Best F1 Ferrari Drivers Of All Time

Being an F1 driver on the Scuderia Ferrari team is the most highly respected and sought-after job in formula one motorsport. The Scuderia team is the most famous and successful Formula 1 team, with fifteen driver’s championships and sixteen constructors’ wins since 1950. Many memorable drivers raced for Ferrari, winning championships, but who was the best?

When we mention the best F1 Ferrari driver, the driver who springs to mind is no other than Michael Schumacher and his 72 wins. Other top drivers racing for the F1 Ferrari team were Niki Lauda, Sebastian Vettel, Alberto Ascari, Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Gilles Villeneuve and Kimi Räikkönen.

Ferrari is considered the greatest racing team in Formula 1 history. This article looks at the best F1 Ferrari drivers that raced for the Scuderia team and their successes.

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Scuderia Ferrari Through the Years

The Scuderia Ferrari Formula One team based in Maranello, Italy, is the oldest and most successful racing team.

Ferrari was established in 1929 and started making their cars in 1947. Ferrari was part of the inaugural World Championship in 1950.

In 1933 Alfa Romeo retired their team out of competition and allowed Enzo Ferrari, a former diver, to manage the team and design cars for the Ferrari label.

Ferrari split from Alfa Romeo in 1939 to start to manufacture cars.

Ferrari built the 1.5 Liter Tipo 125 in 1947; the first racing car to wear the Ferrari label and competed under the Scuderia Ferrari brand.

Luigi Villoresi joined Ferrari as a driver. Ferrari did not achieve much success before the 1950 World Championship.

Ferrari was the only team in history to race in every season. They started racing with the Ferrari 125 with Luigi Villoresi, Alberto Ascari as drivers, and Raymond Sommer sometimes appeared as the third driver at some races.

Due to a disagreement about starting money, team Ferrari withdrew from the first round at Silverstone. They made their debut in Monaco in the next round. Unfortunately, missing the practice session and got placed sixth and seventh on the grid, respectively, and Sommer ninth.

Luckily, the team made it through the big pileup on the first lap, eliminating the two leading Alfa Romeos.

Villoresi and Ascari fought for second place, changing positions several times. Villoresi later retired that led Ascari to win. Sommer got overtaken by Chiron in his Maserati and finished fourth place.

  • Ferrari won the Constructors Championship sixteen times: 1961, 1964, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1982, 1983, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008. 
  • And the team won the driver’s title fifteen times: 1952, 1953, 1956, 1958, 1961, 1964, 1975, 1977, 1979, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007.

Ferrari Presidents

  • Enzo Ferrari from 1929 to 1988.
  • Vittorio Ghidella in 1988.
  • Piero Fusaro from 1988 to 1991.
  • Luca di Montezemolo from 1991 to 2014.
  • Sergio Marchionne from 2014 to the present.

Grand Prix Milestone Wins

WINYEARGRAND PRIXDRIVER
11951British Grand PrixFroilan Gonzalez
101952Italian Grand PrixAlberto Ascari
251956German Grand PrixJuan Manuel Fangio
501974Spanish Grand PrixNiki Lauda
751979United States Grand Prix WestGilles Villeneuve
1001990French Grand PrixAlain Prost
1251999Malaysian Grand PrixEddie Irvine
1502002Canadian Grand PrixMichael Schumacher
1752004United States Grand PrixMichael Schumacher
2002007Chinese Grand PrixKimi Räikkönen
2252017Australian Grand PrixSebastian Vettel

The Best F1 Ferrari Drivers

Michael Schumacher – 1996-2006

As the most memorable and successful F1 driver Michael Schumacher, the seven-time champion, holds almost every scoring record in history.

Born in 1969 in Germany, Michael’s father ran the local go-kart track at Kerpen. A four-year-old Michael enjoyed riding a pedal kart; when his father fitted the cart with a motorcycle engine, the future champion crashed into a nearby lamppost but never gave up.

At six years old, Michael won his first go-kart championship, and at 18 years old, he was the European and German go-kart champion. He left school to work as an apprentice car mechanic, where he soon started his career as a full-time race driver.

