When it comes down to international racing, Formula One needs no introduction. Since 1950, which was the inaugural F1 season, there have been many iconic races. However, there have also been outstanding laps that genuinely highlight the skills of some of F1’s best drivers.
Ayrton Senna’s 1988 pole lap at the Monaco Grand Prix is widely considered one of the best laps in Formula One history. Senna completed the 2.068-mile Circuit de Monaco during the second qualifying race in 1m 23.998s.
While Senna’s 1988 lap is considered one of the best, there are plenty of other laps to consider throughout the history of Formula One. From Graham Hill’s pole lap at the 1964 Austrian Grand Prix to Max Verstappen’s 2021 race to victory, we’ll be looking at the most outstanding Formula One laps of all time!
If you’re looking for some F1 merchandise, check out the awesome stuff at the official F1 store here.
The Best F1 Lap Ever
When choosing the best Formula One lap of all time, there are many great laps to consider. However, one lap is widely considered the best lap in the history of this motorsport. That lap is Ayrton Senna’s iconic qualifying pole lap.
Senna completed his second qualifying lap around the 2.068-mile Circuit de Monaco in a record 1m 23.998s. This lap time was 1.427s faster than Alain Prost in the exact same vehicle, which is a testament to Senna’s abilities. When asked about this iconic lap, Senna stated that he felt like he was in a different dimension.
During the race itself, which was the third race in the 1988 season, Senna also had the fastest lap of all the participating drivers. The fastest lap was the 59th, with Senna completing the Circuit de Monaco track in 1m 26.321s. Unfortunately, Senna wouldn’t finish the race due to a crash during the 66th lap.
To this day, many F1 fans regard Senna’s pole lap as the best of all time. However, it’s not the only contender. From Graham Hill to Max Verstappen, we’ll be looking at some of the most outstanding Formula One laps of all time.
1964: Graham Hill, Austrian Grand Prix
In 1954, merely a year after passing his driving test, Graham Hill would start racing. He would claim the pole position for his great qualifying lap at the 1964 Austrian Grand Prix ten years later, which was the 7th race of the 1964 World Championship of Drivers. Hill’s qualifying lap would set an official lap record.
Hill’s 1m 9.84s lap time remains the fastest lap ever completed at the Austrian circuit, which is why we included this lap on this list! Between 1958 and 1975, Hill would achieve the ten fastest laps. However, his 1964 qualifying lap still stands the test of time for many fans.
Below, you can find rare footage of Graham Hill discussing his F1 vehicle setup back in 1964. This footage will give you a glimpse into the life and mind of this record-setting Formula One driver!
1974: Niki Lauda, French Grand Prix
While Niki Lauda finished 2nd in his Ferrari during the 1974 French Grand Prix, it’s his qualifying lap that we’ll be talking about here! Lauda famously started the 1974 race, which was the 9th race in the 1974 World Championship, from the coveted pole position. During his qualifying lap, Lauda completed the lap in a record 58.79s.
To this day, this record remains the fastest lap for the French Grand Prix circuit. This lap time also makes it one of the best laps overall in Formula One history – and deserving of being on this list. At a 2016 Historic Race hosted in Monte Carlo, Marco Werner drove Lauda’s 1974 Ferrari.
You can see footage from this Historic Race in the following YouTube video. There’s little that can beat seeing these classic and now iconic Formula One cars back on the racetrack!
1974: Clay Regazzoni, Belgian Grand Prix
In many ways, this qualifying lap from Clay Regazzoni mirrors that of Lauda’s feat at the French Grand Prix Qualifiers. However, this took place at the Belgian Grand Prix, the 5th race of the 1974 season. Not only did Regazzoni win his qualifying lap, but he set a record in the process!
Regazzoni’s qualifying lap was completed in 1m 9.82s. This time remains the fastest Formula One lap time at the Belgian circuit. At the GP, Regazzoni placed third in the Driver’s Championship. This race was the last Belgian Grand Prix to be held at Nivelles, Wallonia.
