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Top 10 F1 drivers with the most race starts

Michael Schumacher (right) and Rubens Barrichello had two of the longest ever F1 careers
Michael Schumacher (right) and Rubens Barrichello had two of the longest ever F1 careers
George Howson

With Fernando Alonso leaving Formula 1 after 16 continuous seasons and 17 overall in the sport, he ended his career with one of the highest tallies of races competed in, in history. But does he top this list? And who else is up there in terms of races started? With careers being longer than ever before and the racing calendars being more packed than at any point in Formula 1 history, a lot of these drivers raced during the modern era, but there are some surprises in there.

Just to clarify as well, this isn't the total amount of races entered, it's the number of races that were started. So for example, the 14 drivers that never started the 2005 USGP didn't register a race start but they did enter the Grand Prix.

#10 - Lewis Hamilton (229)

Hamilton has now competed in 12 consecutive Formula 1 seasons
Hamilton has now competed in 12 consecutive Formula 1 seasons

I was surprised by this one too.

Lewis Hamilton was thrown into the deep end of Formula 1 by driving for one of the top teams in McLaren and being partnered by the then reigning double world champion Fernando Alonso.

However, the Brit swam and didn't sink, matching Alonso's points tally that season and only missing out on the title by a single point. He'd win his first driver's championship the following year in one of the most dramatic races of all time in Brazil in what would be the peak of his time with the Woking outfit.

Hamilton would join Mercedes for 2013, a move that was widely criticised at the time but Lewis would get the last laugh. The Silver Arrows would become the dominant force when Formula 1 switched to V6 turbo engine for 2014 and with that Hamilton became one of the most successful drivers in the history of motorsport.

Lewis is going for Michael Schumacher's records, having already surpassed the great German's pole record in 2017. He'll be 34 at the start of next season so there's still plenty of time to do so and climb up this list too.

#10 - Giancarlo Fisichella (229)

Giancarlo Fisichella's most famous moment in F1 was probably his surprise win at Interlagos in 2003
Giancarlo Fisichella's most famous moment in F1 was probably his surprise win at Interlagos in 2003

Giancarlo Fisichella ties Hamilton for 10th on this list, something he won't be able to say when Australia rolls around in March. Fisichella entered the sport in 1996, being one of many talented young drivers to get their first big chance with Minardi.

A brief stint at Jordan the year after brought his first podium but the win alluded him, even after his move to Benetton for 1998. Fisi was given the boot in favour of Alonso for 2002 and dropped down to his old team Jordan, surely he couldn't win there?

Well, that's exactly what happened in what was an extremely chaotic race in Brazil in 2003. A move to a top team eventually came in 2005, when he returned to Benetton (now rebranded as Renault). He acted as excellent backup for both of Alonso's championship campaigns before being axed once again for 2008.

The new Force India team snapped him up but the Silverstone outfit didn't look like pulling up any trees anytime soon. However, the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix provided an excellent chance for another win, but the Flying Finn, Kimi Raikkonen snatched it off him in what was an excellent drive and still Force India's best ever result (second after starting from Pole).

Ironically, Raikkonen would become Fisichella's teammate for the next race in Italy as he moved to Ferrari midway through 2009 to replace the injured Felipe Massa. This move was widely criticised after the veteran failed to score a point in his five races for the Scuderia. This effectively ended his Formula 1 career, as nobody signed Fisi for 2010, but he left the sport having achieved every Italian's dream of driving for Ferrari.

#9 - David Coulthard (246)

David Coulthard's final and 13th win in F1 was in Australia in 2003
David Coulthard's final and 13th win in F1 was in Australia in 2003

David Coulthard may be more famous for his work on British Formula 1 coverage these days, but the Scot also enjoyed a very successful career on the track as well. Being brought in as a temporary replacement for the late Ayrton Senna at Williams in 1994, Coulthard had a mixed start in F1.

He became a full-time driver the following season alongside Damon Hill and got his first win in Portugal the same year. Williams signed Jacques Villeneuve for 1996, so Coulthard transferred to McLaren, who were struggling in the midfield of the pack. The Woking outfit were steadily improving, though, and Coulthard picked up a pair of wins in 1997.

