Poll Best driver of the Decades

F1Brits_90

Champion Elect
realised I never did my own.

50's - Fangio
what can you say the guy was dominant, 5 world titles something would be matched or beaten until 50yrs & we all think of vettel espically in 2011 & 2013 as dominant. but I was reading that his 1954 & 55 titles where by % margin were more dominant than any of vettel titles. Murray walker still says hes the greatest driver he has watched. which is praise in deed

60's - Clark
1 of the greatest died tragically young, had a great talent to drive any car quickly & when Jackie stewart a 3 time world champion but classes himself as the 2nd best driver from Scotland. says he has the best driving style he seen. which good enough for me

70's - Lauda
brilliant driver, some fantastic races & race craft, got some great results In every car, could've been a 5 time world champion but for reliability as led the championship in 1974 & had pole but then retirement in that race & the next 4 cost him his chance to win the his 1st title in his rookie Ferrari year. in car he called a dog? won in 75 but for the accident that nearly cost his life would won 1976 & did win in 1977

80's - Piquet
cant go prost because it maybe is because it successful but "boring" won 3 world titles in 80's but he got lucky in 1986 & was beaten 3 times in title battle. senna straddled both decades if not for his accident would probably have won the 1990's as he was at his best in 1989 onwards. but Piquet was very consistent & won 3 world titles 81, 83 & 87. beat Patrese & Mansell 2 very respected drivers

90's - Senna 1st half - Hakkinen 2nd half
only cop out because F1 changed so much during this decade in every way tv, safety, cars, regulations, circuits its like 20yrs.

Senna was driving fantastically only realised he came 2nd in 1993 with 5 wins & 7 podiums in 12 races he finished, that's quite impressive considering how awful that car was & then took every pole position in 1994 until his tragic death.

Hakkinen towards the end of the 90's he was pretty good, think Micheal Schumacher called him his toughest rival, to take on most successful F1 driver & beat him in 1998 was 1 of most impressive titles

00's - Alonso
for all his faults which he got a ton off, admitally. he is quality driver impressed in every car Minardi Renault McLaren Renault mk2, not many people can say that they lapped Schumacher at his peak of his powers & that 2006 battle at imola with Schumacher is still 1 of my favourites.

10's - Hamilton
you cant go for anyone else constant record breaker, overachieves in every car, has a pole & win in every season, I think because of his sheer consistenty we may be watching the joint greatest driver. the irony of it being the guy who is other joint driver is his hero senna

-------------------------------------------
Prediction
20's Verstappen
well 3 world titles, 50 wins 1 of most entertaining to watch & showed great maturity when he withstood that pressure from Leclerc in very tense title decider in 2024 ;)
 

Ruslan

Podium Finisher
I might be wrong on this one but if I remember correctly Andretti always or nearly always had the Lotus 79 during the 1978 season whereas Peterson on a few occasions had to drive the Lotus 78.

Good point. It happened twice in the season. The first five races of the season they both drove Lotus 78s. In the sixth race (Belgium) Andretti drove the new Lotus 79 while Peterson has the Lotus 78. Andretti took pole while Peterson qualified 7th. After that, they both had Lotus 79s until Monza (14th race of the season), when Peterson damaged his car in practice and has to use the Lotus 78. Andretti took pole and Peterson took 5th. That race was tragic.

Having said that I must confess that I don't rate Peterson any better than Andretti, I think that they were both amazing drivers.

Many years ago there was an article in Road & Track, which I don't think I saved, about a Lotus test session in 1977/1978 that used an early G-force reading meter and other instrumentation to see how the drivers were performing. During the test Andretti's laps times were faster than Peterson and you could see the results on the G-force meter. Also at the test as a journalist was Jackie Stewart. He hopped into one of the cars and had a go. His times were slower than either Andretti or Peterson but through one section of corners he was faster as he downshifted there and they did not. This was 4-5 years after he retired.

I do remember one discussion in the article, which is that when Peterson's car hit the limit of adhesion and was sliding, he continued to turn the wheels. He was asked about this later and said something flippant like "That is just the way I drive."

Now, this is all from memory and was an article I saw probably around 30 years ago.....but my conclusion from that little metered comparison (which they showed in the article) was that Andretti had the edge over Peterson, and was probably more aware of what he was doing. Stewart may have been better than both of them, and found a slight advantage through a right/left set of corners. At least that was the case for that day.
 
