In the 70+ years of Formula 1, there has been some incredible drivers in some incredible cars.
From Juan Manuel Fangio in the 50s, right through to Lewis Hamilton in the modern era, the greatest racing drivers in the world have all left an indelible mark on the sport.
If you were to build the perfect racing driver, though, what would they look like? And which driver would you pick certain attributes from to help assemble them?
To try and answer this ultimate question, GIVEMESPORT enlisted the help of Sky Sports F1 stars Martin Brundle and Karun Chandhok.
See their answers below and see if you agree with who they came up with…
Attribute 1: Mental strength
Karun Chandhok (KC:)
“I’d have to say Michael Schumacher. I think he just had this metronomic way of just consistently delivering excellence on track. But he also would do things like a whole day of testing, you know, 600/700 kilometres, and then he had a gym with these glass windows in the paddock and he’d be flexing his muscles while all the other drivers are trying to get a bit of pasta into them.
“It was just the way that he relentlessly played the mental game, not just his own mental side, but how he tried to crush everyone else around him.”
Martin Brundle (MB:)
“I think he’s the most complete driver I ever raced against, Michael Schumacher, in terms of ticking most boxes. For overall performance, we’d have to add in Alain Prost, he very much was able to keep his head under pressure, and if he had a bad grid position, he usually found his way to the front.
“Lewis Hamilton has got an incredible head in terms of reading the race, understanding what’s going on what he needs to do. I put him up there with Michael Schumacher. And Fernando Alonso is another one who comes on the radio, you hear him and he’s asking how the tyres are going on a car, three cars behind him, because he’s trying to work something out. So I think in terms of thinking capacity beyond driving the car and keeping the car on the track, they’re the ones that would stand out for me.”
Attribute 2: Overtaking ability
“I would have said Daniel Ricciardo actually because he used to be unbelievable on the brakes. But since he sort of lost his mojo, to use his expression a little bit, he seemed to lose that ability, but when he was at Red Bull he was Dan Dare on the brakes. I would give that, although he ran into me a few times in Formula 3 and in Formula 1, to Ayrton Senna in terms of sheer ability to brake late and keep it under control.”
“I will say Lewis Hamilton and I go back to Lewis in his early years in F1; 2007, ’08, ’09 and particularly ’09 where the car wasn’t very good. You’d always watch and you knew that something was going to happen. He just wasn’t going to sit there and accept that was his position. He was very, very good on the brakes. Very confident when he had to go away from the racing line to get the move done.”
Attribute 3: Consistency
“Fernando Alonso. This is a driver who’s over 40 years old and yet you watch the races he drove towards the back end and last season, such as in Interlagos, and I was in the commentary box with Martin and Crofty, listening to the radio, and he is calling the strategy of the four cars around him.
“He’s telling the pit wall, ‘right if he does this, and he does this, we need to do this.’ And yet you watch his lap times and he’s still hammering it in every single sector of the lap. There’s no weakness there. And I do think on the current grid, if you look at recent history, Alonso, Lewis and Max [Verstappen] are the three drivers that, truly every single weekend, they deliver to the capability of a car.”
“We have to remember that Formula 1 is 73 years old this year. So you know, you’ve got to go back and think of Fangio and then through to [Jim] Clark and [Jackie] Stewart and [Graham] Hill and so on.
“I do agree that the difference between a truly great driver and the merely very good drivers is that they bring their A-game all day, every day, every weekend. Lewis, Fernando, Michael Schumacher, Senna, Prost, Niki Lauda. Niki was just wily, I don’t think he was actually that fast. He just applied everything he had very well.
“Sir Jackie Stewart and those guys not only had to survive the race, they had to survive the era they were in, not to get killed, avoid broken bones, burns, or any combination thereof. They had cars that were fragile, brakes that were fragile, so they needed to manage the cars.
“The era I raced in, in the 80s and 90s. I went through the transition of you know, you started a Grand Prix, minding the driveshafts, the gears, the gearbox, the clutch, the brakes, and the engine and not over-revving anything so your focus was minding a car, to the 90s where the cars became a lot more bulletproof and then it was flat out.
