gordon’s wins & championship came when he was part of a low budget, up and coming race team. (Unlike Johnson). Of Nascar drivers, yes I agree, Dale Earnhardt should be #1, followed by Petty, then Gordon, then Johnson. Should Johnson’s streak continue over the next few years then yes, he’s easily the #1 Nascar driver of all time.

  26. William Sanders says:

    When one considers the greatest driver of all-time, like baseball’s hall-of-fame, longevity must be considered. Hands down, Mario Andretti has to be considered the all-time greatest. This man won major events in four different decades. Foyt, like Petty, Senna, Clark, Prost, Mears, Gordon, Earnhart, or Stewart, was the best in a certain era, but Mario was very fast even at age 50. I don’t know how a guy like Hamilton made the list and Schumacher didn’t(?).

  27. Kurt says:

    William, my opinion of Schumacher is the same as Sir Sterling Moss’ opinion: his biggest talent was being in the right place at the right time, and his performance this season only reinforces my opinion. I’d cut him slack if he’d routinely done better than his teammate at Mercedes, Nico Rosberg. Instead, Rosberg has out-qualified and out raced Schumacher consistently.

    Hamilton still has some maturing to do, but he is an amazingly talented driver. If he doesn’t kill himself behind the wheel, I think he’ll prove to be one of the best drivers in F1 history.

  28. Lost skillll says:

    I totally agree with (most) of the ranking,specially the fact that ayrton is the best of all time,he is Simply The Best.I live in a country in the middle east.I’m 21 years old and i don’t even have a driving license!!! I go by bus to the university while girls at my age drive their own cars!!! I don’t blame destiny for ending up like this but what can i say??? I don’t see cars like any regular person,,,, I love cars and i dream about building a car by myself…. I play games like GranTURISMO and i get reallllllyyyy fast laps,… At took me maybe 10 mins to learn how to park and reverse the car!!!! anyway this is life and I have to deal with it,but the sad part is that i lost hope in fullfilling my dreams.!!!!!!!

  29. Realistic Fair Comment Maker says:

    This list is abysmal, the top ten drivers in the world should be the top ten formula 1 drivers of all time (decided on number of championships).

    Someone made the comment about being in the fastest car isn’t a skill …….. wrong. Drivers who drive for fast teams have earned their places there, and were chosen because they were good enough. More importantly, however, the drivers contribute (particularly before silly testing regulations) a huge amount to the development.

    When Schumacher joined Ferrari they were not the fastest team by any means, and Schumacher, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne and Jean Todt built the team into being the fastest and most dominant in F1 history. It was reported that when Alonso joined McLaren his knowledge and advice brought over a second a lap to their car that year.

    The difference between the best in F1 and the second rate (although they would clearly still be better than drivers in any other formula) is that the best are not only extremely quick drivers, but they have additional spare capacity in the cockpit, and they have the additional ability to understand the car, set it up appropriately, feedback information to the designers and engineers (importantly in language they can understand) and leverage themselves into positions of advantage. A good driver isn’t about being the quickest on the track, it’s about putting themselves into positions where they can optimize the benefit for themselves, whilst also being the quickest on the track.

    This is particularly important in F1, so that’s why the top ten should be F1 drivers, and they should be ordered in terms of the number of world championships they have won, and in the event of a tie, they should then be ordered in terms of the number of race wins. In the event of further tie (none at the time of writing) they should then be ordered in chronological order. Therefore the top ten drivers of all time would be:

    1.) Michael Schumacher
    2.) Juan Manuel Fangio
    3.) Alain Prost
    4.) Ayrton Senna
    5.) Jackie Stewart
    6.) Niki Lauda
    7.) Nelson Piquet
    8.) Jack Brabham
    9.) Fernando Alonso
    10.) Jim Clark


    An unbiased motor sport enthusiast.

    • Kurt says:

      RFCM, I appreciate your perspective even if we don’t agree. I’ve said it before, but here it is: Schumacher isn’t as talented as his seven world titles would indicate. If he was, he would consistently out-qualify and out-finish his current teammate, Nico Rosberg. Schumi has failed to do so throughout the majority of the season, while constantly finding excuses for his lackluster performance. To give credit where it’s do, he drove an outstanding race in Korea, and showed brilliant car control in abysmal conditions.