Michael won the F3 German championship and got a job at Mercedes as a driver in 1990. He made his Formula One debut, finishing seventh in a Jordan at the Belgian Grand Prix the next year.  Benetton immediately snapped him up, and in 1992 he won his first F1 race at Spa.

Michael won eighteen races and two world championships during four seasons with Benetton.  With the title of world champion in 1995, he moved to Ferrari.

The Ferrari-Schumacher alliance got off to a good start with three wins in 1996 and five more wins in 1997. After finishing second overall in 1998, his 1999 season was delayed by a broken leg incurred in the British Grand Prix crash.

From then on, Michael could not be stopped in 2000; he became Ferrari’s first champion in twenty-one years. He won the driving title for four consecutive years, won eleven times, and finished in all seventeen races on the podium in 2002.

In 2003 Michael broke Fangio’s record by winning his sixth driving title, from where he went on and won thirteen of the eighteen races to win the seventh championship with a massive lead in 2004.

Schumacher had exceptional confidence, intelligence, ambition, motivation, determination, and dedication. His pure passion for racing and forever quest for improvement is what set him apart from other drivers and kept him at the top.

With a racing brain to match and mental capacity to make split-second decisions during changing circumstances, Michael could plan ahead while driving on the limit.

He trained harder than any other driver, and his fitness level was superb. While driving, Michael was swift, smooth, and completely mechanically aware and drove with a keen sensitivity to his limits and car. Michael hardly made mistakes, and his feedback to the engineers was invariably accurate and valued.

No other Ferrari driver worked as hard for the team as Michael Schumacher did. He always led by example; he often visited the factory at Maranello, where he encouraged personnel, thanking them. He never criticized, inspired everyone with optimism and his excellent work ethic. His team was completely devoted to him. Michael often said he loved his Ferrari family more than anything.

Michael generously supported charities for underprivileged children. He made a personal donation of $10 million to help victims of the 2004 Asian tsunami disaster.

At the 2006 championship, he finished second. The seven wins brought his total to 91, decided to hang up his helmet.  No driver had been so superior as Michael Schumacher for so long.

Niki Lauda – 1974-1977

Andreas Nikolaus “Niki” Lauda was born in Austria on 22 February 1949. The F1 driver and aviation entrepreneur was a three-time World Drivers’ Champion in 1975, 1977, and 1984.

Lauda was Formula One’s first paid driver, but unfortunately, his family disapproved of his racing. That did not stop him though he managed to find a job with the March team in F1 and Formula 2, debuting at home in 1971.

Niki tested for the BRM team, and despite his speed, only scored two points in the 1973 season.  

His career changed in 1974 when BRM teammate, Clay Regazzoni, was signed by Ferrari, and as Ferrari was without a second driver, they asked Regazzoni about Lauda.

Regazzoni highly recommended Lauda, and Ferrari offered him a job. The first season went well with a second place, and regardless of his five retirements, Lauda managed two wins and nine pole positions.

The next season started slowly, with only five points after four races, but he secured four wins and a second place in the next five races. Niki Lauda won the last race to secure his first championship and called it “the unbelievable year.”

The championship was almost in the bag when Niki Lauda started in 1976 with podium positions in the first seven races. Unfortunately, he had a terrible crash at the German Grand Prix in Nürburgring and suffered severe burns, which almost caused his death while he was stuck in his burning car. He was given last rites because his chance of survival was considered so low.

Later it was discovered that Niki wore a helmet that did not meet the standard safety regulations. It contained more padded foam for extra comfort and was wider. During the crash with the impact, the foam compressed and caused the helmet to slip off Lauda’s head.

If he wore a regulation helmet, it would have stayed on his head and prevented the burns he sustained. Niki returned to work after 39 days. He missed two races and almost won the championship but was defeated by James Hunt after withdrawing in the severe wet conditions at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Lauda dominated the 1977 season; he secured three wins and six-second places. After three successful years with Ferrari, he quit the team to join Brabham in 1978.

He is the only driver in F1 history to be champion for McLaren and Ferrari, the sport’s two most successful teams. 

Sebastian Vettel – 2015 – 2020

Born on 3 July 1987 in Heppenheim, Germany, Sebastian Vettel was the youngest Formula One world champion in 2010, and that title has been held ever since.

