Formula 1: Statistically Ranking the Top 10 Champions of All Time

Neil James@NeilosJamesFeatured ColumnistSeptember 22, 2011

Formula 1: Statistically Ranking the Top 10 Champions of All Time

0 of 11

    With over 60 years of World Championship Grands Prix behind us, we'll never know who really was, or is, the greatest driver of all time. Such comparisons of vastly different generations are impossible, with the cars, competitors and circuits unrecognisable now from those of the past.

    But still we create lists and debate endlessly the qualities of Schumacher, Senna, Prost, Fangio and Clark.  Opinion-based lists are everywhere, so I have taken a different approach—purely a statistical one—creating my rankings from a simple formula.

    ((wins*5)+(poles*2)+(fastest laps*1)) / races started

    That formula is number of wins (multiplied by five), plus the number of pole positions (multiplied by two), plus the number of fastest laps. Then divide the final figure by the number of races the driver started. Those numbers just seemed right to me.

    Of course, while statistics never lie, they never tell the full story either. So take my top 10 as I intend it to be taken—an article of interest, and nothing more.

    The final slide contains additional information and thoughts.

10. Giuseppe Farina

1 of 11

    A doctor of engineering from a family with a rich automotive history, Giuseppe "Nino" Farina holds the distinction of winning the very first World Championship back in 1950, his one and only world title. But had the competition started several years earlier, he could, and probably would, have won more.

    Beginning his racing career in the early 1930s, Farina regularly pushed his cars to the limit and beyond, surviving numerous crashes and earning a reputation as indestructible. 

    After mixed results at Maserati, Nino moved to Alfa Romeo, and under the tutelage of the great Tazio Nuvolari the Italian's talent began to shine through. However, his career—and the development of what would become Formula One—was stalled by World War II.

    At 43 years of age when the first race of the 1950 season started, Farina took the title ahead of teammates Juan Manuel Fangio and Luigi Fagioli.  A second season with Alfa Romeo was less successful, with just a single win and fourth place overall. 

    Farina moved to Ferrari for 1952, and despite no wins he was second in the Championship behind dominant teammate Alberto Ascari. In 1953, Farina's fifth and final victory helped him to third.

    Racing on into 1954, Farina was badly burned in an accident at Monza, and while he attempted to continue—even using morphine to compete in the Argentine Grand Prix of 1955—Nino called time on his Formula One career at the end of the year.

    Though indestructible on the track, Farina's luck finally ran out.  While driving to watch the French Grand Prix in 1966, a crash claimed his life four months shy of his 60th birthday.

9. Nigel Mansell

2 of 11

    Few drivers could hold a candle to the sheer determination, spirit and never-say-die attitude of Nigel Mansell.

    From humble beginnings, the Brit sold everything he owned to finance a drive in Formula Ford and relied on sponsors to finance his path to Formula Three.  His potential was then spotted by legendary Lotus founder Colin Chapman, who offered a test drive in a Formula One car.

    Despite having recently suffered a broken vertebrae in a near-fatal F3 crash, Mansell took his chance, hiding his injuries with painkillers and securing a role as test driver for Lotus. Several race drives followed, and Mansell remained at Lotus until the end of 1984, rarely bothering the podium in an uncompetitive car. 

    His first win came after his move to Williams in 1985, and the following season an exploding tire in the final race of the year cost Nigel the championship.

    In 1987, Mansell again finished second in the championship. This time a spinal concussion kept him out of the final two races and ended his championship hopes. 

    A period of little success followed, and a move to Ferrari brought only three wins in two reliability-plagued seasons.  Returning to Williams in 1991, Mansell again finished second in the championship—but his perseverance paid off, and in 1992 he swept all before him, taking 14 pole positions and winning nine of the 16 races to secure his only World Championship.

    Unhappy at the prospect of being joined at Williams by Alain Prost, Mansell walked away from Formula One and immediately made an impact in the American CART series, winning the championship in his first season.  The next year wasn't so successful, and after almost two seasons away, Mansell returned to Williams for the final three races of 1994, taking his final victory in Australia.

