In Formula 1, there is always a constant dance of drivers. Some come, others leave, others who change teams, but everyone’s will is the same, to be the best.
In the last 10 years, more than 65 drivers have raced in F1, some with more success than others, and although in each race people vote for the driver of the day, in a time of 10 years, it is much more difficult to pick one.
That is why there is not much consensus among F1 fans about the best drivers of the last 10 years, as there are plenty of opinions, and it is often difficult to consider who is better than who. Ranking the best drivers is a difficult challenge, as both talent and skill fluctuate over time, and we must also consider the cars each has driven.
This ranking is based on the performance over these years, the talent of the drivers, and their ability to get the best out of each car. Results are important, but having more podiums or victories doesn’t necessarily make you a better driver.
If you’re looking for some F1 merchandise, check out the awesome stuff at the official F1 store here.
These are our top 10 drivers of the last 10 years:
1. Lewis Hamilton
In the last 10 years, Lewis Hamilton has broken almost all kinds of records. He has been a title contender in 8 of them and has won 6 world championships. Together with Mercedes, he has had one of the longest dominant stages in F1 history. His key has been his consistency, which has made him the best driver in history statistically.
Indeed, he has always had good cars, but he has always known how to make the most of them, and we cannot deny that he is one of the best drivers in history. Since 2007, only two teammates have beaten him throughout his long career, Jenson Button in 2011 and Nico Rosberg in 2016.
His stats say it all:
- He has won 50% of the championships he has competed in so far (7 out of 14).
- He is the driver with the most victories in history, with 100. His victory percentage is 35.3%.
- He has 177 podiums, which translates into 62.5% of the total races he has competed in.
- Absolute record for Pole Positions: 101. Has started from pole in 35.7% of the races.
He is a complete driver in all areas and a formidable opponent on the track. When he joined Mercedes in 2013, leaving McLaren behind, everyone laughed at him, but over time they have become one of the most iconic pairs in F1 and have made history together.
2. Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso is the best example that the best drivers do not always have the best cars. Alonso is possibly one of the best drivers in history, at the level of Schumacher, Senna, or Hamilton, but his decisions off the track have not accompanied his talent.
About his sports career, everyone wonders what would have happened if… he had chosen better teams. Alonso is one of the most consistent, quick, and complete drivers in history, but he always avoided fast cars during his career.
In 2005 and 2006, with Renault, he had a winning car and won both world championships. In 2007 he had a winning car again along with Hamilton, but McLaren’s toxic relationship at the time caused both to miss the title. The rest of the seasons, Alonso has outperformed his cars in an incredible way, getting three sub-championships with those Ferraris that were not for those positions and fighting until the last race, both in 2010 and 2012.
He was a worthy opponent of Sebastian Vettel with worse cars, and even in his second spell with McLaren, he managed to give the best of those cars, although his personality caused the team to break with Honda. Now he will try to get his eternal longed-for third title with Alpine.
Alonso’s career, at least for me, has been a bit frustrating, as most of his cars have never lived up to his talent, and he has always had to outperform them to prove his worth.
3. Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel has gone from being the villain of F1 to being one of the most beloved drivers in the paddock. His time at Red Bull was one of the stages in F1 history in which a driver was in better harmony with his car. He was a beast, and practically everything worked out for him between 2010 and 2013. He was fast in qualifying and consistent in the race.
Although he was highly criticized because he had the best car in his time, we have to emphasize that in those years, his teammate, Mark Webber, never finished second in the championship, so those world championships do have merits. Moreover, the 2010 season was very tight, and until 2013 he always had threats like Alonso or Button.
In his time at Ferrari, he did not do badly at all. He was the antagonist who fought against the dominance of Mercedes and had a great consistency, routinely finishing on the podium, scoring numerous victories, and being a threat to the title for much of the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
His last couple of years at Ferrari were not so good, as the team seemed to have sidelined him for a certain Charles Leclerc, but now at Aston Martin, we seem to have glimpses of the old Vettel, with great performances like the Baku podium.
Sebastian Vettel is undoubtedly one of the most important drivers in the last ten years, and he is one of the best in history.
4. Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen has only been in F1 since 2015 but has become one of the best drivers in recent times. He was the youngest driver to make his F1 debut at the age of 17, and just after being promoted from Toro Rosso, he managed to win his first race with Red Bull.
