Since Giuseppe Farina’s victory in the first ever F1 world championship race at Silverstone in 1950, Formula 1 drivers have been locked in battle to see who can be the fastest for the longest, and win more races than anybody else.
These are the seven drivers who have held the title of F1’s most prolific winner at the end of each season – from Farina to Schumacher.
The first three champions
Giuseppe Farina, the first world champion, scored three wins in 1950, a tally matched by Juan Manuel Fangio. But the following year Fangio left Farina behind as he claimed his first title.
Fangio was temporarily overhauled by Alberto Ascari who dominated with Ferrari in 1952 and 1953. But in 1954 Fangio drew level with Ascari’s total once again.
The Argentinean driver dominated the sport until his retirement in 1958, racking up five world championships. His 24th and final victory was also his masterpiece – recovering a deficit of over a minute at the Nurburgring to beat Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins.
The flying Scotsmen
Jim Clark won two world championships for Lotus, and with better reliability would surely have had more titles and race wins. Late in 1967 in Mexico City he matched Fangio’s record, and began what could well have been the march to a third title with another win at Kyalami, South Africa, in 1968. But we’ll never know how far he could have pushed the record, for he was killed at the Hockenheimring in an F2 race later that year.
It fell to another brilliant Scotsman, Jackie Stewart, to take up the challenge. He amassed 27 victories in 99 starts, retiring on the eve of what would have been his 100th after team mate Francois Cevert’s fatal accident at Watkins Glen.
Stewart’s reign as the most prolific winner of all time is the longest to date at 14 years. The late 1970s and early 1980s saw several one-time champions like James Hunt, Mario Andretti, Jody Scheckter and Keke Rosberg many of whom spent only a few seasons with a top team, and fell short of Stewart’s total.
Prost and Schumacher
But Alain Prost mastered the art of being in the right team at the right time. Not only did he beat Jackie Stewart’s record at the 1987 Portuguese Grand Prix, but by the time he retired from F1 in 1993 he had almost doubled the benchmark tally to 51 wins. Without stiff opposition from the likes of Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell (72 wins between them), Prost could have gone even further.
Michael Schumacher had just two wins to his name when Prost left Formula 1. But with the French master leaving, Senna losing his life the following year, and Mansell bowing out in 1995, suddenly there was a power vacuum at the top of Formula 1. Allied to unrivalled strategist Ross Brawn, whether at Benetton or Ferrari, Schumacher was a relentless winning machine.
Still it took him until the 2001 Hungarian Grand Prix to match Prost’s record. But he kept the torrent of victories flowing for another five years – with some stemming of the flow in 2005 when his Ferrari-Bridgestone package proved less competitive – before taking his 91st and final win at Shanghai in 2006.
Aiming for 100
All these drivers owed some portion of their success to the quality of their machinery. Some faced stiffer opposition than others, and later drivers had the advantage of there being twice as many events on a modern F1 calendar as there were in the 1950s, to say nothing of more reliable cars.
The inevitable question is, who will be the next driver to push the record further – and can they take it as far as 100 victories?
If so, it will likely be a long time before we find out. Fernando Alonso has the most wins of any active driver with 21. Assuming a 17-race calendar is the norm in future, it would take him until the 13th race of 2013 to equal Schumacher record if he won every race between now and then…
Read more about F1′s most prolific winners
- Giuseppe ‘Nino’ Farina
- Juan-Manuel Fangio
- Alberto Ascari
- Jim Clark
- Jackie Stewart
- Alain Prost
- Michael Schumacher
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