1998 saw McLaren return to the front of the field, but Coulthard failed to capitalise on his car's fantastic pace, only winning once as his teammate Mika Hakkinen stormed to the world title.

1999 was more of the same, while 2000 saw him as the main challenge to Michael Schumacher in the first half of the season but he fell away in the latter stages. He'd remain at McLaren until 2005 when Coulthard joined the new Red Bull team, which had been risen from the ashes of Jaguar.

Red Bull weren't yet the force that they'd become, but Coulthard picked up some notable results, including a stunning podium at Monaco in 2006, hilariously forcing Christian Horner to go skinny dipping. David's final podium would come at Canada in 2008, his last season in Formula 1, after 15 years in the sport.

#8 - Jarno Trulli (252)

Jarno Trulli got his sole F1 win at Monaco in 2004
Jarno Trulli got his sole F1 win at Monaco in 2004

When Fisichella left Minardi for 1997, the plucky Italians opted for another home-grown talent who would also become one of the most experienced men in the sport's history, Jarno Trulli.

Trulli made an immediate impact, moving to the Prost team midway through 1997 and scoring his first points with a fourth place at the Hockenheimring that same year. Prost Grand Prix continued to struggle but did manage an incredible second at the European GP in 1999 thanks to the Italian's heroics in what were treacherous conditions.

The new millennium saw Trulli go to Jordan but it wasn't until Renault's Flavio Briatore snapped his compatriot up in 2003 that more success would follow. Trulli's first and only win came at Monaco in 2004 and the Italian would've felt on top of the world until he was brought back down to reality. Despite Trulli having scored more points than his teammate Alonso at that stage of the season, he was dropped in favour of Fisichella.

Trulli would spend five years with Toyota, claiming several poles and podiums but never quite reaching the heights of his short time at Renault. His final podium was in Japan in 2009, before moving to the unsuccessful Lotus team for 2010 and retiring at the end of the 2011 season.

#7 - Riccardo Patrese (256)

Riccardo Patrese (left) finished driver's championship runner-up in 1992
Riccardo Patrese (left) finished driver's championship runner-up in 1992

The third and final Italian on this list is the man who held the record for the most race starts for the best part of two decades. Riccardo Patrese got his F1 break with Shadow after the tragic passing of Tom Pryce in South Africa and he'd get his first podium the following year in Sweden after moving to Arrows.

He'd remain with Arrows until the end of 1981, picking up the odd podium along the way but Brabham came calling for 1982. Bernie Ecclestone's team had just won the driver's championship with Nelson Piquet in 1981, and Patrese took his opportunity straight away, claiming his first win during an extremely eventful Monaco Grand Prix in 1982. The Brabham was fast but it was also hopelessly unreliable making a challenge for the championship near-impossible.

Patrese would fade into the midfield obscurity, but when Williams got their act together in 1989, the Italian would have his best years in Formula 1, finishing third overall in both 1989 and 1991 and as runner-up in 1992.

Consistency rather than outright incredible speed was Patrese's style, standing on the podium 37 times compared to his 6 wins, with a seven-year gap between victories between 1983 and 1990. Patrese would have one last season in F1 in 1993, partnering Schumacher at Benetton and hanging up his racing gloves at the end of the campaign.

#6 - Felipe Massa (269)

Felipe Massa came out of his brief retirement for one last season in 2017
Felipe Massa came out of his brief retirement for one last season in 2017

15 full seasons of F1 racing places Felipe Massa sixth on the all-time list of F1 appearance makers. Massa joined Formula 1 in 2002 with the Sauber team and he immediately impressed Ferrari, so much so that the Brazilian spent the next season as a test driver with the Scuderia.

2004 and 2005 were middling years for Massa, as he returned to drive for Sauber but couldn't quite reach the podium, although he did manage a couple of fourth places, no mean feat in that car.

