Sure, the post-2000 era of Formula 1 was dominated by Michael Schumacher, and then the young guns — Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel. But, here are some drivers who stood out in their own eras in Formula 1:
1950s: Juan Manuel Fangio
Fangio created a record so enduring in Formula 1 that it stood unbroken for 46 years. The Argentinian was the only driver to have claimed five world championship titles, a record that stood until Michael Schumacher surpassed it in 2003. Fangio is often considered the greatest F1 driver ever, partly because of the fact that he won 46 per cent of the races he entered — a record that looks set to stay for many years to come.
1960s: Jack Brabham
What makes Jack Brabham stand out among all the other drivers of the decade? Well, other than the fact that he was a racer of great mettle, he also remains the only driver to have won a world championship in a car of his own name. That’s right, even though he took his first two titles driving a Cooper, the third, in 1966 was won when he drove a ‘Brabham’ (that he built himself) to victory. And he did this despite the fact that he was a lot older than the rest of the grid. So much so that they referred to him as ‘Geriatric Jack’!
1970s: Niki Lauda
It takes tremendous amounts of courage for a racecar driver to get back into the cockpit of an F1 car after a nearly fatal accident. But Lauda did just that. After crashing at the Nurburgring in 1976 (the priests even performed the last rites, thinking he wouldn’t survive) he got back into the cockpit of an F1 car twelve weeks later at the Italian GP. Done with the race, he pulled his balaclava off and most of his skin grafts came off as well. That didn’t stop him though — he went on to win two more world championships, claiming the crown in 1977 and 1984, taking his total up to three titles!
1980s: Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost
Ayrton Senna is probably the most mysterious and charismatic of F1 drivers. Senna was a driver who would stop at absolutely nothing to win, and this is one of the reasons that he became as popular as he did. Spurring him on to doing better in F1 was his nemesis Alain Prost, who was quite the opposite of the Brazilian. Where Senna was aggressive Prost was cold and calculated, the thinking man’s driver. And they dominated Formula 1 in the late ’80s and early ’90s, until Prost retired and Senna crashed fatally at Imola in 1994.
1990s: Mika Hakkinen
Of the many drivers Michael Schumacher raced against, Mika Hakkinen was the one he claims to have respected the most. And praise for Hakkinen comes with good reason. When Hakkinen was in form, there was simply no stopping him. An example of just how talented the ’98 and ’99 world champion was could be seen at Spa in 2000. As Schumacher attempted to make his way past Ricardo Zonta on track, Hakkinen came flying past in his McLaren and overtook both of them in one fell swoop. It’s worth a watch on YouTube. Not for nothing is he called the Flying Finn, then!