One Grand Prix triumph can change a life but Formula 1 immortality awaits any driver with enough victories to knock a racing icon out of the win totals top 10.
No driver has made the list without winning the World Championship along the way, with these racing titans sweeping up almost half the 73 titles contested since 1950 by themselves. The top 10 look to be safe for now, with the closest current drivers, Valtteri Bottas (10) and Charles Leclerc (5), still a long way from challenging the established leaders.
However, three drivers on the list are actively preparing for the 2023 season and could sit in an even higher position come the end of the year. So, let’s run through the current order…
=10: Niki Lauda – 25
One of the true icons of Formula 1, Niki Lauda defied all the odds to not just return to the sport after his horrifying life-threatening crash at the Nurburgring in 1976 – already a World Champion from the year before – the fact he continued to have success speaks to his mentality and bravery behind the wheel.
Perhaps even more remarkably, with the 1976 title on the line against James Hunt at Fuji, he chose to withdraw from the season finale in wet conditions, deciding “my life is worth more than a title.”
A three-time World Champion turned Mercedes team manager and legendary figure in the pit lane in his later years, Lauda was a key figure behind Lewis Hamilton’s move to the Silver Arrows. Without his influence, might the Briton feature so highly on this list himself? We’ll never know.
=10: Jim Clark – 25
Double World Champion Jim Clark started just 72 Grands Prix between 1960 and 1968, the year of his tragic death behind the wheel of a Formula 2 car at the Nurburgring, aged just 32.
Both Clark’s ’63 and ’65 championships were overwhelmingly dominant, winning a combined total of 13 races from 19 and galvanising his reputation as a once-in-a-generation talent.
Clark triumphed at 34.72 per cent of the F1 races he entered; a better rate than Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher. We can only wonder how many more the Lotus powerhouse would have racked up.
9: Jackie Stewart – 27
The “Flying Scot” was so horrified by the dangers of Formula 1 cars in his era that he hung up his gloves as World Champion in 1973 and set about changing the sport’s safety standards forever.
That didn’t stop Jackie Stewart from winning 27 Grands Prix on his way to three titles however, including a hat-trick of Monaco Grand Prix triumphs and a brave drive through rain and fog to finish four minutes clear of the competition at the Nurburgring in 1968.
The British driver’s nine-year Formula 1 career was a shorter stint compared to some other F1 greats but Stewart smartly stepped away aged 34 with his future secured, leaving behind a decade that cost 12 drivers their lives.
8: Nigel Mansell – 31
Nigel Mansell endured an agonising wait for an F1 title but the brave British driver scooped up plenty of Grand Prix victories along the way.
The deadpan daredevil was 39 years old and already the winner of 21 F1 races by the time of his richly deserved 1992 World Championship, having finished the season in the runner-up spot on three occasions behind Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Nelson Piquet.
Mansell’s incredible comeback to victory from 12th on the grid at the 1989 Hungarian GP and his ’87 charge past Piquet at Silverstone were perfect showcases for his immense ability.
7: Fernando Alonso – 32*
The oldest man on the 2023 grid still hasn’t given up hope of adding to his 32 Grand Prix victories, coming up for a decade without tasting victory in Formula 1.
Fernando Alonso’s last win came back in 2013 at his home Spanish Grand Prix, racing for a Ferrari team that fell short of maximising “Nando’s” supreme talent.
Driving for Renault, Alonso’s back-to-back title winning seasons in 2005-06 brought seven victories each. Hard-fought victories too, with Alonso often going head-to-head with the ferocious Michael Schumacher.
The Spaniard earned a reputation as one of all-time great defensive drivers by resisting the German during memorable battles, with Alonso’s 2005 San Marino GP victory one of his finest.
Switching to Aston Martin from Alpine for 2023, the 41-year-old hopes to ride a wave of new investment into the Silverstone-based team and compete for victories again.
6: Ayrton Senna – 41
Brazil’s golden boy and an eternal face of Formula 1, the impact of Ayrton Senna’s thrilling driving style, ruthless pursuit of victory and devastating end are still felt on the grid today.
His 41 victories brought three World Championships, all driving the iconic Marlboro McLaren. Senna earned his nickname as the King of Monaco with six victories at the Principality and was a master of wet conditions – also memorably clinging to victory at his home Brazilian GP of 1991 while stuck in sixth gear, leaving him physically and emotionally exhausted as he struggled to hold the trophy aloft.
