Sunday, 29 June 2014


After 12 years of development and refinement from its 2002 inception, my Rating System is being published. I have started with the Formula One era, 1950-2013, and divided it into decades for practical purposes.  Each ten-year period will be published separately. The third decade (1970-1979) is now available – see ‘Buy my Rating System’ above or click on the link below:

The fifth book contains the 1970-1979 seasons, is 90 pages, soft-cover bound and available now online here.

The fourth book contains the 1980-1989 seasons, is 81 pages, soft-cover bound and is available online here.

The third book contains the 1990-1999 seasons, is 80 pages, soft-cover bound and available online here.

The second book contains the 2010-2013 seasons, is 50 pages, soft-cover bound and available now online here.

The first book contains the 2000-2009 seasons, is 80 pages, soft-cover bound and available now online here.

A section entitled ‘Guidelines for interpreting my Rating System’ is included in both books which briefly explains my System.

Each season is in three sections, Package, Driver and Car, with the whole field rated and tabulated, and text discussing mainly the winners and the front-runners. My own illustrations are used, and do not necessarily show the fastest, top ranked competitors, but rather a spread for each season.

For those who are interested further, additional explanations can be found here:


Tuesday, 17 June 2014


ONLY PEAK: Farina 1950
If one were to list the World Driver Champions, and then compare with a list of those drivers considered ‘great’ there would be quite a few differences. One glaring example would be that Moss did not score a World Drivers Championship. If another list were made with those drivers considered the ‘fastest’, there would again be some differences. One would be that two drivers who were really fast, Gilles Villeneuve and Peterson, do not appear on the Driver Champions list. Yet another list ranking by Drivers Championship points scored would not tally with the other listings. Nor would a list of race-winners match.

All this points to the fact that Formula One racing is too complex a sport to easily analyse, rate, rank and compare drivers. The car is such a crucial factor in determining performance. After years of trying various comparative methods, I devised my Rating System in 2002. This is based on speed comparisons between drivers, the car having been ‘removed’ from the equation. Explanations of my Rating System methodology can be read elsewhere on this blog and in my recent publications.

FIRST PEAK: Ascari 1951
Throughout Grand Prix racing history one reads of certain driver characteristics: such as being very sensitive to car behaviour (Trulli 1997-2010 and Raikkonen 2010-2013), some having ‘soft hands’ (1905-1922) Fiat driver Nazzaro), others able to conserve tyres and fuel (Prost 1980-1993 and Button 2001-2014), some able to coax ailing cars to the finish (Clark 1960-1968 and Fittipaldi 1970-1980). Alfa Romeo chief mechanic (1918-1933) Giulio Ramponi told how gentle Antonio Ascari (twenties) and Nuvolari (thirties) were on their cars, tyres and brakes. Brabham’s chief designer (1973-1985) Gordon Murray said in 1983 that Piquet used less fuel and rubber than his team-mate Patrese. Today in 2014 we see that Hamilton uses less fuel than his Mercedes-Benz team-mate Nico Rosberg. These are distinguishing aspects of driving style.

Above all such nuances, the over-riding factor is speed. All the great drivers won because of their superior speed. Speed in comparison to rivals and team-mates. As Eddie Irvine said of Michael Schumacher, his Ferrari team-mate (1996-1999): “He was quick and everything else came from that.” In the 1932 Targa Florio (8 laps of 71 km/miles each on rough, unsurfaced roads, for a race distance 571 km/355 miles and 7-hours 16-minutes duration) Alfa Romeo’s Ramponi told how Nuvolari used the same set of brakes for practice, race-led all the way to win, and that he was much faster than his second-placed team-mate Borzzachini, who used four sets! Reading of those ‘thinking’ great drivers Nazzaro, Caracciola, Fangio, Stewart and Prost ‘winning at the slowest possible speed’ gives the impression that they were cautious and perhaps not the fastest. Far from it; it was only because of their superior racing speed that they were, on occasion, able to slow down and win.