      Maybe what I need is a list of the greatest F1 drivers of all time.

    • Brendan says:

      Put Sebastien Loeb in a F1 car, he will be just as quick! Put any F1 driver in a rally car, it will take a long time till their up to speed! I agree F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport, but no one has the talent quite like him.

      This article pretty much sums him up.

      If anyone was to claim to be the best driver in the world, no one can claim that better than Sebastien Loeb! Pure genius behind the wheel!!

  30. terefe tadesse says:

    I would like to express my deepest gratitude and admiration for your web page for this uptodate wholestic information& profiles of these Heros of life costing sport.which is my favourite. please could you send me their postal adresses that would enable me send my personal admiration to the current top ten drivers.
    Best Regards !

  31. terefe tadesse says:

    It is very nice to have these detailed info about these heroes how about having their zip or postal adresses for personal admiration.
    please help me have them.
    With best Regards!

  32. big ev says:

    I really admire your passion re motorsport. As expected in a world of 6 billion, we don’t agree on everything.

    I think lewis is an exceptional talent. I think Prost in his prime was a better and more cerebral racer than Senna (on a dry track). Importantly, I think both Senna and Schumacher had the abilty to make a sick dog look like a race horse.

    Schumacher’s best races were when his car wasn’t the fastest (1996 – 99), as were Senna’s. As a side note, Schumacher consistently spanked barrichello (qualifying and race pace), meaning that team orders were not that common because Rubens rarely got in front of Schu(watch the videos, RB was fast, but not schu fast). Barrichello ran Button close in 2009 and Button ran lewis close in 2010.

    I’d like to see the schumacher of 1998 up against the Senna of 1991, the Prost of 1986, the Lewis of 2010 and Jim Clark of ANY year.

    What a race that would be!

    Thanks again for your article and list.

  33. Kurt Ernst says:

    Thanks big ev – I think you’re the only poster who didn’t slam my choices.

    I agree that Prost lived up to his nickname (The Professor), and that he was a smarter racer than Senna. Passion made up a lot of what made Senna great.

    Hamilton is still maturing as a driver. If he can avoid falling into the same mid-career slump that seems to impact so many drivers, he can truly be among the all-time greats.

  34. Sean says:

    I think Keiichi Tsuchiya should be up there.

  35. Jake says:

    Thanks for an interesting, thought-provoking list. Of course, any list like this is endlessly debatable. So here’s my two cents. To not have Jim Clark on here is pretty darn….unique. If you only have room for one Scot, I’d pick Clark over Stewart in a heartbeat, and what’s more, STEWART would pick Clark over Stewart in a heartbeat.

  36. tc says:

    You are an Idiot(the guy that made the list)where is schumaker
    one of the world’s greatest if not the greatest. nascar does not qualify as racing! maybe if they start a greatest fair drivers ever list you can put them there!

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      TC, I’d suggest you broaden your horizons. I’m not a fan of NASCAR myself, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the world’s most popular motorsports.

      As I’ve said about a dozen times in the responses already, Schumacher was a good driver who happened to find himself in the right place at the right time. Given the same circumstances, several of his peers (Mika Häkkinen, David Coulthard, Jacques Villeneuve, Fernando Alonso) probably could have done equally well. Need further proof? How well has Schumacher done in his return to F1? He’s been outdone by teammate Nico Rosberg in virtually every category – testing, qualifying, races and championship points.

      Having a different opinion doesn’t make someone an idiot, which is something you generally learn by age 10 or so.

      • jacks84 says:

        While I enjoy watching Nascar and Champ car, comparing them to F1 is like comparing Arena Football or the UFL to the NFL. F1 drivers are simply in a different league. Look at Bourdais, dominant at Champ car series and a failure at F1. I know he was in a slower car but as mentioned before, you can demonstrate enough talent to secure a drive with a better team. Remember Alonso started at Minardi, the worst team in the field. Look at Nigel Mansell, it took him 12 years to win an F1 title but secured an Indy title in his debut season. Very few if any of the current drivers in the Champ series or Nascar could get a drive let alone compete at F1.Look at the race of champions, it may not be more than a mere exhibition of international race talent but American drivers such as Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards and Travis Pastrana have always failed to compete against drivers from Britain, France, Finland, Spain or Germany. Realistically the only American that should be considered is Andretti and thats it. Like I alluded to before, it can be enjoyable to watch a game of arena football, maybe more so than the NFL but you wouldnt start populating a list of the greatest football players with men from that league when you know most couldnt compete effectively at the NFL level so why do it here. Nascar and Champ car may be exciting spectacles but the quality of the drivers does not match up to that seen in F1.