A crash at Imola while leading the 1994 San Marino GP cost the great driver his life.
5: Alain Prost – 51
Senna’s great rival and France’s finest Formula 1 racer, Alain Prost narrowly misses out on the podium for the greatest victory hauls in F1.
Just like Jackie Stewart, Prost bowed out with the World Championship under his arm in 1993 – having made a sensational comeback from a one-year hiatus, forced by Ferrari sacking him at the end of 1991. Off-track friction was a feature of the Frenchman’s career but the victories kept flowing until the end.
Prost was never far from the sharp end of races, adding four second-places to his titles. In a near-flawless 1988 season, he finished first or second at every Grand Prix except the pair he retired at. Still he was edged by Senna, his team-mate, for the title.
Prost used his ultra smooth, low risk style for great Grand Prix victories like his 1986 championship steal from Mansell at the final round in Australia, and his charging comeback from 13th on the grid at the 1990 Mexican Grand Prix.
=3: Max Verstappen – 53*
The reigning World Champion tore through this list of legends at a ruthless pace in 2022, with his 15 Grand Prix victories enough for a dominant F1 title and the sport’s sixth-greatest win total.
Verstappen bagged his first F1 victory aged just 18, holding off Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel in Barcelona in 2016 to become the youngest winner of a Grand Prix with three years to spare.
The late braking pure-bred racer was forced to feed on Mercedes’ scraps during the latter years of the German team’s dominance, with Verstappen amassing most of his career victories during the championship-winning 2021 and 2022 seasons, taking a third title in 2023 – breaking the record for the most wins in a row by taking to the top step a 10th time in succession, with victory at the Italian Grand Prix.
Verstappen moved level with the legendary Alain Prost with victory at the 2023 Mexican Grand Prix, breaking another record in the process: most wins in an F1 season. He is now on 18 victories and counting for the 2023 campaign. Utter dominance.
=3: Sebastian Vettel – 53
There wouldn’t have been a dry eye in the paddock had Sebastian Vettel earned one more victory in Formula 1 before retiring. It wasn’t to be and instead, the German icon will be remembered for four years of unbreakable dominance between 2010 and 2013.
Vettel became an undeniable Formula 1 icon before his 26th birthday, powering his Red Bull to four championships and 38 victories with the Austrian team. Few would have guessed that a move to Ferrari and another nine F1 seasons would yield just 14 more Grand Prix wins.
Although Vettel’s Ferrari and Aston Martin moves didn’t deliver the glory he hoped, the popular German left an unmissable mark on F1.
Memories like his debut victory at Monza in 2008, charging through the rain for Toro Rosso’s first Grand Prix win and becoming F1’s youngest race winner (pre-Verstappen), will endure.
2: Michael Schumacher – 91
Never before had Formula 1 seen dominance like Michael Schumacher in a Ferrari. The German’s seven Championships and 91 race victories set a previously unthinkable ceiling.
It was with Alpine’s predecessor that the German juggernaut announced himself to the world, winning the 1992 Belgian Grand Prix for Benetton via a shrewd in-race strategy call before amassing the first 19 victories and two championships of his career for the Enstone team.
When Schumacher joined Ferrari in 1996 they produced a car labelled a “piece of junk” by team-mate Eddie Irvine. But it was at the wheel of the F310 that the German pulled off one of his greatest drives: taking advantage of hammering rain to win by 45 seconds at the Spanish GP.
Schumacher won 48 Grands Prix on his way to five straight championships between 2000 and 2004. After retiring in 2006 he sensationally returned with Mercedes in 2010 but couldn’t add a 92nd win – pole position at the 2012 Monaco GP providing one more special performance (even though a five-place grid drop was already on its way to him).
1: Lewis Hamilton – 103*
Michael Schumacher’s army of F1 records set the bar almost unbreakably high but if anyone could better the German giant, Lewis Hamilton always looked like the man; right from his incredible rookie campaign.
The British driver won four races in 2007 after signing with McLaren, edging two-time championship-winning team-mate Fernando Alonso and finishing just one point shy of the title. The 22-year-old began his career with nine consecutive podiums.
Fast-forward 15 years and Hamilton has equalled Schumacher’s seven Formula 1 titles, surpassing him for race wins at the 2020 Portuguese Grand Prix.
At 38 years old, Hamilton has no intention of stopping yet. The 2022 season was the first to pass without a victory for the Hertfordshire-born icon but with Mercedes’ late-season pace, he’ll be confident of increasing his monumental total.