While footage of the Nivelles circuit is rare, it still exists. The following video will make you feel like you’re a spectator at the race!
1985: Keke Rosberg, British Grand Prix
The 1985 British Grand Prix took place at the Silverstone Circuit and was the 8th race during the F1 World Championship. Another iconic qualifying lap came in 1985 when Keke Rosberg won the pole position in the qualifying lap. Of course, this is no surprise for fans of Rosberg. During the 1992 F1 season, Rosberg started 14 races from pole position.
However, his qualifying lap from 1985 still stands out as one of the best Formula One laps of all time. During the lap, Rosberg went at an average speed of 160 miles per hour. This record time would remain the fastest qualifying lap in F1 history for a whopping seventeen years.
You can check out the following YouTube video to see Keke Rosberg fly in his iconic Silverstone pole lap. Crank the volume up and pretend you’re there watching Rosberg make history!
1986: Nelson Piquet, British Grand Prix
The 1986 British Grand Prix took place in Brands Hatch and was the 9th race of the championship. In 1986, Nelson Piquet famously beat Nigel Mansell to the pole. Ultimately, Piquet’s Honda turbo engine allowed him to take the pole position through its sheer power. Piquet’s victorious qualifying lap remains the fastest at the British track in Brands Hatch, Kent.
Piquet completed the 2.614-mile course in a blistering 1m 6.96s. During the qualifying lap, Nigel Mansell would come in second. However, during the race, Mansell would come in first, beating Piquet by a narrow margin of 5.57 seconds.
You can check out Piquet’s iconic qualifying lap below. The video is just as quick as his lap!
1993: Ayrton Senna, European Grand Prix
For the 1993 European Grand Prix, the 3rd race of the championship, Ayrton Senna placed fourth in the qualifying lap. While he didn’t take the coveted pole position, he won the race, completing the 76 laps around the 2.5-mile track in 1h 50m 46.57s. The lap that earned him a spot on this list is his now-iconic opening lap.
Commonly referred to as “The Lap of the Gods,” this lap from Ayrton Senna is a strong contender for one of Formula One’s most iconic laps of all time. Many F1 fans consider Senna’s 1993 race as one of his best. In the first lap alone, he passed four drivers, including Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost.
You can judge for yourself by checking out the following YouTube video. Do you also consider this to be one of the all-time most incredible laps in Formula One history?
2000: Mika Hakkinen, Belgian Grand Prix
The 2000 Belgian Grand Prix took place at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, a 4.330-mile racetrack. Overall, this was the 13th race of the F1 World Championship that season. During the qualifying stage, Mika Hakkinen took the pole, completing the circuit in 1m 50.65s. However, it isn’t his qualifying lap that earned him a spot on this list!
Hakkinen, of course, would win the race, completing all 44 laps in 1h 28m 14.494s. One of these 44 laps stands out. Of course, we’re talking about Hakkinen’s jaw-dropping double overtake of Michael Schumacher in the 41’s lap.
Hakkinen overtook his way to victory in a lap that will go down in Formula One history. You can check out this lap in the following YouTube video!
2004: Michael Schumacher, Australian Grand Prix
The 2004 Australian Grand Prix took place at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, which is a 3.295-mile track. This was also the first of eighteen races from the 2004 World Championship. Schumacher kicked the season off with a bang, taking the pole position during the qualifying lap and setting a record at the same time.
Schumacher would go on to win the race, completing all 58 laps in 1h 24m 15.757s. However, his pole lap has stood the test of time as one of the most outstanding F1 laps in motorsport history. You can check out this iconic qualifying lap by watching the following YouTube video!
2004: Jarno Trulli, Monaco Grand Prix
At the 2004 Grand Prix in Monaco, Jarno Trulli put an end to Michael Schumacher’s winning streak. Of course, Trulli was the winner of the race, which was the 6th of the World Championship. Once again, the race was held in Monte Carlo at Circuit de Monaco, which is 2.07-mile long. Trulli completed all 77 laps in 1h 45m 46.601s.