    An ill-fated foray with McLaren in 1995 was a dismal embarrassment for all concerned. Mansell was unable to fit into the car for the first two races, and the MP4/10 was far from the pace. After just two races Mansell announced he would retire, calling time on his 187-race career.

8. Damon Hill

3 of 11

    Damon, the son of the great two-time world champion Graham, was 15 when his father lost his life in an air crash in 1975, but like many famous sons he would continue the family tradition. 

    Hill would not have an easy route into motorsports, financing his early career by working as a motorcycle courier and labourer, racing first on two wheels before moving into Formula Ford, his first full season coming in 1985 and bringing six race wins.

    Stepping into Formula Three in 1986, Hill had to take out a large loan to help further his career, but results were not initially promising.  Ninth in his first season, things improved, and over the following two years he won several races and was third in the 1988 Championship. 

    Lacking his own funds and without the help of a major sponsor, Hill drove at Le Mans and in the BTCC before taking a drive midway through the season with Footwork.  Damon struggled in the uncompetitive car, but the following season went better, and though Hill failed to win a race, his three poles and strong performances led to a Williams F1 testing contract for 1991.  That year Hill also raced in F3000, but without success.

    In 1992 an opportunity to race in F1 for the fading Brabham team saw Hill at least qualify the car twice, but the team folded before the end of the year, and Hill continued testing for Williams. 

    It was a surprise that he was named as Alain Prost's teammate for 1993, but technical director Patrick Head had been impressed by Damon's testing work, and Hill was thrust into the limelight.

    His first full season of Formula One was a great success, with victories in three consecutive races taking Hill to third in the Championship behind only Prost and Senna.  The tragic death of his new teammate Senna in 1994 left Damon to lead the shattered team, and a series of excellent drives pushed him into contention going into the final race of the year.  The collision with the man who was to be his main rival is the stuff of F1 history, and whether intentional or not, Michael Schumacher was champion, and Damon was second.

    Hill was second again to Schumacher in 1995; the relationship between the two was not helped by a couple of race-ending crashes.  Partnered in 1996 by Jacques Villeneuve, Hill drove superbly and claimed his first, and only, World Championship. 

    Williams had already decided to replace Hill with Heinz-Harald Frentzen, and Damon surprised many by rejecting offers from more prestigious teams and signing for perennial backmarker Arrows.

    As many expected, the season was little short of a disaster, though Hill surprised everyone by qualifying third for the Hungarian Grand Prix, passing Michael Schumacher and leading by a distance before a technical fault cruelly robbed him of victory on the very last lap. 

    Moving to Jordan Damon took his final win at a rain-soaked Spa in 1998, but the following year was far from easy.  Seemingly disillusioned and no longer interested, Hill scored only seven points and retired at the end of the season.

    Few drivers in the long history of Formula One could stand level with Michael Schumacher, and being compared to his great German rival has led to Hill never really receiving a lot of credit for his talents.  Damon was 31 when he began his Formula One career, and though time was never on his side, he certainly achieved more than enough to do justice to the famous Hill family name.

7. Alain Prost

4 of 11

    Alain Prost entered Formula One in 1980, like many champions starting his life in an uncompetitive car—his then-troubled McLaren. Impressing despite his machinery, the Frenchman leapt at the chance to drive for Renault in 1981, and immediately outpaced his more experienced teammate Rene Arnoux.  Though plagued by reliability issues, Prost achieved his first win on home soil, and over the course of two seasons took five race wins.

    Fresh hope came in 1983, with the Renault finally matching speed with reliability, but it wasn't to be.  A late-season charge saw Nelson Piquet snatch the title from Prost's grasp, and despite a near-faultless season, the Renault management and French press made him the scapegoat for the team's failure to win.  McLaren, by now a force to be reckoned with, were more than happy to take Alain back.