      • AndyF1 says:

        Winner go home f*** the prom queen, loser sit there and blame as well as come up with excuses on why other wins. If you only count the first 2 WDC of Shummi and count 2 of the 5 he wins from 2000-2004 he should have been placed over LH. You must me a Brit.

        Please stop compare MS @42 to a younger guy. Compare MS to LH and others when they are 42 years old in the F1 car.

        • Michael Schumacher says:

          Agree with AndyF1…

          Kurt, you’re only showing ignorance when trying to compare Schumacher now, to Shumacher then… Michael Jordan isn’t the best basketball player in the world now… But that means nothing… Why has George Foreman not challenged for the heavyweight title recently? Because he was in the right place at the right time in the past?

          Besides, this season has been Michael all the way so far… Maybe he did need to warm up, but now he’s out-qualifying Nico… Who’s probably as good as Hamilton, without being an arse!

  37. Derek Slonaker says:

    Mark Donohue was one of my favorites, #3 on my list. I placed ahead of him #1 Jim Hall, #2 Lance Reventlow. The Fittipaldi brothers have to rank somewhere in the top 20 anyway. I remember them beating Ford GT’s with a Porsche engine VW in Brazil! Best race I ever saw was a race won by Geoff Bodine in a Modified race (Pinto bodied) at Martinsville around 75. I’m sure he and his brothers built that car. He spun out, came from dead last and won in around 10 laps!

  38. kamujira says:

    what a joke of a list…

  39. Richard says:

    No Michael Schumacher? No Jim Clarke?
    It doesn’t take much critical thinking to conclude that you are not too competent at analysing racing talent but rather are perhaps a bit disappointed at the lack of representation by American drivers in the pinnacle series and championships of world motor racing.
    This is the failure of the American motor racing federations to recognise and accept that they must swallow their pride and look to Europe for the answers to this dilemma.
    Perhaps I would allow Mario Andretti in the top 10 but this still would be considered a gross under-representation from the worlds richest and best nation.
    A simple example of my point would be Dario Franchitti. Scottish guy not good enough for an F1 drive in a slow F1 car yet goes to America and becomes it’s top racing series champion!?

  40. Carl says:

    Kurt, I agree with most of the reasoning behind your choices; however, I would have to put Mario Andretti and A. J. Foyt above Ayrton Senna. The sheer diversity of their success outshines his (unfortunately) short career. By your own admission, it is extremely difficult to successfully race different types of vehicles. As for Lewis Hamilton, I believe that choice was a bit premature. As much as I agree with you about Schumacher being in the right place at the right time (not to mention team politics), he was an outstanding driver. Using your own criteria, Don Garlits would be a better choice than Hamilton. He was an innovator, a dominant champion, (and still is) passionate about his sport.

    • Kurt Ernst says:

      @Carl, in hindsight, you’re correct about Hamilton. In his first season he showed occasional signs of greatness, but since then seems to deliver only under ideal circumstances. By any measure Hamilton is still a great driver, but not on par with the others on my original list.

  41. Mark says:

    The fact you even have Hamilton on this list is outright ridiculous. He is not better than F1 legends Schumacher, Fangio, Prost, Gilles Villnueve, or even Ascari. And Zanardi? Really? Just cause he lost his legs doesnt make him great. Bad list.

  42. TANVIR AJAZ says:

    Ayrton Seena de Silve was not only Greatest Race Car Driver, but also the greatest sportsman.

  43. Chris says:


    Okay… where is the second best driver of all time and arguably the best driver of all time ? Michael Shumacher

    The integrity of this list is certainly compromised with the exclusion of Michael Shumacher.