However, we’re not talking about one of those 77 laps – we’re talking about the qualifying lap that earned Jarno Trulli the pole position. The qualifying lap was completed in 1m 14.993s. This lap is one that really set a tone for the race and deserves to be on this list.
You can check out Trulli’s iconic pole lap in the following YouTube video!
2005: Fernando Alonso, French Grand Prix
The 2005 French Grand Prix, which was the 10th race of the World Championship, was held at the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours, a 2.74-mile racetrack. During the qualifying stage, Alonso took the pole position, completing his lap in 1m 14.412s. Alonso would eventually go on to win the race, completing 70 laps in 1h 31m 22.232s.
He also took the Driver’s Championship. All very impressive! However, Alonso’s qualifying pole lap remains one of the best laps in recent F1 history. Of course, Alonso also took the pole the year prior, despite performances issues that plagued Ferrari during the 2004 season.
His 2005 pole lap still stands out. You must truly see for yourself the way Alonso masters the curves of the circuit in this iconic lap. You can do just that with the YouTube video below!
2010: Mark Webber, Monaco Grand Prix
The 2010 Monaco Grand Prix, which was the 6th round of the 2010 F1 season, was once again held at the Circuit de Monaco. With his Red Bell Renault, Mark Webber won the pole position in the qualifiers. Webber’s third qualifying lap around the 2.08-mile racetrack was his fastest, completing it in 1m 13.826s.
Webber would win the race, too, completing 78 laps in 1h 50m 13.355s. While this is a fantastic feat in and of itself, his qualifying lap has stood the test of time. After all, he managed to out-qualify his own teammate by 0.4 seconds.
To check out Webber’s iconic 2010 pole lap, you can check out the following YouTube video!
2010: Robert Kubica, Japanese Grand Prix
During the qualifying laps at the Japanese Grand Prix in 2010, Robert Kubica placed third overall. The race, which was the 16th of the season, was held at the Suzuka Circuit, which is 3.608-miles long. Kubica completed his qualifying lap in 1m 32.808s. While he only placed third, this lap from Kubica will go down as one of the most memorable moments from Formula One history.
During the lap, two Red Bull Renault’s beat out Kubica’s Renault. Despite this, Renault’s sporting director, Alan Permane, described Kubica’s qualifying lap as unlike any he’s ever seen. In fact, Permane alleged that Kubica even scared himself with that lap!
If you want to check out Robert Kubica in action in his Renault, you can watch the YouTube video below!
2012: Fernando Alonso, German Grand Prix
The 2012 German Grand Prix, which was the 10th round of the season, was held in Hockenheim, Germany. During the qualifying, Alonso once again took the pole position. As weather conditions drastically changed between qualifying laps, spectators could feel Alonso’s confidence in his Ferrari.
This confidence carried Alonso through to victory. Overall, he completed all 67 laps in 1h 31m 5.862s. Around Lap 33 in the race is where Alonso indeed demonstrated his proficiency as a racer. At this point, the race was down to Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, and Jenson Button.
Alonso never let up and persevered through the adverse weather conditions to victory. It’s truly a masterclass in overtaking from one of the best. To get a glimpse at Alonso’s iconic laps at the German Grand Prix, you can check out the following video!
2013: Sebastian Vettel, Singapore Grand Prix
The 2013 Singapore Grand Prix, which was the 13th round of the season, was held at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, which is 3.14-miles long. During the qualifying, Sebastian Vettel took the pole position, with his third lap being the fastest. It’s Vettel’s pole lap that still stands out as one of the best F1 laps.
Vettel would win the race, too. He completed 61 laps in 1h 59m 13.132s. However, Vettel’s victory in his Red Bull Renault left many fans booing his win. This is attributed mainly to Ferrari’s passionate fan base. However, Vettel’s victory signified that his team was clearly doing something right!
You can check out Vettel’s infamous pole lap in the following YouTube video. What do you think: would you have been cheering or booing?