    After missing out by 0.5 points in his first season, Prost's second at McLaren saw him claim his first title, and despite the speed of the rival Williams in 1986, a combination of speed, intelligence, and a small dose of luck brought back-to-back championships. 

    The following year brought little in the way of success, but 1988 saw the ignition of perhaps the greatest rivalry F1 has ever seen.

    In spite of what was to come, Prost recommended and welcomed Ayrton Senna into the McLaren fold. Between them, they won 15 of the 16 races in the all-conquering McLaren-Honda, the Brazilian claiming the title and Prost close behind. 

    The rivalry truly exploded in 1989, and a collision in the penultimate race in Japan handed Prost his third title.  Whether this was intentional or not has been the subject of much debate. 

    Moving to Ferrari in 1990 and instantly impressing, the pair again came together in Japan, this time Senna—as he later admitted—deliberately ramming Prost off at the first turn to take the title for himself.

    The 1991 Ferrari was poor, and the always outspoken Prost was fired before the end of the season for his criticism.  He sat out the 1992 season, then signed for Williams in 1993, insisting on a clause that prevented Senna becoming his teammate.  Alain duly won his fourth title and retired from the sport after 199 starts.

    No longer rivals, the animosity seemed to evaporate, and Senna and Prost formed a better relationship off the track.  Alain was a pallbearer at the funeral of Ayrton, and has since said of Senna, "When he died, I said, that I felt a part of me had died also, because our careers had been so bound together." 

    Though tempted at times to return, Prost remained true to his word and never drove in Formula One again, ending his career with four championships and a staggering 51 wins.

6. Sir Jackie Stewart

5 of 11

    It would be no exaggeration to say that few men if any have contributed more to the exceptional safety of modern-day Formula One than Sir Jackie Stewart. 

    Watching drivers walk away from horrific crashes with barely a scratch, it's easy to forget the spectre of death that hung over Formula One in the early years. Ten men lost their lives at race weekends during the nine-year career of Stewart, and such horrors drove him to campaign tirelessly, and successfully, for greater protection for himself and his peers.

    Motorsports were in Jackie's blood his father rode motorcycles, and his elder brother, Jimmy, competed in the 1953 Formula One season but it was not his first choice of sport.  Finding school difficult due to undiagnosed dyslexia, Stewart turned his attention to clay pigeon shooting, competing internationally and only narrowly missing out on a place in the British team for the 1960 Olympics. 

    Looking to racing, Stewart drove in lower-tier races and was blisteringly quick, catching the eye of future F1 team boss Ken Tyrrell in 1964. One test was all it took for Tyrrell to sign Stewart, and the Scot dominated that year's F3 Championship. 

    Turning down Formula One offers from Cooper and Lotus, Stewart instead opted to drive for BRM alongside Graham Hill in 1965, where he scored the first of his 27 race wins in only his eighth Grand Prix start. 

    Jackie's quest to improve safety in the sport was triggered in 1966.  After a crash at Belgium left Stewart trapped upside down in a ditch, injured and soaked with petrol, it took teammate Hill and American Bob Bondurant to free him from the wreckage using spanners from a spectator's toolkit.  The experience shook Stewart, and from that day forth he pushed for safety measures at every opportunity. 

    In 1968 Tyrrell entered Formula One with March, and Stewart claimed second place in the Championship with three wins.  He went on to win six of the 11 races the next year for his first title, and after a poor 1970, repeated the feat in 1971. 

    Struggling with a stomach ulcer in 1972, Jackie lost out, but he claimed his third title the following year. All three came under the management of the man whose keen eye for talent brought Stewart out of obscurity Ken Tyrrell.

    Having already decided to quit the sport at the end of 1973, the death of Stewart's teammate and friend François Cevert in qualifying for the final Grand Prix led to the devastated Jackie retiring one race early, missing what would have been his 100th start. 

    In later life a colourful figure around the paddock and a successful team owner with Stewart Grand Prix, Sir Jackie Stewart will be remembered for more than just his talent behind the wheel though that alone would be enough to cement his place in the record books. 