    • Chris says:

      As an addition to my previous comment,part of being the greatest driver of all time is building the team. Schumacher took an embarrassing Ferrari team to great heights.
      He didn’t just show up at the right place at the right time.

      Talking about his current skill set and arguing it is the same now as it was a decade ( and a year off) is disingenuous. Finally you have to use the same measuring stick for everyone, after all Senna and Prost had banner years driving the most dominant cars in history the McLaren MP/4

  44. scott slocum says:

    where is Schumacher and Jimmie Johnson am I missing something you have very talented young drivers that have not proven themselves (longterm) and not included the record holders in Nascar and Formula One?

  45. Tim G says:

    What about Jamie whincup, Craig lownds, Greg murphy???

  46. Ken Shiro says:

    hamilton 2nd? ROTFL
    u re kidding me.
    he s a great driver, a champion too… but he s not one of the top10 of ever. if u say so, im sorry but u really dont know to much about racing.

      • Nomad says:

        I use this analogy to win most of these arguments. Imagine going to a racetrack with a car in an enclosed trailer. You don’t know what kind of car is in the trailer or what racetrack you are going to. A bunch of drivers, all in their prime are standing on the corner for you to pick up. Who do you choose? I submit that Foyt in his prime is the most versatile choice for any situation. Most everyone else is very specialized. I don’t think too many of the F1 guys could really come into NASCAR or a dirt race and win right out of the box. Foyt had no problem with that, he did not need to run a lesser series to “get the hang of it”. Won Lemans as a rookie. I know, I know, everyone says he never won in F1, but at that time there was more money to be made in the US and I am certain he could have won in F1 if ran it between 1961 to 1975. That being said, Fangio not being on the list is a huge omission.

  47. noone says:

    Hamilton isn’t even in the top 100 drivers, and Schumann crapped all over senna so where is he? What a moron. I hope you were fired.

  48. Owen says:

    AJ foyt,Numero Uno.
    just look,,both european/american wins..
    the guys the best at everything.

  49. humm says:

    michael schumacher is fucking number one !

    • Racing fan says:

      I appreciate and respect your top 10 list, though I don’t agree with all the selections or the order. As debated above, I don’t agree with the Lewis Hamilton selection, but think he is a good driver. It is unfortunate that some of the posters think that only F1 drivers should be on the list or that it takes little or no skill to drive in Nascar. If it was that easy, Juan Pablo Montoya should have several championships in Nascar, especially since he has been with a good team (Chip Ganassi). Having said that, I think Montoya may very well be in the top 10 when all is said and done.

      I think I would move Foyt and Andretti to #1 & 2 respectively, as they have been successful for a long period of time in many different types of cars. Both of them have accomplishments that no other drivers have achieved. I would move Donahue and Senna out of the Top 5 as their careers were cut short tragically. I would move Petty up into the top five and put Alain Prost in the top 10.

  50. Popeye says:

    I believe that pegging the Modern Era beginning in 1960 is far too soon a date. At least 15 years too soon. I’d also venture to say that the modern racers are a bunch of “girls” compared to the earlier days in pretty well all catagories of racing. By the mid to late 30’s top race cars were hitting 200 mph on long straitaways on open roads in Europe and South America. Fangio competed in 4000 mile races in South America. There was also the famous Mille Milga (Rome to Naples and back) and other famous cross country competitions. These cars had rubber tires, no suspention to speak of, no seat belts, no drivers suits and not even crash helmets. Some like Ascari wore a cloth or leather helmut only and they wore T-shirts! These guys had balls! (there were a couple of great women drivers too…Helle Nice and Junkova who beat the guys sometimes) Racing was so dangerous…..well….if there were as many racers killed to-day as in the first 50 or 60 years of racing the sport would be out-lawed world wide. The speeds to-day are not much higher than what was attained almost eithty years ago!……My personal favorite of all time is Tazio Nuvolari. Credited with developing the 4 wheel drift starting in the 20’s…..his last race was in 1952 (Mille Milga) He died shortly after from cancer. And for Fanjio to win 5 world championships back in the fifties far far outshines Shumi’s 7 in this “modern era” where the car is the star. Better brush up on your knowledge of the history of racing boys and girls!