FIRST PEAK: Brabham 1959
Unlike the many popular ‘Greatest/Top 100/Fastest’ driver lists published by well-known authors, journals or compiled by panels of experts, I do not rank drivers lineally. Drivers from different eras cannot be directly compared. Rather I rank drivers in layers or tiers. This is based purely on their speed compared with the fastest driver of each season, as calculated by my Rating System (explained in more detail elsewhere on this blog and in my recent publications). Shown below are the drivers and the season that they first achieved their peak rating. Bear in mind these tiers are based purely on driver speeds; excluded are the package (car-and-driver), car, race results or official championship titles, points and places.

TIER ONE (16 drivers)
Fangio 1950, Ascari 1951, Moss 1956, Surtees 1961, Clark 1963, Stewart 1968, Lauda 1975, Villeneuve G 1981, Piquet snr 1982, Prost 1983, Senna 1986, Schumacher M 1995, Raikkonen 2005, Alonso 2005, Hamilton 2008, Vettel 2011.

Few could argue with these sixteen, who dominated or were considered to have been the fastest of their eras. All scored multiple wins and, except for two (Moss and Gilles Villeneuve), won at least one Drivers Championship. Surtees won only six races due to not having a fast-enough car for most of his career, somewhat like Alonso from 2008-2013.

TIER TWO (8 drivers)
Rindt 1970, Andretti Mario 1970, Peterson 1973, Reutemann 1978, Berger 1989, Hakkinen 1998, Schumacher R 2004, Montoya 2004.

Perhaps it is curious that so few drivers managed to come so close to the ultimate speed? Two examples were Rindt and Peterson, both exceptionally fast, but just shaded by the dominant driver of their era, Jackie Stewart. Berger is perhaps a surprise, but when up against his Ferrari team-mate Mansell at his peak in 1989, Berger was not outperformed for speed despite his huge crash and hand-burns at Imola. Ralf Schumacher has been overlooked partly because of his introverted personality. He really was very fast, outperforming or close-matching his more renowned and acknowledged Williams-BMW team-mate Montoya over four seasons (2001-2004).

TIER THREE (13 drivers)
Castellotti 1957, Brooks 1958, Amon 1970, Ickx 1971, Cevert 1973, Regazzoni 1976, Pironi 1982, Mansell 1988, Coulthard 1997, Barrichello 2002, Massa 2007, Button 2010, Kubica 2010, Rosberg N 2012.

The unacknowledged Eugenio Castellotti I compared directly against his famous Lancia team-leader Ascari for 1955 and then for 1956-7 against his much-publicised Ferrari team-mates Hawthorn and Collins. I found his performances to have been superior to Hawthorn's and Collins's, based purely on comparative track times. A separate post on this blog reveals in detail Castellotti’s pace and speed. Many will doubt Massa’s inclusion in this group, but in 2007 he matched Alonso, Hamilton and Raikkonen for speed when all had equally-matched cars, neither McLaren-Mercedes nor Ferrari displaying any car superiority. For those who doubted the de-retired Michael Schumacher’s pace from 2010-2012 and consequently Nico Rosberg’s, in 2013 Rosberg close-matched Hamilton for speed, and so far in 2014 has confirmed he is fast by racing so close to Hamilton.

ONLY PEAK: Rindt 1970
TIER FOUR (16 drivers)
Farina 1950, Villoresi 1950, Hunt 1976, Pace 1976, Arnoux 1982, Cheever 1983,Tambay 1983, Winkelhok Manfred 1984, Rosberg K 1985, Frentzen 1999, Trulli 2003, Fisichella 2005, Kovalainen 2008, Webber 2010, Grosjean 2012, Hulkenberg 2013.