5. Ayrton Senna

6 of 11

    Few, if any, would question the pure talent of Ayrton Senna.  No driver, past or present, has been able to wring as much single-lap pace from a car. The Brazilian often left his most distinguished rivals trailing far in his wake.  But some of Senna's on-track tactics, and his win-at-all-cost attitude, divides opinion to this day.

    A highly successful kart racer, Senna's first season in single-seaters was 1981.  He won the Formula Ford 1600 series and followed up by taking the FF2000 title the next year. 

    In 1983 he drove in Formula Three, adding a third championship in as many seasons.  His talent drew the attention of both Williams and McLaren, but in the end Ayrton signed for the little-known Toleman team. He would begin his F1 career in stunning fashion. 

    In only his fifth start, and in treacherous conditions at Monaco, Senna climbed from 13th on the grid to 2nd, and began catching race leader Alain Prost.  The race was stopped just as Senna caught his future rival, but despite losing a possible victory, the world of Formula One now knew his name. 

    Two further podiums in a car which had no business achieving them took Senna to 9th place in his first F1 season, and he moved to Lotus for 1985.

    While fast enough to challenge for race wins, the Lotus 97T lacked reliability.  Senna won his first Grand Prix at Estoril by over a minute in torrential rain, but despite six pole positions he was let down by the car too often to mount a championship challenge. 

    Two more seasons with Lotus brought more poles and several wins, but Senna finally received a car worthy of his talents in 1988, joining Alain Prost at McLaren.

    In a season dominated by the awesome McLaren-Honda, Senna took a staggering 13 pole positions and won a then-record eight out of the 16 races to claim his first World Championship.  Thirteen more poles followed in 1989, and after a season-long battle the McLarens collided at the penultimate race at Suzuka, handing the title to Prost.  Whether Prost deliberately caused the accident or not, Senna believed he had, and the incident added fuel to an already fiery relationship between the two.

    In 1990 the Brazilian was partnered by close friend Gerhard Berger, while Prost moved to Ferrari.  Another close season developed, and as the teams returned to Suzuka, Senna was in touching distance of his second title.  Prost got a better start and was leading into the first corner when Senna drove into the back of his car at high speed, taking both men out of the race.  Ayrton later admitted it was deliberate, and for some the incident cast a shadow over the rest of his career.

    The next year produced little controversy, and Senna held off Nigel Mansell's mid-season charge to successfully defend his title. 

    In 1992 the Williams and Mansell combination was simply too strong, and while Ayrton won three races he had to settle for fourth in the championship. 

    The McLaren of 1993 was powered by a weak Ford V8 and stood little hope against the Williams of Prost, but Senna still managed to drive it to five race wins, including a masterful performance at a wet Donnington Park.

    After two seasons without a championship, Senna moved to the dominant Williams-Renault team for 1994.  Two pole positions led to two retirements in the opening races, and heading to Imola a win was needed to stay in touch with Championship leader Michael Schumacher.  It was to prove the darkest weekend in modern Formula One history.

    The tragic death of Roland Ratzenberger had a deep and profound affect on Senna.  Now something of an elder statesman of the sport, and already badly shaken by Rubens Barrichello's horrific accident the day before, Ayrton commandeered an official's car and went straight to the scene of the crash.  By many accounts Senna did not want to race the following day, but after leading a reformation of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association on the morning of the first of May, he did.

    Few fans will ever forget where they were when they heard of Senna's death, and no event of the modern era has shaken the world of motorsport as much. 

    Formula One and the world lost an unparalleled genius on that day, a man whose raw ability behind the wheel may never be matched and will certainly never be forgotten. 

4. Michael Schumacher

7 of 11

    There are few records in Formula One not held by Michael Schumacher. In a career spanning 20 years, the German has won more races (91) and championships (7), taken more pole positions (68) and fastest laps (76), led more laps (4741), claimed more podium (154) and consecutive podium finishes (24), and scored more points (1493) than any man in the history of the sport. 

