Michael Schumacher Isn’t Greatest F1 Driver Of All Time

Michael Schumacher Isn’t Greatest F1 Driver Of All Time
Michael Schumacher ph-stop / Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

A new study conducted by the University of Sheffield shows that Juan Manuel Fangio, and not Michael Schumacher, is the greatest Formula One Driver in history.


Statistical analysis was used to conduct the research, carried out by Dr. Andrew Bell of the Sheffield Methods Institute. As reported by the New Zealand Herald, Bell explained that the rankings were largely calculated using the skills of the drivers and not the influence the team or a car’s performance had on the driver.

The great racer of all time, keeping the most race wins into account, is Schumacher. However, he slides from the number one spot after the effect his team had on his wins was removed; he is replaced by Fangio, who won five world championships between 1951 and 1957. Having won titles with four different teams, he remains the oldest champion – winning the 1957 title when he was 46 years and 41 days old.

Alain Prost appears in the second spot and Fernando Alonso achieves the third position, the study from the University of Sheffield notes.

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“The question ‘who is the greatest F1 driver of all time’ is a difficult one to answer, because we don’t know the extent to which drivers do well because of their talent or because they are driving a good car,” Bell said, as reported by CNN. “Our statistical model allows us to find a ranking and assess the relative importance of team and driver effects, and there are some surprising results.”

Surprisingly, Schumacher is positioned on the ninth spot, with his ranking affected significantly by his post retirement performances in 2010-12. Taking into account his pre-retirement performances, he finds himself on the third spot.

Niki Lauda, three time world champion, is not even in the top 100. Meanwhile, Christian Fittipaldi, who hasn’t won a single title, finds a spot in the top 20.

“Our statistical model [provides us] with some surprising results,” Bell said. “Had these drivers raced for different teams, their legacies might have been rather different.”

The study, published in the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, also found that “teams matter about six times more than drivers when it comes to success in F1” and that “team effects have increased over time, but appear to be smaller on street circuits, where the driver’s skill plays a greater role.”

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