Good point. It happened twice in the season. The first five races of the season they both drove Lotus 78s. In the sixth race (Belgium) Andretti drove the new Lotus 79 while Peterson has the Lotus 78. Andretti took pole while Peterson qualified 7th. After that, they both had Lotus 79s until Monza (14th race of the season), when Peterson damaged his car in practice and has to use the Lotus 78. Andretti took pole and Peterson took 5th. That race was tragic.



Many years ago there was an article in Road & Track, which I don't think I saved, about a Lotus test session in 1977/1978 that used an early G-force reading meter and other instrumentation to see how the drivers were performing. During the test Andretti's laps times were faster than Peterson and you could see the results on the G-force meter. Also at the test as a journalist was Jackie Stewart. He hopped into one of the cars and had a go. His times were slower than either Andretti or Peterson but through one section of corners he was faster as he downshifted there and they did not. This was 4-5 years after he retired.

I do remember one discussion in the article, which is that when Peterson's car hit the limit of adhesion and was sliding, he continued to turn the wheels. He was asked about this later and said something flippant like "That is just the way I drive."

Now, this is all from memory and was an article I saw probably around 30 years ago.....but my conclusion from that little metered comparison (which they showed in the article) was that Andretti had the edge over Peterson, and was probably more aware of what he was doing. Stewart may have been better than both of them, and found a slight advantage through a right/left set of corners. At least that was the case for that day.

very interesting, I remember a few years ago a special issue of Autosport talking about drivers, and they were interviewing someone from Williams and he was comparing Piquet to Keke Rosberg. He basically said that on faster turns Piquet would turn in gently and keep on incresing both steering lock as well as the g forces by using all the grip in his car whereas whereas Rosberg would wack the steering wheel and hold on to it for the duration of the turn. That was one of the reason that the guy being interviewed gave for corroborating his view that Piquet was a much better driver than Keke Rosberg (despite both being WDCs). The differences in the driving styles of different drivers are amazing, sometimes it's difficult to get that from the outside but if you look at the telemetry readouts the differences are massive. Just as an example from a distance it looks as if they all brake in the same way but if you look closely (slow motion or telemtry readouts would be very helpful) very driver has his own style. Some can learn and adapt to a new car (I think of Alonso with the mass damper or the many instances when Hamilton has some sort of car issues and he's able to drive around it) and become great drivers
 

Ruslan

Podium Finisher
The differences in the driving styles of different drivers are amazing, sometimes it's difficult to get that from the outside but if you look at the telemetry readouts the differences are massive.

This does amaze me but it is clearly the case. You would think at the top levels styles would tend to converge and the differences between the drivers would be very limited. Yet this appears to not be the case.

Just as an example from a distance it looks as if they all brake in the same way but if you look closely (slow motion or telemtry readouts would be very helpful) very driver has his own style.

I read an interview once by Stewart and he said he not did fully learn how to properly brake until the 1973 season.
 
Last edited:

cider_and_toast

Exulted Lord High Moderator of the Apex
Staff Member
Premium Contributor
In Peter Warrs biography he talks about Ronnie Peterson's driving style. He mentions a time when Ronnie was having trouble setting up the car and asked Peter to go out to watch the car through a corner saying it was under steering. Warr went out and watched as Peterson came running through the corner with the back end of the car hanging out on the ragged edge in a power slide. Warr went back to the garage all ready to explain the difference between understeer and oversteer. When Ronnie came back in and they began to chat Ronnie exclaimed "I know the difference Peter its just that the car understeers so badly that the only way I can get it to go around the corner is to do that"

Warr knew then the difference between Ronnie and Mario. Mario could set the car up to dial out the problems and was very sensitive to even the slightest changes in handling and set up. Ronnie could sense the issues but drove around them, found different ways and lines to carry speed around the track.

The problem for Ronnie was that the new generation of ground effects cars couldn't as easily be wrestled into submission they required someone of Mario's ability to understand the mechanics of the car to dial in to the set up and handling.
 
