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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 October, 2003, 07:22 GMT 08:22 UK
Who is the greatest ever?
By Andrew Benson
Motorsport editor

Michael Schumacher is the greatest of his era - but is he the best ever?
Titles: 1994, '95, 2000, '01, 02, 03
Races: 194
Wins: 70
Born: 3/1/69
Michael Schumacher's sixth Formula One drivers' title means he can now claim to be the most successful Grand Prix driver of all time.

The brilliant German has eclipsed Juan Manuel Fangio's tally of five championships - a mark many believed would never be beaten - to add to his records for victories and points.

But being the most successful in history does not necessarily mean you are the best - and many F1 experts would argue Schumacher will never be that no matter how big the numbers he racks up.

We assess some of the 34-year-old's rivals for the claim to be the greatest Formula One driver in history.

Juan Manuel Fangio was revered by all who saw him race
Titles: 1951, '54, '55, '56, '57
Races: 51
Wins: 24
Born: 24/6/11
Died: 17/7/95
Juan Manuel Fangio

Fangio is the Pele of Formula One - a South American genius against whom all others are measured.

The Argentine's record of five titles may have been beaten by Schumacher's relentless march, but it is difficult to imagine how Fangio's career statistics will ever be matched.

He won his five titles in just eight years, and with four different teams. His 24 victories came in just 51 Grands Prix.

That is a win rate of just over one every other race.

It is even more remarkable when you consider that Fangio's best years were probably behind him before he even raced in F1.

He was nearly 39 at the inception of the world championship in 1950 and he won his first title at the age of 40. He drove his greatest race - victory in the 1957 German Grand Prix - at 46.

His rivals - including Stirling Moss - acknowledged that Fangio was on a different level, both as a driver and as a man, for he was regarded as setting a standard for sporting behaviour as well as driving ability.

Quiet and self-effacing, Jim Clark utterly dominated the 1960s
Races: 72
Titles: 1963, '65
Wins: 25
Born: 4/3/36
Died: 7/4/68
Jim Clark

Jim Clark towered over his era just as powerfully as any other all-time great has over theirs.

The quietly-spoken Scot dominated the mid-1960s and came to be synonymous with the Lotus team, forming a formidable partnership with team owner and car designer Colin Chapman.

Clark often had the best cars to drive, but he made them perform better than any contemporary. And he would probably have won more than his two titles had it not been for the legendary fragility of Chapman's cars.

His winning average - he won 25 of his 72 Grands Prix - has been beaten only by Fangio and Schumacher. But he also demonstrated a stunning versatility.

Clark was quick - and won - in everything he turned his hand to, whether it be sportscars, saloon cars or rallying.

It was often said that Clark was at his best when leading from the front and driving off into the distance - but if he looked less convincing battling with rivals, it was probably because he had to do it so rarely.

More wins and titles would surely have followed had he not lost his life in the pouring rain at a Formula Two race at Hockenheim in April 1968.

Jackie Stewart ushered in the modern age of F1
Races: 99
Titles: 1969, '71, '73
Wins: 27
Born: 11/6/39
Jackie Stewart

Jackie Stewart can lay claim to being the first modern-day Grand Prix driver.

The bouncy, self-confident Scot changed the face of Formula One forever by refusing to accept that it was a sport in which being killed was simply a risk inherent in the job.

Stewart started a safety campaign that still goes on to this day, leading the way in the acceptance of what now appear to be such basic items as seat belts and crash barriers.

But Stewart would never have been able to get away with that if he had not been such a fabulous driver.

With the death of Jim Clark, there was a vacuum at the top of F1, and Stewart wasted no time in filling it.

Stewart was blindingly fast, but he also employed to great effect in his driving the intelligence that was apparent in his safety crusade and, later, his business career.

That extended as far as his decision to retire while still at the height of his powers, at the age of 34, just after clinching his third championship.

Alain Prost was as intelligent as he was fast
Races: 199
Titles: 1985, '86, '89, '93
Wins: 51
Born: 24/2/55
Alain Prost

Alain Prost is rarely the first name on people's lips in any discussion of the greatest drivers of all time, but his career stands comparison with that of any other star of the last half-century.

The Frenchman brought a rare intelligence to Grand Prix racing, and it was this ability that was at the core of many of his 51 wins - a mark only Schumacher has beaten.

Prost was probably better at the technical side of the sport than any driver in history.

He was at his best in the mid-1980s, when F1 cars had a limited fuel capacity and had to be managed to perform at their best over 200 miles rather than driven flat out.

But he was also blindingly fast - as the team-mates who suffered at his hands will tell you, among them fellow greats Niki Lauda and Nigel Mansell, as well as Keke Rosberg, John Watson, Damon Hill and Jean Alesi.

Only someone with genuine pace would have been able to give such a hard time to Ayrton Senna, with whom Prost fought perhaps the bitterest rivalry in the sport's history.

He retired after winning his fourth title in 1993 - but Schumacher could still be chasing a tally that could so easily have been seven championships had Prost's luck been just a little better in 1982, 1983 and 1984.

Ayrton Senna was arguably the fastest driver ever to sit in a Formula One car
Races: 162
Drivers' titles: 1988, '90, '91
Wins: 41
Born: 21/3/60
Died: 1/5/94
Ayrton Senna

Ayrton Senna was Formula One's great romantic hero, a sportsman who transcended the limits of his chosen arena and touched the lives of millions across the world.

The Brazilian was arguably the fastest man ever to sit in a Grand Prix car.

Senna behind the wheel was like a force of nature, taking his machinery to limits few believed could exist, as his record of 65 pole positions in 162 races attests.

In races, he was remorseless and intimidating, but he also had an incredible delicacy of touch which was most apparent in wet weather, where he was untouchable.

He lived to drive F1 cars, and while his incredible self-belief and determination were vital parts of his armoury, they sometimes overwhelmed Senna himself as well as his rivals.

He dominated his teams as well as his rivals by the sheer force of his personality, but he also went beyond the pale in pursuing his goals, most notably in the title-deciding collision with his nemesis Alain Prost in Japan in 1990.

Senna was just as formidable a presence out of the car.

He had a magnetic charisma married to a formidable intellect, a poetic eloquence in several languages and a rare willingness to confront and discuss the risks of his chosen profession.

He also invested a lot of time and money in helping disadvantaged street children in his home country, Brazil, a fact he kept to himself until shortly before his death.

All this came together in a man who changed the face of his sport - for the worse, by changing forever what was acceptable in terms of on-track behaviour, and for the better by taking F1 to an entirely new audience.

His impact became truly clear when he was killed in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, an event that kept everything else off the top of news bulletins across the world.

Who is the greatest ever Grand Prix driver?
Juan Manuel Fangio
Jim Clark
Jackie Stewart
Alain Prost
Ayrton Senna
Michael Schumacher
None of the above
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

F1 REVIEW 2003







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