• Lewis Hamilton is widely regarded as one of the best drivers F1 had ever seen.
• Hamilton finds himself in company that includes Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna.
• We look at some of the best racers of the last 30 years.
• For more motoring stories, go to www.Wheels24.co.za
2020 is a big year for Lewis Hamilton. The British driver is charging towards a record-equaling seventh Formula 1 championship: his sixth with the Mercedes-AMG team. This year, Hamilton surpassed Michael Schumacher’s all-time win record by registering his 93rd victory, putting him on course to end the year with 97 wins to his name.
There can be no doubt that Hamilton is one of the best drivers to ever participate in F1, but his ranking on the all-time list is still very much up for discussion. While some believe that he is possibly the greatest of all time, others feel that the different eras of the sport will have the final say on the matter.
Which is true because since the sport came into existence in 1950, several drivers proved to be head and shoulders above their peers. Especially in the early years, driver skill and talent were key attributes to have; given the difficulty of driving an F1 car. And these were things that separated the men from the boys.
Regardless, we look at three drivers of the last three decades who can put their names on the all-time greats’ list.
Special mentions: Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Alain Prost, Mika Hakkinen
Which F1 driver of the last three decades would say can be regarded as one of the best, and why? Email us with your opinion.
Sebastian Vettel (Clive Mason / Getty Images)
Regarded by many as the greatest driver of all time, Senna’s early and untimely death robbed us from seeing him reach the peak of his career. Up until the 1994 crash that took his life, Senna had made a massive impact on the sport. Racing for both back-markers and title-contending teams, he proved his worth tenfold over.
When it rained during a race, Senna would become a beast behind the steering wheel and leave his rivals in his spray. It was a trait that separated Senna from his opponents and one that made him one of the most revered drivers of his time.
To this day, Senna is regarded by many as the greatest of all time because of his pure, unbridled driving style. He could get the maximum out of his race car and would always manage to assert himself in a race’s outcome.
Ayrton Senna (Paul-Henri Cahier / Getty Images)
For the last 14 years, Schumacher held the record for the driver with the most victories (91) and championships (seven). And though Hamilton surpassed his race win count and poised to equal the championship tally, Schumacher did so at a time when the cars were far more challenging to drive.
Between 1999 and 2004, Schumacher helped Ferrari win six constructors’ championships on the trot, while between 2000 and 2004, he won five of his seven drivers’ titles.
Schumacher was relentless behind the wheel, with some of his actions deemed questionable. It made him a driver not many wanted to go race-to-wheel racing against, but those who dared to are of the impression that Schumacher pushed them harder than any other competitor. Tragically, in December 2013, Schumacher suffered severe head injuries while skiing in France. Little is known about his condition.
Michael Schumacher (Getty Images)
Alonso joined F1 in 2001 driving for the Minardi F1 team but would switch to Renault in 2003 after failing to secure a drive for 2002. His greatest successes would come in 2005 and 2006 when he won the drivers’ championship twice. After that, poor career choices saw him racing in uncompetitive cars, failing to recapture the championship again.
However, driving inferior cars seemed to bring out the best in Alonso as he continuously found himself in the thick of things. It was tough seeing one of the sport’s bests not fighting for the championship, but he garnered tons of respect throughout his career.
Alonso quit the sport at the end of 2018 and tried his hand – successfully – at various racing codes, including Le Mans, IndyCar, and Dakar. He will return to F1 in 2021 racing for the Renault team he won his two championships with.
Fernando Alonso (David Davies / Getty Images)
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