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Best Formula 1 drivers ever

Formula 1 drivers are extremely hard to rank. The difference in machinery, era competitiveness and time context makes direct comparison impossible. But it's okay to split a selection of the best, each one working hard at different times in different ways to demonstrate the depth and variety of talent that past and present F1 drivers have embodied. From the dominance of Michael Schumacher to the sheer determination of Niki Lauda to succeed, these are the best drivers to have graced F1 in its history.

Best Formula 1 drivers

Michael Schumacher

He often polarizes sentiment, and there is no doubt that he has more often than not overstepped the mark. Speaking softly. Yet Michael Schumacher stays an all-time great, not only because he won seven world championships, 91 races and crushed every record to be crushed in there. Or that he maintained the Senna-like ability to drive his car right at the max, but still be physically fit and wise enough to keep a decent chunk of his mental firepower in reserve to handle tricky pit-wall calls.

He was also a character which was interesting and complex, more complicated than you would expect. And also, more human. "A champion's makeup is one of such inner self-belief that sometimes it turns out to be flaws," Martin Brundle told Top Gear recently. "Most of the sporting greats I've met drive forward themselves because they're always dissatisfied. But look at what Michael accomplished, how fast he accomplished it and what he accomplished in two different teams. Getting to F1 is so hard, staying in it, scoring podiums and winning races. And that guy earned 91 of them, some in one class.

Sir Jackie Stewart

All big sports accomplishments can be condensed into simple numbers, and no different from Jackie Stewart's. He won the drivers' championship three times in Formula One, and was a runner-up twice. But what's more impressive is his hit rate: he won 27 of the 99 grands prizes he contested. It would cement his place in this list in itself, but Stewart is another champion who used his popularity for so much more as a launch-pad. In his case, in challenging the woeful safety standards of motor racing, which at the time did not endear him to many fans and even fellow drivers. But then you talk to him about what he saw and what he lived through, as a number of times I was privileged to do.

Fernando Alonso

A former world champion and 32-GP winner, who might have won, say, maybe five times, if only the dice had dropped more favorably – and Alonso had opted on whom he raced and when a little more astute. He was probably only the third driver – after Niki Lauda and Michael Schumacher – to wield ample personality control over Scuderia Ferrari to convincingly construct the team around him when he joined them in 2010. "I respect him even more than Schumacher in that sense," Lauda once told me himself. "He's very smart. Ferrari wants a driver that they can look up to, someone who they admire.

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