    He won races in 15 consecutive seasons and at 22 different Grands Prix—and still he races on, at the age of 42.

    Michael began his racing career in what has become the normal manner, karting from a young age before spending a few seasons in the lower formulae. 

    Signed by Mercedes and placed into their sportscar programme for 1990, the following year brought the opportunity of a first Formula One drive with Jordan, and Schumacher announced his arrival with a stunning seventh place in qualifying at the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit. 

    Poached immediately by Benetton, Schumacher scored his first win a year later at the same track.

    After the dominance of Williams the previous two years, Schumacher and Benetton were ready to challenge for the title in 1994.  Following the tragic death of Ayrton Senna at Imola, issues with the car's legality and an ignored black flag at Silverstone allowed Damon Hill to run Schumacher close, and the pair were separated by a single point. 

    Perhaps one day we'll learn whether Michael deliberately turned into Damon after striking the wall, but until then it'll be debated endlessly.  Innocent or not, the collision that took both men out of the race gave Schumacher his first World Championship. He was even more dominating in winning a second title in 1995.

    Moving to Ferrari seemed a gamble—the Italian team had spent years in the wilderness—but Schumacher was a winner three times in 1996, and in 1997 was once again in contention for the title, again going into a final race with an advantage of just one point. 

    Many pointed out that such a situation had occurred before, and the result was very nearly the same.  As Villeneuve went to pass, Schumacher deliberately turned into him, ending up in the gravel and out of the race.  The Canadian hung on and finished third, enough to take the title.  Widely criticised for his moment of madness, a disgraced Schumacher was thrown out of the 1997 Championship.

    Michael was back in 1998, again losing out in the final race of the season, this time to Mika Hakkinen's McLaren.  The following year, Schumacher's chances were ended by a broken leg, but in 2000 he defeated Hakkinen to win his third World Championship. 

    It was the start of a period of absolute dominance for the German, and only 2003 saw another driver run him close, as he claimed five consecutive titles and broke almost every record in the sport. 

    Renault and McLaren overtook Ferrari in 2005, and though remaining as quick as anyone on the grid, Michael perhaps thought he'd been around long enough.  He announced his retirement in 2006, before narrowly missing out on an eighth title.

    But for Michael, the lure of the grid was too strong.  Remaining with Ferrari in an advisory capacity, a back injury prevented him covering for Felipe Massa after the Brazilian's accident at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2009, but when old friend Ross Brawn and Mercedes came calling, Schumacher came out of retirement to drive in 2010. 

    The results were underwhelming, with neither the car nor Michael looking up to speed, but 2011 saw improvements, with occasional signs of his brilliance shining through. 

    Michael Schumacher will probably race on into his 43rd year, showing no signs of boredom with the sport to which he has contributed so much. 

    Whether he'll win again remains to be seen, but despite a slightly chequered history, few would begrudge the seven-time champion a final trip to the top step of the podium.

3. Jim Clark

8 of 11

    By the standards of today, Jim Clark had a late start to his driving career.  Only climbing into a racing car at the age of 20, a few years later Clark would encounter the man who would build every Formula One car he ever drove. 

    Colin Chapman's Lotus team was host to a true galaxy of stars, but perhaps none shone as brightly as the young man from Fife.  Sadly for all, it is often the brightest stars that are extinguished the soonest.

    On Boxing Day in 1958, Clark competed in a GT race at Brands Hatch, driving a Lotus Elite identical to that of the race winner—Colin Chapman—and drove in GT and hill-climb races throughout 1959, winning numerous races. 

    Clark had agreed to drive for Aston Martin in Formula One in 1960, but after delays in launching the project he was instead signed by Lotus, and after impressing in Formula Junior, Jim made his Formula One debut at the Dutch Grand Prix.  A first podium came in just his fifth race, and Clark had truly arrived.