In Peter Warrs biography he talks about Ronnie Peterson's driving style. He mentions a time when Ronnie was having trouble setting up the car and asked Peter to go out to watch the car through a corner saying it was under steering. Warr went out and watched as Peterson came running through the corner with the back end of the car hanging out on the ragged edge in a power slide. Warr went back to the garage all ready to explain the difference between understeer and oversteer. When Ronnie came back in and they began to chat Ronnie exclaimed "I know the difference Peter its just that the car understeers so badly that the only way I can get it to go around the corner is to do that"

Warr knew then the difference between Ronnie and Mario. Mario could set the car up to dial out the problems and was very sensitive to even the slightest changes in handling and set up. Ronnie could sense the issues but drove around them, found different ways and lines to carry speed around the track.

The problem for Ronnie was that the new generation of ground effects cars couldn't as easily be wrestled into submission they required someone of Mario's ability to understand the mechanics of the car to dial in to the set up and handling.

If I may add just a few thoughts to this very interesting post, today we are used to drivers who get told what they do wrong or how they should (try to) drive a given bit of track. Before telemetry they didn't have that luxury, they had to provide feedback and that was no as easy as it seems, they had to find the limit (again not as easy as we think it is) and they were on their own doing those things, nowadays they tell you to take a given turn with a given amount of lock and at a set rev level, I'm sure that this is not as easy as it sounds but it's much easier than in Peterson's time
 

Ruslan

Podium Finisher
If I may add just a few thoughts to this very interesting post, today we are used to drivers who get told what they do wrong or how they should (try to) drive a given bit of track. Before telemetry they didn't have that luxury, they had to provide feedback and that was no as easy as it seems, they had to find the limit (again not as easy as we think it is) and they were on their own doing those things, nowadays they tell you to take a given turn with a given amount of lock and at a set rev level, I'm sure that this is not as easy as it sounds but it's much easier than in Peterson's time
Yea, I wish I had kept the article from Road & Track as it was one of the earliest efforts to measure driver performance and it tested Andretti, Peterson and Stewart. It would not be impossible to find, but would take a while.
 

FB

Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
Different yes,. Easier, I'm not sure.

If driving a modern F1 car is as simple as you suggest then why is one driver often faster than another in the same car?

Back to the original question:

50's Stirling Moss
60's Jim Clark
70's Niki Lauda
80's Alain Prost
90's Michael Schumacher
00's Michael Schumacher
10's Lewis Hamilton
 

Dartman

Podium Finisher
If I may add just a few thoughts to this very interesting post, today we are used to drivers who get told what they do wrong or how they should (try to) drive a given bit of track. Before telemetry they didn't have that luxury, they had to provide feedback and that was no as easy as it seems, they had to find the limit (again not as easy as we think it is) and they were on their own doing those things, nowadays they tell you to take a given turn with a given amount of lock and at a set rev level, I'm sure that this is not as easy as it sounds but it's much easier than in Peterson's time
They may be told that that is the optimum criteria for that corner, however the best driver gets nearer to or exceed that criteria every lap the less so skilled driver misses it by hundreds or thousandths of the units every lap, conditions vary throughout the race albeit track or tyres and the driver that can hold the criteria closest is the more skilled, it may well be that Red Bull judge their drivers in this criteria and if they continually fail to get within Red Bulls tolerance it's the second team or out, it would give a fairly reasonable account of driver capability. Perhaps this is the F1 pundit description of out driving the car, but somehow I doubt it :whistle:
 
They may be told that that is the optimum criteria for that corner, however the best driver gets nearer to or exceed that criteria every lap the less so skilled driver misses it by hundreds or thousandths of the units every lap

And don't you think that being given such a reference is a massive help? Hitting the target isn't easy, but when you know what the target is hitting it IMHO becomes easier than hitting it when beforehand you have to find out by yourself what you're aiming at

Personally the little telemetry that I used in my racing days helped me a lot and made many things much easier and I think that it made me a much better driver, notably in terms of my braking or not using too much steering lock or not telegraphing too much the turns, all mistakes that I was doing without realising that I was getting it wrong

Oviously an outstanding driver (like Hamilton, for example) stands out regardless but whereas 40 years ago it was reasonable to expect a delta of, say, over 1 second between an outstanding driver and his less talented team mate nowadays when the delta is 4 tenths per lap we talk of a driver who made a massive difference over his less talented team mate.
 