Veterans Farina and Villoresi in their forties did well to be so fast when they faced the younger Fangio and Ascari. The cases of Cheever, Fisichella, Kovalainen and Grosjean could partly be ascribed to having top-rated team-mates, Prost, Alonso, Hamilton and Raikkonen respectively, in top-rate teams.

TIER FIVE (14 drivers)
Hawthorn 1958, Gurney 1964, Pryce 1976, Scheckter J 1977, Stuck H-J 1978, Jones 1979, Patrese 1982, Warwick 1984, Martini 1990, Modena 1991, Irvine 1999, Wurz 2008, Heidfeld 2007.

Of this Tier or group Martini and Modena showed instant speed, but neither had fast enough cars to improve further. Driver Champions Hawthorn, Scheckter and Jones, although some way off ultimate pace, were tough, experienced racers. Irvine came close to the Title but rival McLaren-Mercedes drivers Hakkinen and Coulthard and Ferrari team-mate Schumacher were just too fast for him.

TIER SIX (33 drivers)
Manzon 1950, Galvez 1953, Rolt 1953, Crook 1953, Collins 1957, Musso 1958, Brabham 1959, Menditeguy 1960, Von Trips 1960, Hill G 1962, Scarfiotti 1966, Hulme 1968, Redman 1971, Fittipaldi E 1972, Depailler 1977, Laffite 1979, Jabouille 1980, Watson 1981, Alboreto 1983, Boutsen 1990, Donnelly 1990, Alesi 1991, Hill D 1996, Herbert 1996, Villeneuve J 1997, Verstappen 2003, Davidson 2008, Piquet jnr 2008, Kobayashi 2011, di Resta 2012, Petrov 2012, Glock 2012, Maldonado 2013.

It was this Tier Six that I have found to generally be the slowest driver-rating limit for scoring wins and more success. Drivers any slower or further from the front only scored one or two wins. Many may question my inclusion of Nelson Piquet jnr here; however I have measured him directly against one of the two top drivers of the season, Renault team-mate Alonso. Piquet was found to be impressively fast for a rookie, despite having hardly any testing time.

FIRST PEAK: Alonso 2005 and Vettel 2011
As explained elsewhere in this blog, my measurement and calculation of driver speeds do not necessarily coincide with nor are they based on race results or official championship points or places. A driver has to have a car fast enough to show his speed in race results. Even the fastest drivers almost always had the fastest cars when dominating. Prime example of a top-rated driver whose race results obscured his driver-speed is Surtees. He raced for 13 years (1960-1972) yet scored only six wins. This was because he enjoyed a top-rated car for only the four races in his rookie part-season 1960, and again for just the first two races of 1966. For the rest of his career Surtees drove off-pace cars. Consequently his talent, skill and hard work did not show in bare results. Race results form strong perceptions. Such that top cars can make lesser drivers appear superior and slower cars can damage a driver’s reputation, as we are seeing with the talented and fast Romain Grosjean in 2014.

Each driver’s speed I have listed above here was measured and scored on my Rating System within each particular season, and calculated as season-averages, using the fastest as the benchmark. Therefore it is not possible to directly compare top-rated Fangio in 1950-1954 with top-rated Alonso in 2008-2013, other than to say that each achieved the ultimate speed of his respective season/s. My Rating System does show the time gap that each driver raced from the fastest. For example one could not say that Manzon in 1950 and Maldonado in 2013 were equal in speed, only that they raced at the same gap from the fastest driver/s of their day. The ‘tiers’ or groupings above do not mean the drivers within each are equal, just that they raced at the same gap from the fastest of their day. Unless of course a group includes two or more drivers from the same season/s, in which case they can be considered equal in speed. In the six tiers above, I have presented several pairs of drivers who equal-speed-rated in the same season.

The 101 drivers listed here comprise most of the Formula One race winners from 1950 to 2013, ranked in groups or tiers according to their speed from the fastest each season.

© Patrick O’Brien. Nothing from this page can be used without the permission of Patrick E. O’Brien.