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Top 10 drivers in Formula One history: Positions 3-1

Sep 23, 2013, 10:00 AM EDT

The run up to the United States release of “Rush” is on, and to mark the occasion, the NBC Sports team has assembled a countdown of the Top 10 drivers in the history of Formula One.

We’ve been revealing our list in increments, first with Positions 10-7 and then with Positions 6-4. But now comes the grand finale: The three greatest Grand Prix racers ever.

source: Getty Images

Juan Manuel Fangio – Getty Images

3. Juan Manuel Fangio

Long ago, back when no one in their wildest dreams could have imagined Formula One’s evolution into the glitzy, technology-driven phenomenon it is today, Fangio forged a legend that continues to be revered by racers and fans alike. Even though he often faced competitors far younger than him, the gentlemanly Argentinian claimed five World Championships in seven full seasons (1950-51, 1953-57) and won 24 of the 51 Grand Prix events he competed in – often using the skills he honed earlier in his career in South American endurance events to triumph. In his time, there were no such things as DRS or KERS to fret over; it was all about strength to wield beastly machines and courage to tackle very dangerous circuits. Consider that, and you’ll realize why the “Maestro” is regarded by many the world over as one of the greatest to ever climb into a race car.

source: Getty Images

Ayrton Senna – Getty Images

2. Ayrton Senna

When one looks back on the late, great Senna, that person is compelled to think about many, many things. On the track, the three-time World Champion was utterly ruthless, leaving all who watched him race in awe at his otherworldly talent and his ability to go beyond the limits. Off the track, his charismatic and intelligent personality made him a worldwide star but his deep religious faith kept him grounded, as did his quest to provide a better future for the underprivileged in his homeland of Brazil. Senna may forever stand as one of sport’s most complex champions – a man so thoroughly driven by the ambition of being the best, but also one that grappled with the paradox of his profession. “The same moment that you become the fastest, you are enormously fragile,” he once said. “Because in a split-second, it can be gone. All of it. These two extremes contribute to knowing yourself, deeper and deeper.”

source: Getty Images

Michael Schumacher – Getty Images

1. Michael Schumacher

Out of all the drivers that were skilled and lucky enough to truly rule a certain era in Formula One’s timeline, Schumacher may be the one that was the most dominant. The seven-time World Champion left an eternal impact on the sport with a staggering run at Ferrari that saw him claim five consecutive driver’s titles (2000-2004) as well as 56 wins from 2000 to 2006. His career was not an altogether glorious one, as his championship controversies at both Benetton (1994) and Ferrari (1997) plus his ill-fated comeback with Mercedes can attest. But in his prime, Schumacher was nothing short of spectacular in using his skills to capitalize on rock-solid equipment. In that time, his combination of speed and consistency was simply too much for his rivals to overcome.

  1. wallio - Sep 23, 2013 at 10:27 AM

    Pleasantly surprised to see a list (finally!) where Senna wasn’t number 1. I still think he’s ranked too high, and Fangio should no doubt be number 1, but otherwise not bad.

    My top 3:
    1.) Fangio
    2.) Schumi

  2. Jeff - Sep 23, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    Vettel will surpass them all.

  3. trixietrx - Sep 23, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    No surprises there, but yeah, I’d rank Fangio as #2.

    They left off completely Villaneuve and Hakkinen. WTF? Vettel is good, no doubt, but he hasn’t proven to be a “greatest” yet, IMO.

  4. wallio - Sep 23, 2013 at 1:35 PM

    You can certainly make the argument Trixie that Vettel isn’t the greatest yet, but he’s certainly better than the one good season Jacques.

    • apexassassin - Sep 23, 2013 at 7:06 PM

      Is tha a joke or something? Surely trixie meant Gilles. 😉

  5. apexassassin - Sep 23, 2013 at 7:08 PM

    I’m just glad I got to live through 3 epic F1 eras… eras where at the time I was sure the records couldn’t ever possibly be broken. Glad that I’ve been around long enough to be proven wrong…

    (lol, fingers crossed I feel the same way about the new 2014 Formula!!!)

  6. bikesgonewild - Sep 24, 2013 at 4:51 AM

    …national pride is an interesting thing…as a longtime auto racing fan, beginning particularly with f1 & sportscar racing as a kid in the ’50’s in canada, i’ve since been living in nor-cal as of the 1960’s yet still at this age, i take great pride in the fact that when asked before his death who his favorite f1 piloto had been, enzo ferrari replied “…il piccolo canadese, gilles…”…
    …when i think racing, my heart still swells with the fact that ‘il commendatore’ found the passion he sought for his marque in that little canadian wheelman with the great skill…

  7. worknman24hours - Sep 29, 2013 at 8:47 PM

    Juan Manuel Fangio has a record of wins in a time span with different teams that will never be matched.

    Fangio is number ONE by far.

    Michael number two and probably Prost is three.

    I would rank Senna four simply because he did not match the records of the others mentioned.

    And frankly,Jim Clark is still reknowned as one of the finest drivers to ever grace the sport.

    But Juan rules in ways no other driver does and probably never will.

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