He raced karts for eight years, securing the European Junior Karting Championship, German Junior Karting Championship, and Monaco Kart Cup in 2001. The next year he finished sixth in the Senior ICA Kart Championship, from where he decided to start car racing.

He finished second in the 2003 BMW Germany championship and was voted top rookie.  At 17, he won the title, with eighteen wins from twenty starts and 387 points from 400 the following year.

Sebastian Vettel joined the Ferrari team from Red Bull in 2015 at the Australian Grand Prix, where he started 4th on the grid and finished 3rd.

At the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2015, he secured victory at his 2nd race with Ferrari. Ahead of other drivers in most races, but behind Hamilton from Mercedes. At the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2015, he secured his 41st victory, equaling Ayrton Senna’s Formula One victories.

The four-time champion steps away from Ferrari after six years and 118 races. Vettel’s contract with Ferrari is not being renewed. 2020 was one of Vettel’s worst seasons, with Ferrari dropping in performance because of the team’s power unit being questioned by other teams.

Ferrari announced Sebastian Vettel would not be renewed with Ferrari at the start of the season. Instead, McLaren driver Carlos Sainz signed in his place to partner with Charles Leclerc.

Vettel won 14 races for Ferrari, 55 podiums and challenged Lewis Hamilton for the Drivers’ Championship in 2017 and 2018.

Sebastian Vettel is the current holder of several F1 records, Youngest World Champion, Youngest Double World Champion, Youngest Polesitter, Youngest Triple Word Champion, most consecutive victories in consecutive events, and Youngest Quadruple World Champion.  

Felipe Massa – 2006 – 2013

The Brazilian joined Ferrari from 2006 to 2013. Felipe raced in fifteen seasons from 2002 to 2017. He secured eleven Grand Prix wins, forty-one podiums, and finished second in the 2008 championship.

Felipe Massa started racing go-karts at age eight, competing in regional and national championships.

In 2006 he won two races as well as the Brazilian Grand Prix. He finished 3rd in the 2006 Drivers’ World Championship. Massa won three races in 2007 and finished 4th in the Drivers’ Championship and second with a single point behind Lewis Hamilton in 2008.

During the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2009, Massa received an injury from a suspension spring which became loose from Rubens Barrichello’s car during a practice run and hit Massa on his helmet. He was never the same after almost being killed after being struck on his head. Massa missed the rest of the racing season.

He returned to racing in 2010 but suffered in performance in 2011, not making it onto the podium but scoring points. After his injury, he never really recovered and did not go on to win another race.

Massa announced he is ending his time at Ferrari at the end of the 2013 season.

Fernando Alonso – 2010-2014

Born 29 July 1981 in Spain, Fernando Alonso Díaz competed in Formula One from 2001 to 2018. Fernando Alonso won the World Championship twice, giving him the title of Double World Champion in 2005 and 2006.  Alonso is thought to be one of the best F1 drivers to have raced for Ferrari.

In 2010, he joined the Ferrari team and nearly won the World Championship; since 2011 disappointed, 2012 became Alonso’s best racing year. Unfortunately, Sebastian Vettel beat him to the title.

During Alonso’s years at Ferrari, he secured eleven wins and 44 podiums and was only ever beaten by two other drivers. Sebastian Vettel’s dominance overshadowed Alonso’s time at team Ferrari, and he never managed to secure the third title he craved.

He finished second on three occasions during 2010 to 1012 with the team, and in two of those seasons, he nearly won. Fernando raced incredibly and outperformed his teammate, Felipe Massa, by far.

 During 2014, the last year at Ferrari, Alonso only managed to finish on the podium twice, dropping to 6th place in the drivers’ standings. Alonso left Ferrari to rejoin McLaren in 2015.

Gilles Villeneuve – 1977-1982

Born 18 January 1950 in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada, Joseph Gilles Henri Villeneuve was one of Formula One’s fastest drivers. Villeneuve did not win a championship while racing for Ferrari, but his driving was classed as the best. He won 6 races for Ferrari, the first at his home Grand Prix in Canada.

