The Greatest F1 Driver

09 February 2023

In April 2016. Dr Andy Bell from the University of Sheffield applied statistical analysis to determine who was the greatest F1 driver of all time.

Dr Bell said the question ‘who is the greatest F1 driver of all time’ is difficult to answer because we don’t know the extent to which drivers do well because of their talent or because they are driving a good car.

Interestingly, if you consider the positive impact a team provides, the driver with the most race wins of all time in 2016 was Michael Schumacher.

However, if you remove the team impact factor, Fangio ranks as the greatest driver, followed by Alain Prost and Fernando Alonso.

The study, published in the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, also found:

• Teams matter about six times more than drivers when it comes to success in F1

• About two-thirds of the team effect is consistent over time, with the rest caused by teams changing year-on-year

• Team effects have increased over time but appear to be smaller on street circuits, where the driver’s skill plays a more significant role

It is essential to remember that Dr Bell completed this report in 2016, but how interesting it would be to carry out a similar survey at the end of the 2023 season, given the changing dynamics of F1 over the last few years.

The question has fascinated fans for years, and I’m sure it will continue to do so.

Perhaps Dr Bell could be encouraged to report again.