Dartman

Podium Finisher
Possibly, but I suspect it helps the poor driver become average, the exceptional ones know immediately they have not optimised the corner or lap and ask what they missed out on if they don't already know and it's really for conformation, using Oleg charts of optimum laps you see that the top drivers rarely miss their optimum by more than a couple of thousandths on qualifying, however it would be interesting to know what the teams optimum time would be
 

F1Brits_90

Champion Elect
yeah that makes sense & why best car is important but still best driver get the best. heikki kovalien great example he won 1 grand prix in 08 but hamilton won the title
 

Il_leone

Champion Elect
This is always going to be contentious and its easy to look at the results

50's Fangio although some might say Moss ( RIP) but Fangio was able to get himself in the best car and and still the only man to win titles with 4 different teams speaks volumes

60's Clark - the man could drive anything to make it go fast and probably let down by poor reliability. His pole record stood for 20 years until Senna broke it shows you the speed he possessed then

70's the two that stood out were Stewart and Lauda. Some will say JYS played the politics card about driver safety and installed himself as No 1 in the Tyrell team but he had the vision to see the level of professionalism needed to succeed

Lauda was the best driver from the mid 70's and that crash in Nurburgring changed him no doubt.

It was also an era of talents like Hunt, Peterson , Fittipaldi and Reutemann but neither of these drivers could really achieve more for their own reasons

80's you have it say it was Prost because the only times he got beaten was because the opposition usually Piquet had superior equipment apart from 1982. I will go on say Senna whilst emerging as the new threat did not really make his mark as the best driver until 1988. Yes he was quick and brilliant in the wet but it was only when he teamed up with Prost , people can see what a formidable opponent he was


90's I will say Senna - certainly up to his death he was the best . Schumacher took over yes and was considered the best afterwards


00's Schumacher until 2006 but Alonso was the stand out driver after this period

10's Probably Alonso until 2014 when it was become Hamilton's era
 

P1

Podium Finisher
because as we now for numerous reason you cannot say who is the greatest driver in F1 because like stiring moss once said how do you compare a driver from the 50's who was front engined, steering wheel was just for turning, wheels that where same as you get on your normal sportscar & zero aerodynamics. to the hybrid mid engined, steering wheel like mission control & unfathomable specialist tyres. because 5 time world champion fangio might be dreadful in a hybrid & 6 time world champion lewis hamilton wouldnt be able to get the pace of masterati. so who do you think were the best driver of that decade. can be the most successful or best driver that outperformed the car

50's -
60's -
70's -
80's -
90's -
00's -
10's -

50s: Fangio
60s: Clark
70s: Lauda
80s: Senna
90s: Schumacher
00s: Hamilton
10s: Hamilton
 

Dartman

Podium Finisher
I tend to discount the 50's as the winning driver could have changed cars twice in a race, in those days the team was all important and the No1 driver was there to win for the team, the other 2 or three drivers were there to keep the car on the road and in a competive position ready to hand over to the No1 driver. Yes Fangio won more races and had a long career but was he the best, he survived the era with luck, others died and some without fault (car failure, collisions with inexperienced drivers) there were others Nuvolari, Portago, Phil Collins, I think I would go for Tazio Nuvolari
 

siffert_fan

Too old to watch the Asian races live.
Contributor
I will limit myself to the decades that I actually observed:

1960s: Clark. The best driver I have ever seen competing against the most talent-laden fields.

1970s: The toughest call. It could be Stewart, Lauda or Andretti. I will go with Andretti because, in several of the Chapman biographies I have read, he credits Andretti's engineering talents and feedback with bringing Lotus back from the dead following the debacle of the Lotus 76. And I was a HUGE Lotus fan.

1980s: Prost. There were numerous accounts in various motor racing magazines of the period which said that, when he and Senna were teammates, Senna frequently (before their falling out) went to Prost to find out how to set up his car. Plus, Prost made it all look effortless, while Senna drove more with his balls than with his brains.

1990s: Schumacher

2000s: Red Bull

2010s: Mercedes: Since the turn of the century, IMO, the car has been the primary determinant of the Championship. The fields have been getting weaker with the overwhelming presence of pay drivers, and the proliferation of driver aids (those buttons and knobs on the steering wheels aren't ther for looks) have made the driver an ever smaller part of the equation.
 
Top Bottom