He started racing snowmobiles before trying his hand at single-seater cars, and in 1976 he won the Formula Atlantic Championship.

In 1977 raced one race for McLaren as a third driver. That year he joined Ferrari as a third driver. When World Champion Niki Lauda decided not to race in the season’s final two races, Gilles drove the final two races of that season. He dazzled everyone with his driving and became an icon for F1 and Ferrari. 

He raced strongly and consistently in 1979, securing three wins and four-second places to finish the championship second behind Jody Scheckter.

1980 was disappointing for Gilles, and in 1981 he secured two wins. He started racing in 1982 with a car capable of reliability and speed to challenge for the championship.  He had an altercation with Didier Pironi at the San Marino Grand Prix, where he said he would not ever speak to his French teammate again.

Villeneuve died in an accident with Jochen Mass in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix in 1982. Villeneuve was fatally injured during the qualifying session with only eight minutes to race.

Villeneuve was catching up to Jochen Mass, who was driving slower. Mass wanted to let Villeneuve overtake him and passed over to the right of the track, but Villeneuve passed to the right as well to overtake Mass. He struck the back of Mass’ car, which caused his Ferrari to become airborne at 200 km/h.

The Ferrari was airborne for 100 meters, after which it crashed into the ground, nose first ejecting Gilles seat into the fence.

Drivers Derek Warwick and John Watson removed Villeneuve from the fence. Gilles Villeneuve was taken to University St Raphael Hospital by helicopter, where he died of severe neck fractures later that night.

In memory, the Montreal Île Notre-Dame track that hosts the Canadian Grand Prix was renamed the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.  At the start line of the circuit in his honor, the message “Salut Gilles” can be found.

Gilles Villeneuve was entered into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 1993, and in 1997 the Gilles Villeneuve Canadian postage stamp was released. The number 27 Ferrari car is still associated with him.

Kimi Räikkönen – 2007- 2009. 2014- 2018

Born 17 October 1979 in Espoo, Finland, Kimi-Matias Räikkönen secured Ferrari’s World Drivers’ Championship in 2007. After a season-long battle with McLaren-Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, he beat with one point.

Kimi was under a lot of pressure when he joined Ferrari in 2007 to replace Michael Schumacher.

The Iceman prevailed thanks to his consistent driving, finishing on the podium of the seven last races, and scoring wins for the last two races of the year.  Kimi equaled the record for the highest number of fastest laps for the second time in 2008.

Kimi was the last driver to win a drivers’ World Championship for Ferrari and scored 26 podiums, two pole positions, and a win at the United States Grand Prix in 2018.

He finished among the top four in the championship on more than one occasion during his eight years with Ferrari. He completed his career at Ferrari with third place in the 2018 championship and left Ferrari at the end of 2018.

Rubens Barrichello – 2000 – 2005

Born 23 May 1972 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Rubens Gonçalves Barrichello was Michael Schumacher’s teammate during his time with Ferrari. Barrichello is the most experienced F1 driver in the sports’ history, with 322 Grands Prix’s under his belt in his 19-year racing career.

Barrichello joined Ferrari from 2000 to 2005 and finished as championship runner-up in 2002 and 2004, and third in 2001.

And contributed to five constructors’ titles for Ferrari. He won nine races and finished on the podium forty-six times during his contract with the Ferrari team.

He would have secured more wins if his own races were not sacrificed for the sake of his teammate, like in 2002 in Austria when he was told to let Michael Schumacher pass him while he was leading on the final lap. At the end of 2005, Barrichello decided to leave Ferrari to drive for Honda.

As the perfect teammate, the Brazilian did exactly what his Ferrari expected of him, and he played a huge part in Schumacher’s and his dominance in the sport in the early 2000s. However, doing so came at the expense of his success.


Conclusion

Ferrari holds most of the major F1 records and started more world championships than any other racing team ever did. Ferrari drivers secured places on the podium 772 times in world championships, and at any time, a Ferrari driver was in the top three in 584 races during the team’s reign.

With 97 drivers that raced for Ferrari, we could only scratch the surface by discussing the top eight Ferrari drivers on our list here. Each driver has their own talents that earned them a place on the best list of F1 Ferrari drivers.


Sources

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