He is a very complete and aggressive driver (in a good way) on track. Since his first season, he has grown a lot and has become an even better driver, with a great capacity for vision and strategy. It is crazy to think that he is only 24 years old and already has 55 podiums and 18 victories in a car, which until 2021, had not been the best.
Due to his driving and personality, he has become a mass phenomenon, promoting F1 in his country, the Netherlands, and having a great influence in bringing Zandvoort back to the calendar.
Max Verstappen is one of those drivers who mark a before and after. He has a great talent and unique ability, and now in 2021, we are seeing how, with a car at the height, he is challenging Lewis Hamilton himself for the world championship. The championship is tighter than ever, and there is no telling who will win, but we fans enjoy this battle.
If Max makes the right moves and achieves his true potential, he could go down as one of the greatest of all time.
5. Nico Rosberg
Nico Rosberg is one of the most underrated drivers in history, and I think now is when everyone is missing him and realizing how good he was. During its early years, he led the Mercedes project, scoring the team’s first victories in 2012 and 2013 and beating the legend Michael Schumacher from 2010 to 2012.
Nico Rosberg has had as teammates the two best drivers in F1 history, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton, and he has beaten both of them. That is an achievement within reach of very few. At Williams, he already stood out with two podiums in 2008, and during his time at Mercedes, he was very consistent, achieving 4 podiums and 1 victory before the hybrid era.
Rosberg pushed Hamilton harder than any of his teammates has ever done, fighting with him for the world championship until the last race in 2014 and beating him in 2016. Lewis wouldn’t be as good as he is now if it weren’t for Rosberg, as their intense rivalry has helped him grow a lot as a driver.
His rivalry with Hamilton will go down in history as one of the fiercest and most tense teammate rivalries. Throughout his career, the only teammate to beat him after his debut season was Hamilton. At the end of the 2016 season, his sudden retirement shocked the whole world, but he had already achieved his dream: to be a world champion.
6. Daniel Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo is one of those drivers who has taken the hearts of many of us. He is one of the most entertaining drivers on and off the track. His driving style is very showy, with his famous divebombs overtakes. In addition, his funny personality and a big smile have made him one of the most likable drivers of the grid.
He already demonstrated his talent during his first years in F1 in HRT and Toro Rosso and impressed everyone when he beat Vettel after his first season with Red Bull in 2014. Taking away the Mercedes, he was the best of the rest in 2014 and 2016.
Although his time with Red Bull quickly faded with the arrival of Verstappen, the new rockstar of the team, his time with the Milton Keynes team was quite good and pretty consistent. Daniel beat Verstappen in 2016 and 2017 and achieved 7 wins and 29 podiums. His least solid years were 2015, when Daniil Kvyat beat him, and 2018 when Verstappen took the lead of the team.
In 2019 he joined the Renault project, and although the first season was somewhat discreet for both, during 2020, he shone again with 2 podiums with a midfield car. This year with McLaren, it has taken him a while to adapt to the car, but now he seems more comfortable than ever, and he is already bringing home some good results, such as the magnificent victory at Monza.
Below we can see one of his famous divebomb overtakes:
7. Kimi Raïkkönen
Kimi Raïkkönen has been a bit disconcerting in these 10 years, and I have struggled a bit where to place him. During the 2000s, he was a top 3 of the best drivers, but these last few years have been a bit different, though not bad at all.
One of the most remarkable things about him is his longevity, as he is 42 years old and is still performing in the highest category. When he retires at the end of this season, everyone will miss him, on and off the track.
In 2012 he returned to F1 with Lotus after 2 years away, and along with 2013, they were two of his best years in F1. He got 14 podiums and 2 wins in a midfield car.
In his second spell at Ferrari, from 2014 to 2018, he started very weak, being easily beaten by Alonso and Vettel. Still, he got better every year, and from 2017 on, he notably improved with the wider cars, having an incredible season in 2018, with 12 podiums and a victory in Austin.
Now in his last stage at Alfa Romeo, he is also showing his talent in a midfield car, and sometimes he leaves us gifts like this:
8. Jenson Button
Jenson Button had a career of sorrows and glories. He made his debut in 2000 and did not win his world championship until 2009, when Brawn gave him a winning car. In his time with Honda, he achieved numerous podiums and a victory in a regular car.