2018: Lewis Hamilton, Brazilian Grand Prix
The 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix, which was the second-last round of the season and the twentieth overall, took place at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace. During the qualifying laps, Lewis Hamilton took the pole position in his Mercedes. His third and final qualifying lap was his fastest, completing the 2.677-mile track in 1m 7.281s.
Hamilton would also win the race, completing 71 laps in 1h 27m 9.066s. However, it’s Hamilton’s pole lap that went down as one of the best laps in F1 history. In fact, Hamilton’s lap time is still the fastest qualifying lap time at the Autodromo circuit.
F1 fans agree that Hamilton’s 2018 car was well-balanced. You can truly see this in the way Hamilton handles the corners of the track during his pole lap. You can see this iconic moment for yourself in the following YouTube video!
2019: Lewis Hamilton, Monaco Grand Prix
Hamilton performed another iconic lap at the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix. Held at the Circuit de Monte Carlo, Hamilton started off strong once more, taking the pole position during the qualifying. His pole lap was the fastest of all the qualifying laps, with Hamilton completing the 2.074-mile circuit in 1m 10.166s.
In this incredible pole lap, Hamilton indeed emphasizes how important precision is in this motorsport. As many F1 fans know, the tiniest error could have massive consequences on the circuit – especially when it comes to the Monaco Grand Prix. These reasons are why Hamilton’s pole lap will go down as one of the best in Formula One history.
The following YouTube video from F1 exemplifies this. In the video, a decent lap around the track is compared to an outstanding one. You can check the video out below!
2020: Valtteri Bottas, Austrian Grand Prix
The first round of the 2020 F1 World Championship that year was the Austrian Grand Prix. To say Valtteri Bottas started the season off with a bang is an understatement. During the qualifying, Bottas took the pole position, with each of his three qualifying laps faster than the previous one.
Before the actual race took place, Bottas would set a record with his pole lap. Bottas completed the 2.683-mile Red Bull Ring circuit in a record 1m 2.939s. Bottas’ pole lap was 4.536s faster than the fastest lap during the actual race, which came from Lando Norris.
Bottas would win the race, completing all 71 laps in 1h 30m 55.739s. You can check out this brilliant pole lap at the video below!
2020: Valtteri Bottas, Sakhir Grand Prix
As we discussed above, Valtteri Bottas started the 2020 F1 World Championship on a high note. During the Sakhir Grand Prix that same year, which was the 16th race of the season, Bottas would set another record. During the qualifying round, Bottas’ qualifying times were all relatively close, but one of them earned him a spot on this list.
For his first qualifying lap, Bottas completed the 2.202-mile circuit in 53.904s. He would finish the third lap in 53.803s. For this third lap, however, Bottas completed the course in 53.377s, making this the fastest lap at the Sakhir circuit. While Bottas did not win the race, his new record would bookend an incredible F1 season for him.
Overall, Bottas placed second in the World Drivers’ Championship during the 2020 season. You can check out the following video to see him set another record, just five months after his previous lap record. This is Formula One racing at its finest!
2021: Max Verstappen, Dutch Grand Prix
The 2021 Dutch Grand Prix, which was the thirteenth round of the World Championship, was held at Circuit Zandvoort in the Netherlands. During the qualifying stage, Verstappen’s pole lap was the fastest of all the qualifying laps. He completed the 2.646-mile track in just 1m 8.885s, nearly three seconds faster than the quickest lap during the race.
Of course, Verstappen also went on to win the 13th race of the season. Verstappen was also the first Dutch driver to win the home race in all of Formula One history. While his iconic 2021 pole lap only recently took place, it’s sure to go down as one of the best in F1 history.
If you want to see Verstappen’s pole lap, you can check out the YouTube video below!
While many Formula One fans consider Ayrton Senna’s 1988 pole lap as one of the best laps in F1 history, there are many other laps to consider. In this article, we looked at only the most exemplary laps that genuinely demonstrate the talent and skill of these drivers.