“Michael turned up, supremely fit and ready to drive every corner of every lap flat out so it’s a really hard question to answer in terms of consistency, but in terms of A-game come hell or high water now in the modern era I would say Lewis.”
Attribute 4: Qualifying performance
“Senna. I mean you just have to look at the ratios and the stats against his team-mates. That’s the way to measure it, percentage of times he out-qualified his team-mate and then Jimmy Clark was the other one.
“I think they were the two drivers who had the best performance relative to their team-mates. I often go back and watch a qualifying lap of Senna’s at Brands Hatch in ’86 and it’s the most breathtaking thing I’ve ever seen, he’s on the edge of the grass at every single corner but he delivers an amazing lap – it’s extraordinary.”
“I was lucky enough to be around in that phase and [Senna] just dominated it mentally and physically.
“When you saw a day-glo helmet above the white McLaren cockpit you didn’t want to be the one that got in the way because everybody would hate you, the press centre would hate you!
“Senna would leave it right until the last moment and you would probably be on a slowing down lap or something. And these were cars where you got out after FP3 as we call it now or Saturday morning practice and by the next time you got in that car it would have at least 400 horsepower more because of the qualifying boost and a set of tyres that would do three quarters of a lap if you’re lucky, giving you plenty of grip to start and then you were sort of surviving the rest of it and so the variables there were incredible.
“And Ayrton just aced it. He was extraordinary in cars that were extraordinarily difficult to drive.”
Attribute 5: Tyre management
“We always joke [that Checo] has to pay his own tyre bill because he’s very smooth with a car isn’t he. Again the top guys seem to somehow eke a bit of grip out. Lewis is amazing at eking grip out of tires that shouldn’t.
“You’ve got to also think back to people like Alain Prost, because in his era they had to manage the whole car, including the tyres, so much more.
“And Prost had this remarkable ability to make it look like he was making no effort and yet he racked up 51 Grand Prix victories, often not qualifying on the front row, because he knew how to manage his race and was so silky smooth. I think he’s got to be up there in terms of managing the race.”
“And he finished second in the world championship four times as well as winning and in a tough old era, so yeah, Prost was pretty good at looking after the tyres. It is a great skill, especially these days, to carry speed and be smooth with the steering and sometimes if they light the tyres up coming out of a chicane or hairpin and fry the surface they’re gone aren’t they. One bad wheelspin and that’s those tyres gone so it’s a real skill.”
Attribute 6: Wet race ability
“There are ones that stand out, Jackie Stewart at the Nordschleife or Michael Schumacher in Barcelona in 1996, Lewis in Silverstone in 2008 and Senna in Estoril in ’85, those are your top four drivers I think.
“I don’t know how they did it. Honestly, going along, can’t see where you’re going and then you aquaplane on a big stream or a big puddle, anything. My experience also is Japanese drivers are incredible in the rain because they have a lot of typhoon type weather and they’re used to driving in the rain and even more than the Brits in that respect. I found some of those drivers really outstanding in those conditions.”
Attribute 7: Teamwork
“Jim Clark and Michael Schumacher. You know, they built and moulded the team around them for success in a way that nobody else did. Clark only ever raced for Lotus. He and Colin Chapman were so intertwined and they achieved remarkable success in that very dangerous era. And then with Michael, what he did at Ferrari and Benetton before – they [both] led the team and built the team around what they wanted.
“I would say Michael Schumacher, who gave so much love to every team member except one – his team-mate! Although I never had a problem with him.
“He was very clever, he did as much work out of the car as he did in it, galvanising everybody, and he’d know everybody’s name, mechanics’ kids’ birthdays, he bought them a watch at the end of the year and it wasn’t just giving gifts to buy favour, he really did engage, and Michael loved a long chat with everybody, you’d see him for hours talking to people and he was very good at really motivating.
“I mean, obviously, a team focused more and more on him because he was so fast and he was going to win for them. And that’s just a normal competitive instinct. Because, whether you’re fitting the tyres, you’re working on the gearbox, you’re the engineer on the pit wall or the driver, everybody wants to win. And so Michael was very smart in how he got a team really focused on him.”
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