At Brawn, he had a winning car, and he delivered, but his time at McLaren showed his true potential. His 2011 season was incredible, and he finished second, behind only Sebastian Vettel’s dominant Red Bull. He was also the first teammate to beat Hamilton.
His driving was very smooth, and he was an amazing driver in changing conditions, as he demonstrated with his most famous victory in Canada 2011, the longest and insane race in history, and Brazil 2012.
However, like Alonso, Jenson could have had better stats and more accomplishments if it weren’t for his cars. His luck ran out when McLaren began to decline in 2013 and 2014, finally collapsing after 2015 with the engine switch to Honda.
If you want to see how Button was in his prime, watch the video below of his most famous F1 victory, as we previously said, the 2011 Canadian GP, the longest F1 race in history:
9. Valtteri Bottas
Valtteri Bottas is a driver who has gone through a lot of adversity, and I don’t think he is given enough credit.
I think people have forgotten what he did at Williams, and he is only remembered for being Mercedes’ second driver. During his early years in F1, we got to see what he was capable of. In 2013 he had a very slow Williams and managed to qualify third in Canada and finished eighth in the US GP, which is quite impressive with that car.
In the hybrid era, Williams made a leap in quality, and Valtteri made the most of that car, with 9 podiums in 3 years, consistent performances, and beating his teammate Felipe Massa every year.
That put him in the perfect position to take the seat left by Nico Rosberg at Mercedes for 2017. In 2017 he did well for his first year, 2018 was his worst year, and in 2019 and 2020, he improved. With Mercedes, he has achieved 10 victories, 18 pole positions, and 55 podiums.
He is highly criticized because, in these years, he has not been a threat to the title against Hamilton, but in his defense, it must be said that he faces one of the best drivers of all time, and not many can match them, so it is not a fair comparison.
In addition, Valtteri does his job with his results, helping the team achieve the constructors’ title every year. We can say that Bottas is one of the drivers who has achieved the most during this era.
10. Sergio Perez
Sergio Perez is one of the most consistent and solid drivers on the grid. If I had an F1 team, Perez would probably be one of my options, as he is a safe bet. He is one of those drivers whose car, until this year, has never lived up to his talent and quality.
He is the master of midfield cars and has always been able to get a lot out of a little. He is also possibly the driver who manages the tires the best, as he impressively stretches his stints on many occasions.
He made his debut with Sauber in 2011, and in 2012 we could already see his potential, with 3 podiums in a midfield car. In 2013 he had a difficult year with McLaren, but he returned to his best level from 2014 when he joined Force India (later Racing Point), where he stayed until 2020.
During his long stint at Force India, he finished in the points in most races and was a podium hunter. During these seven years, he took 7 podiums and a great victory in 2020, all with midfield cars. He also outperformed consistent teammates like Nico Hülkenberg, Esteban Ocon, and Lance Stroll.
All this earned him to sign for Red Bull for 2021. This year he is performing well in his first year on the team, and he is bringing good points home, so he is doing his job. He has achieved a victory and 4 podiums so far, which is not entirely bad, but I think we can still see more of him, as he’s going from less to more race to race.
Many drivers have been left out of this top 10, but they are worth naming because they are incredibly talented and have left their mark. Among drivers who no longer compete, we have:
- Mark Webber: He showed his talent throughout his career, and although at Red Bull he was overshadowed by Vettel, he still performed well, with 7 wins and 32 podiums, and was able to fight for the world championship until the final race in 2010.
- Felipe Massa: Massa was very fast and very consistent. He almost won the 2008 championship and was a great squire for Alonso. On his stage at Williams, we were able to see great performances of his again, such as some podiums and a pole.
- Nico Hülkenberg: A driver who never had a decent car. He was always in midfield cars and was able to touch the podium on many occasions. Like Alonso and Pérez, he could get a lot out of a little, but luck never accompanied him.
And among the promising youngsters, we have Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly, and George Russell, who have already shown their talent on track but have yet to grow.
All of them have been able to get podiums in midfield cars, and we are sure that they are the present and future of F1. In 10 years, they will be the ones in tops like this.
It has not been easy to pick the drivers, as there are many with great talent and ability, but here you have it, our top 10 best drivers of the last 10 years.
Although we may not agree on the order or the drivers, we can agree that they have offered us a great show during these years, and hopefully, the young promises will pick up their legacy and maintain or raise the level in the coming years.