The foundation of F1 is based on an extremely simple concept: how fast can a driver go around the entire circuit? Since the beginning of the sport, the title of the "fastest driver" has been a subject of debate among fans, and we finally have an answer.
Instead of limiting themselves to the current grid, many fans want to know the fastest driver in the entire history of the sport. It is obvious that not all the World Champions throughout the ages can compete with each other, since every era of the sport demands something different, but still, using advanced statistics, there can be approximations of the same.
Many believe that either Lewis Hamilton or Max Verstappen is the fastest driver of all time, seeing the success they've enjoyed recently. However, a comparative study by F1 and Amazon Machine Learning Solutions Lab (which took a year to complete) has given a definitive answer.
F1 worked with AWS to build an algorithm that ranks drivers based on raw speed. F1's Director of Data Systems, Rob Smedley, and Director of Broadcast and Media, Dean Loncke, and Amazon ML Solutions Lab's Principal Scientist and Senior Manager, Dr. Priya Ponnapalli, worked together on this project. About the project, Dr Ponnapalli said:
“We’re excited to be able to continue to collaborate with an organisation like F1, which has such a data-rich catalogue of information… For us at AWS, it’s exciting to see machine learning being used in a way that everyone can relate to.”
List of the 20 fastest drivers in F1 history
The algorithm collected data from all the qualifying sessions since 1983 and normalized it for a fair comparative study in contrast to all the drivers till 2022. It is important to note that the list has been prepared using the raw speed of the drivers, meaning it does not include race craft, tire management or other factors. The list talks purely about the speed of the drivers.
List of the fastest drivers since 1983
Ayrton Senna, the three-time World Champion, tops the list of the fastest drivers in the history of Formula 1. Many consider him to be the best driver of all time. Meanwhile, 7-time World Champions Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton are placed 2nd and 3rd on the list, respectively.
It is certainly interesting to note that Alain Prost sits at the bottom of the list. Although he has won 4 World Championships, it is apparent that his pace wasn't the key factor in his success.
The new generation of drivers is already well-represented in the list, with impressive talents like Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris featuring on it.