    The 1961 season will be remembered for the tragic accident at Monza between Clark and Wolfgang von Trips, which claimed the life of the German star as well as those of 15 spectators.  Clark, shaken by the incident, considered retirement, but after being convinced to stay on the Scot finished the 1962 season as runner-up to Graham Hill's BRM, with three victories. 

    Jim went one better in 1963, winning seven races to take his first world championship.

    A reliability-plagued season followed, and though he won three races Clark could only manage third overall.  But 1965 would be his year.  Even finding the time to skip the Monaco Grand Prix so he could drive in (and win) the Indy 500, Clark won six races to claim his second championship in dominant fashion.  He also found time to win the Australian Tasman series with a record 14 race victories.

    The following year, rule changes to F1 left Lotus trailing the field, and Clark had to be content with a single race win.  He finished third in the championship in 1967 with four wins, including a remarkable drive at Watkins Glen where Clark nursed his car home in first despite a broken rear suspension.

    Jim Clark was a racer and never focused his immense skill on just Formula One.  He would drive almost anything, usually with great success, and it was in a minor Formula Two race at Hockenheim that he would lose his life.  The cause was unknown, and to this day no definitive answer has been found, but it says much that his fellow drivers dismissed the notion it may have been driver error—because Clark simply would not have made the mistake.

    Most believed a rear tire deflated, sending the car into the trees at 170 miles per hour.  But whatever the cause, Formula One was robbed of one of the greatest talents the driving world has ever seen. 

    Just 32 years of age at the time of his death, the hole he left took a long time to be patched back up.

2. Alberto Ascari

9 of 11

    Born months before the end of the first World War, Alberto Ascari had racing in his blood.  Father Antonio was a star of the early days of Grand Prix racing, and despite losing his father to a crash at the 1925 French Grand Prix, Alberto was not put off, and raced first on two wheels and then on four before the second World War put motorsports on hold. 

    Returning in 1947, Ascari quickly proved himself at the highest level, driving for Maserati before joining Ferrari, winning several Grands Prix in 1949 and enjoying great success in Formula Two during the first World Championship season.  Two second places in Formula One came at Monaco and Monza, and Ascari finished the season fifth overall.

    In 1951, the more competitive Ferrari F375 debuted, which Ascari used to claim his first Formula One win at the Nurburgring.  Another win followed, this time at Silverstone, firmly establishing Alberto as a front-runner on his way to second in the Championship. 

    The withdrawal of Alfa Romeo in 1952 left little competition for Ferrari, but this should take nothing away from Ascari's achievements.  Alberto won and claimed the fastest lap at every race—excluding the Indianapolis 500, which at the time gave F1 Championship points and started from pole position in all but one of the six races on his way to a dominant first title. 

    Victories in the first three races of 1953 established a record of nine consecutive race wins, which has never been equaled. Two further wins cemented back-to-back championships, and few would have imagined that the supremely gifted Italian would never again stand on the top step of the podium.

    His 1954 season was a disaster, his car failing in each of the four races he entered, though he did take one pole and two fastest laps, and away from Formula One came a victory in the prestigious Mille Miglia. 

    The following year started little better, and Ascari had a lucky escape when he crashed at the harbour in Monaco, landing in the water before swimming to safety.

    Just four days later, testing a Ferrari sports car, Alberto Ascari would lose his life at the age of 36.  A mere 31 Grand Prix starts returned 13 wins, and had his luck been different there's little doubt he would have added more. 

1. Juan Manuel Fangio

10 of 11

    The son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, Fangio began his racing career in his homeland, driving self-prepared American road cars. 

    Making his name in endurance races, he was sponsored by the Argentine government and went to compete in Europe in 1948.  His first Formula One race came at Reims, and in 1949 Fangio won several races, securing a drive for Alfa Romeo for the first-ever World Championship season.

    Reliability issues with the Alfa meant Fangio finished only three races in 1950, and though he won all of them it was not enough to stop the world title going to teammate Giuseppe Farina. 

    The following year three more wins, complemented by two second places, were enough to secure a first world championship for the Argentine—at the age of 40.

