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Who is the fastest F1 driver? Machine learning reveals new statistic

F1 Grand Prix of Italy
Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W11 leads the field at the start of the race during the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 06, 2020 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

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.

AWS Machine Learning says Max Verstappen is the 4th fastest driver on pure pace in F1's history. https://t.co/IzjTbWyPLH

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:

β€œWe’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

RankingDriverDelta Time
1Ayrton Senna0.000s
2Michael Schumacher0.114s
3Lewis Hamilton0.275s
4Max Verstappen0.280s
5Fernando Alonso0.309s
6Nico Rosberg0.374s
7Charles Leclerc0.376s
8Heikki Kovalainen0.378s
9Jarno Trulli0.409s
10Sebastian Vettel0.435s
11Rubens Barrichello0.445s
12Nico Hulkenberg0.456s
13Valtteri Bottas0.457s
14Carlos Sainz0.457s
15Lando Norris0.459s
16Daniel Ricciardo0.461s
17Jenson Button0.462s
18Robert Kubica0.463s
19Giancarlo Fisichella0.469s
20Alain Prost0.514s

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.

Lando scored P3 from the F1 judges this year! He was the only driver outside of the top 3 teams to score a podium, got 2 fastest laps, and outperformed the car considerably all year! So proud of you @LandoNorris πŸ™ŒπŸΌπŸ§‘ https://t.co/NILZgpikP8

The new generation of drivers is already well-represented in the list, with impressive talents like Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris featuring on it.

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Edited by Arshit Garg
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