Ranking the Top 10 British Racing Drivers in Formula 1 History

Matthew WalthertFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2014

Ranking the Top 10 British Racing Drivers in Formula 1 History

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    Associated Press

    This weekend is the 50th running of the British Grand Prix at its current home, Silverstone. It is a de facto home race for most Formula One teams and—along with Monaco, Monza and Spa—one of the only circuits remaining from the first F1 season, 1950.

    The UK has also produced many of the best drivers in the history of F1, including 19 grand prix winners. From Jackie Stewart and Jim Clark to Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, there have also been 10 British World Drivers' champions.

    In honour of F1's homecoming, here are the top 10 British F1 drivers of all time.

Methodology

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    Lewis Hamilton and Jackie Stewart.
    Lewis Hamilton and Jackie Stewart.OLIVER MULTHAUP/Associated Press

    There are three criteria used to establish this ranking:

    • Career winning percentage
    • World Drivers' Championships
    • Top-three finishes in the World Drivers' Championship

    The 19 British race winners were ranked in each category, with the top driver in each one receiving 19 points and the bottom driver one point. The overall ranking is based on their total scores.

    The system is not quite as elaborate as the one we used in our ranking of all 32 world champions, but the new category for top-three finishes should help recognise those drivers who were consistently among the best in the sport, even if they did not pile up a ton of championships.

Honourable Mentions

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    Surtees with Enzo Ferrari in 1964.
    Surtees with Enzo Ferrari in 1964.Anonymous/Associated Press

    John Surtees, Tony Brooks and David Coulthard just missed the cut for the top 10, but it was very close.

    Surtees, born in London in 1934, won the 1964 world title for Ferrari, but he only finished in the top three one other time in his F1 career. Before his F1 career, Surtees was also a motorcycle racer, and he is still the only man to win world championships in both motorsport disciplines.

    Although Brooks won six of the 38 grands prix he started, he never won a world championship. His closest finish was second in 1959, four points behind Jack Brabham.

    Coulthard won 13 races in his career and finished third in the championship four times. In 2001, he finished second, albeit 58 points behind Michael Schumacher and his dominant Ferrari.

10. James Hunt

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    Hunt in 1976.
    Hunt in 1976.Uncredited/Associated Press

    James Hunt triumphed over Niki Lauda for the 1976 Drivers' Championship, recently immortalised in the film Rush. That was Hunt's only top-three finish, and he took six of his 10 career grand prix wins that year. Less than three years later, frustrated in an uncompetitive car, he walked away from the sport.

    Hunt was at least as famous for his exploits off the track as he was for his driving skills, and after his retirement, he was also a popular F1 commentator for the BBC.

9. Mike Hawthorn

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    Mike Hawthorn announced himself to the F1 world with a victory in his ninth grand prix start, the 1953 French Grand Prix, and he finished third in the championship the following season.

    He won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1955 and the F1 championship in 1958, despite winning only one race that season. In his career, he won just three grands prix, though he scored 15 other podium finishes.

    Hawthorn retired from F1 just after winning the championship, but he was tragically killed in a road accident just three months later.

8. Jenson Button

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    Button celebrating his 2009 championship.
    Button celebrating his 2009 championship.Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    Button did not win his first race until 2006, his seventh F1 season. He then won the world championship with Brawn GP in 2009 and was a distant second to Sebastian Vettel in 2011.

    Button has won 15 grands prix in his career, just one fewer than Stirling Moss. This year will be Button's 15th British Grand Prix; he has never finished on the podium at his home race.

7. Lewis Hamilton

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    Hamilton won the title on the final lap of the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix.
    Hamilton won the title on the final lap of the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix.Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    Hamilton has been more successful at Silverstone than his former teammate, Button. He won the British Grand Prix in 2008, the year of his Drivers' title with McLaren, and has scored two other podium finishes.

    Last year, Hamilton was leading the race until he had a tyre puncture, eventually finishing fourth.

    With four victories already in 2014, Hamilton has passed Jim Clark for third place on the list of British Grand Prix winners, with 26. He is only five behind Nigel Mansell for the lead, a total he could reach this season with Mercedes' dominant car.

6. Nigel Mansell

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    Mansell driving for Williams in 1992.
    Mansell driving for Williams in 1992.Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images

    Like Button, Mansell waited a long time to win his only world championship. After finishing second three times, he took the title in 1992, standing on the first or second podium step at every race he completed.

    Mansell leads all British drivers with 31 career victories and is sixth on the all-time F1 list. He also won his home race four times; only Clark and Alain Prost, with five each, have more British Grand Prix victories.

5. Stirling Moss

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    Moss is the only non-world champion in our top 10. However, the London native won a quarter of the grands prix he entered in his career, from 1951 to 1961.

    He finished second in the Drivers' Championship four times and third on another three occasions. In 1958, he lost the title by a single point to Hawthorn, despite winning four times that season.

    Moss won the British Grand Prix twice, in 1955 and 1957 (a shared drive with Brooks), when it was held at Aintree, near Liverpool.

4. Damon Hill

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    Hill celebrates his 1996 World Championship.
    Hill celebrates his 1996 World Championship.SADAYUKI MIKAMI/Associated Press

    It might be surprising to some people to see Damon Hill so high on this list, but he won 22 of the 115 races he started in his relatively short F1 career.

    Aside from his 1996 title, Hill finished second in 1994 and 1995, as well as third in 1993. Despite winning the title for Williams in 1996, he was dropped by the team for the following season.

    Hill scored his only British Grand Prix in 1994, finishing more than one minute ahead of Jean Alesi's Ferrari.

3. Graham Hill

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    Hill wins the 1962 German Grand Prix en route to his first title.
    Hill wins the 1962 German Grand Prix en route to his first title.Associated Press

    Graham Hill is Damon's father and a two-time F1 World champion. The elder Hill raced from 1958 to 1975, winning 14 grands prix. He never won the British Grand Prix, though, finishing second twice.

    Hill was killed in a plane crash in 1975.

2. Jim Clark

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    Clark is considered not only one of the best British drivers ever, but one of the best F1 drivers ever. Born in Kilmany, Scotland, he won more than one-third of his grands prix and two World Championships before he was tragically killed in a Formula Two race in 1968.

    Along with Prost, Clark holds the record for most British Grand Prix victories with five. He won four in a row from 1962 to 1965, and again in 1967.

1. Jackie Stewart

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    Stewart in 1971, the year of his second title.
    Stewart in 1971, the year of his second title.HO/Associated Press

    Stewart—another Scotsman and a friend of Clark's—tops our list. The only British three-time world champion, Stewart won 27 races in his career, including two British Grands Prix.

    In his nine seasons in F1, Stewart finished in the top three of the Drivers' Championship six times, narrowly missing out on another title in 1968, when Graham Hill won by 12 points.

     

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