    A horrific accident at a non-Championship race at Monza in 1952 left Fangio with multiple injuries, not least a broken back, and he spent the rest of the year recovering in South America before returning to Formula One at his home race in 1953.  Ascari and Ferrari would prove too strong, but Fangio still managed one race victory in his Maserati, on his return to Monza.

    The arrival of Mercedes-Benz and the all-conquering "Silver Arrows" placed Fangio firmly in contention for 1954, and the Argentine would dominate the sport for the next four years.  On the front row at every Grand Prix from June 20, 1954, to July 7, 1957, Fangio swept aside all competition to claim an incredible four consecutive world championships. 

    Fangio's final race win, which clinched his fifth title, is widely regarded as one of the greatest drives in Formula One history.  After a slow pit stop left him third and 50 seconds behind leader Mike Hawthorn, Fangio set fastest lap after fastest lap, beating his own pole time by eight seconds and passing his rivals on the penultimate lap to record the 24th victory of his majestic career. 

    With one eye on retirement, Fangio drove only two races in 1958, ending his career at the French Grand Prix, a race in which the sport witnessed just how highly the five-time champion was respected by his rivals.  The Argentine was running fourth despite driving without a clutch for much of the race, and race leader Hawthorn slowed his car so he would not lap Fangio's Maserati.

    At the age of 47, Juan Manuel Fangio returned to Argentina and never raced in Formula One again. 

    In just 51 starts he amassed a total of 24 wins, 29 pole positions and 23 fastest laps.  In seven full seasons in the sport, he was world champion five times. 

    From an era in which death could be around any corner, "El Maestro" lived to the age of 84 and will be remembered not just as an exceptional driver, but also as an exceptional man.


11 of 11

    The formula I used to determine these rankings took all of two seconds to write down, and as I said in the introduction, take it as no more than one of a million different ways to rank the greats of the sport. 

    A blank statistic does not differentiate between a win gifted by a teammate and a master-class in treacherous conditions, between a straightforward lights-to-flag victory and a dazzling drive from the back of the field to win, between a stroll in the best car and an against-the-odds battle in a slower one.

    One could say the method favours the drivers of the early years of the sport, and in fairness I wouldn't disagree.  But when you consider those men drove what were essentially four-wheeled bathtubs with an engine and no seat belts around tracks even our modern road cars would blanch at, and the line between life and death was the width of a tree trunk... maybe they deserve it.

    The sharp-eyed mental calculators among you may have noticed two omissions from my list—Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. 

    Hamilton would have ranked between Hill and Prost, while Vettel would have been between Stewart and Senna.  I chose to leave these two out because neither has reached even the halfway point of his career, and their inclusion would, in my eyes, have been unfair and incorrect. 

    I'm sure that should either man ever read this, they would wholeheartedly agree.  Michael Schumacher is another matter entirely—now in the twilight years of his career, 17 seasons is more than enough to warrant inclusion on any list. 

    Though Jenson Button was not close to top 10, the other active champion, Fernando Alonso, wasn't far behind Farina.

    Others missed out, men who showed exceptional skill behind the wheel.  Niki Lauda, Jack Brabham, Graham Hill, Emerson Fittipaldi and Nelson Piquet all won two or more championships, while Kimi Raikkonen wound up just outside the top 10.

    Honourable mention must go to Sir Stirling Moss. Although never a champion, his career statistics would have ranked him only a whisker behind Ayrton Senna.  An oft-quoted stat is that he won 212 of the staggering 529 races he entered between 1948 and 1962, and only the presence of the mighty Fangio and some extraordinary gentlemanly conduct kept the title out of his hands.

    It's likely few of your own top 10s will be reflected here, and my own certainly isn't.  But hopefully the article proved an interesting read at the very least, and contained 10 stories very worthy of being told.

    This was my first article on Bleacher Report, based on a suggestion given to me by an experienced editor.  Any and all feedback will be appreciated.