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History's Greatest Racing Drivers - A Timeline

It's the pinnacle of motor racing, where the best of the best compete for prestige and glory. Steeped in history, Formula One is the dream for every professional driver and has been at the helm of every meaningful advancement the sport has seen. Stemming from the racing scene in Europe during the 1920's & '30's, the first F1 event didn't take place until 1950, due to World War Two. Since then, though, it's never looked back and has helped produce some of the greatest drivers racing has ever seen.

Our infographic looks at those drivers, the legends of the sport, from F1 and the years prior where a generation of racers inspired and sowed the seeds of what would eventually grow to become the most watched racing championship in the world.

The 1920's - Antonio Ascari

Who did Antonio Ascari race for?

  • Alfa Romeo

Antonio Ascari was an Italian mechanic and Alfa Romeo dealer turned racer after World War One. He got his first taste of racing in 1919, competing in the Targa Florio in a Fiat. His best result in that race came at the 5th time of asking, finishing 2nd in 1923. The following month, Ascari drove the Alfa Romeo P2 to victory at Cremona. In 1925, after winning the Belgian GP, the Italian was killed competing at the French GP, a race he was leading at the time of his death, he was just 36-years-old.

Honourable Mentions - Henry Segrave, Giuseppe Campari

The 1930's - Tazio Nuvolari - The Flying Mantuan

Who did Tazio Nuvolari race for?

  • Alfa Romeo
  • Ferrari
  • Maserati

Ferdinand Porsche described Tazio Nuvolari as 'the greatest driver of the past, the present and the future'. The Italian began his racing career on 2 wheels, before moving on to 4, winning races as well as the admiration of the watching public who were drawn to Nuvolari's unique driving style. Arguably his greatest victory came in 1935 when he won the German GP on the last-lap, with guest-of-honour Adolf Hitler so incensed at the foreigner's victory that he refused to shake his hand.

Honourable Mentions - Sir Malcolm Campbell, Bernd Rosemeyer

The 1940's/'50's - Juan Manuel Fangio - El Maestro

Who did Juan Manuel Fangio race for?

  • Alfa Romeo
  • Ferrari
  • Maserati
  • Mercedes

Juan Manuel Fangio, nicknamed El Maestro or El Chueco - The Master - for good reason. The Argentine was the first driver to truly dominate Formula One after it was established in 1950. His first win came at the Monaco GP, preceding 5 title-winning years which came in '51, '54, '55, '56, '57.

Honourable Mentions - Stirling Moss, Alberto Ascari

The 1960's - James 'Jim' Clark

Who did Jim Clark race for?

  • Team Lotus

Sure to feature on any list of racing greats, Jim Clark won 2 world titles, in 1963 & 1965. He also trod new ground by becoming the first Formula One driver to go to America and win the Indianapolis 500, also in '65. Sadly, though, the British driver's career ended in tragedy when he was killed at Hockenheim, Germany, after suffering a blowout causing him to career off the road.

Honourable Mentions - AJ Foyt, Graham Hill

The 1970's - Niki Lauda

Who did Niki Lauda race for?

  • Brabham
  • BRM
  • Ferrari
  • March
  • McLaren

With a rather more unorthodox entry into Formula One, Niki Lauda initially bankrolled his racing career with big loans against his own life. His gamble and trust in his own ability paid off, though, as he was crowned F1 champion in 1975. Lauda was seriously injured in '76, after crashing his Ferrari at the German GP, with the car then bursting into flames, leaving the Austrian with severe burns. Undeterred by his injuries, Lauda roared back to victory winning the title in 1977 and then again in 1984, becoming the first and only driver to win the drivers' championship for both McLaren and Ferrari.

Honourable Mentions - Jackie Stewart, Mario Andretti

The 1980's/90's - Ayrton Senna

Who did Ayrton Senna race for?

  • McLaren
  • Team Lotus
  • Toleman
  • Williams

Perhaps the best there has ever been, Ayrton Senna is a giant of motor racing, which is why he's our best for both the 80's and 90's. The brilliant Brazilian was crowned Formula One King on 3 occasions, 1988, 1990 and 1991. Racking up 41 race wins and 65 pole positions in the process. His natural talent and understanding of what it took to win a race were unparalleled. Tragically, the world of F1 was changed forever on May 1, 1994. The date of the fatal crash that claimed the life of Senna at Imola. Since his passing, there's been no one quite like Ayrton Senna, and there isn't likely to be anyone quite like him in the future. He was a uniquely special racer.

Honourable Mentions - Alain Prost, Gilles Villeneuve

The 2000's - Michael Schumacher

Who did Michael Schumacher race for?

  • Benetton
  • Ferrari
  • Jordan
  • Mercedes

The most successful Formula One driver of all time, Germany's Michael Schumacher is in a league of his own in terms of race wins (91) and titles won. Winning the driver's championship no less than 7 times, 1994, '95, 2000, '01, '02, '03, & '04. Schumacher dominated the sport in the 2000's before retiring in 2006, only to return to F1 in 2010 with Mercedes - a period that was dominated by our next racing great.

Honourable Mentions - Sebastien Loeb, Fernando Alonso

The 2010's - Sebastian Vettel

Who has Sebastian Vettel driven for?

  • BMW Sauber
  • Red Bull
  • Toro Rosso

Chasing down the records set by his hero Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel is a modern great. He became the youngest Formula 1 champion in the world after winning his maiden title in 2010, before going on to win another 3 titles in the 3 years that followed. Vettel was nurtured by Red Bull's driver development program and rewarded their trust in him by delivering a spell of unanswered success. Now racing for F1 giants Ferrari, the German is hungry for more and has the potential to become one of the best, if not the best racing drivers of all time.

Honourable Mentions - Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton

History's Greatest Racing Drivers - A Timeline