2006 saw Massa drive for Ferrari alongside Schumacher, a year that would see him pick up his first win in Turkey and also win his home race at the final round in Brazil. The following year brought Kimi Raikkonen to the team, and although Massa was solid, he couldn't quite manage a title challenge. That was until 2008, however...

Felipe managed a very impressive six wins that year as he duked it out with Hamilton for the title and appeared to have won it in Brazil until a last-corner overtake by Hamilton saw the Brit win his first world championship.

That seemed to be unlucky, but it's a miracle that Massa continued in F1 after his horrifying crash with a spring in Hungary in 2009. That saw Massa sit on the sidelines for the rest of the year, but he returned in 2010 to partner Alonso.

In truth, Massa was never the same driver after his accident, never returning to the top step of the podium despite driving some winning cars. He remained at Ferrari until 2013, when he joined his final team in F1, Williams.

Massa had some good chances to win as the Grove outfit enjoyed a revival under new regulations but Mercedes were just too good. In 2016 Massa announced his retirement but he surprisingly returned for 2017, as Williams needed an experienced driver to partner Lance Stroll.

#5 - Kimi Raikkonen (292)

Kimi Raikkonen will add to his already impressive tally of race starts until at least 2020
Kimi Raikkonen will add to his already impressive tally of race starts until at least 2020

Kimi Raikkonen will be the most experienced driver on the F1 grid in 2019 after the retirement of another world champion.

The Iceman may have had a Ferrari-induced hiatus between 2010 and 2011 but he's competed in 16 full seasons of Grand Prix racing already and is contracted to Sauber until 2020. If Raikkonen sees out his contract and we have two more 21 race seasons, he will top this list with 334 race starts.

Raikkonen will go through his second stint with Sauber, after beginning his career with the Swiss outfit all the way back in 2001. Despite being very inexperienced in single-seaters, he lit up the F1 world and secured a move to McLaren for 2002. 2003 and 2005 saw Raikkonen challenge for the title with McLaren but he fell short on both occasions, but a move to Ferrari changed all that.

Despite being 17 points behind with just 20 to play for at the end of 2007, Raikkonen would become world champion that year thanks to six wins and an excellent run at the end of the season.

Kimi would never reach those heights again and would be forced out of Ferrari and the sport at the end of 2009 in favour of Alonso. Two years in rallying later and the Iceman was ready for a comeback in 2012 with Lotus, winning for the first time since his return in Abu Dhabi and winning the first race of 2013 in Australia.

Lotus would fall into financial turmoil, which saw Raikkonen leave the team for 2014 and return to Ferrari, of all teams. There was no bad blood in the relationship, though, and Raikkonen would partner Sebastian Vettel as the scarlet cars attempted to knock Mercedes off their perch.

2018 was arguably one of Raikkonen's best years, being extremely consistent and racking up 12 podiums and his first win since 2013 at the Circuit of the Americas. Raikkonen is also second on the all-time list of fastest lap setters and whatever happens during his final two years, he'll retire being a legend of the sport.

#3 - Jenson Button (306)

Jenson Button won his only world title in 2009
Jenson Button won his only world title in 2009

No, we haven't missed out number 4, it's a tie for third place and we'll overview Jenson Button first. Button made his F1 debut for Williams at the age of 20 in the year 2000, one of the youngest men to have ever done so at the time.

He enjoyed a solid opening campaign, regularly finishing in the points at a time when McLaren and Ferrari were untouchable and only the top 6 scored. Despite this, the Brit was offloaded to Benetton for 2001 to make way for IndyCar champion Juan Pablo Montoya. This was a disastrous move for Jenson, as Benetton produced an awful car for 2001 and it didn't get much better after the Renault re-branding for 2002.

Button moved to BAR Honda for 2003, a change that would pay dividends a year later when BAR got their act together and had one of the fastest cars on the grid. 2004 saw Button's first podium in Malaysia and nine more would follow that season, but the win continued to elude him.

It took a total of 113 races for Button to stand on the podium, a wet/dry thriller at the Hungaroring in 2006 providing him with the opportunity to showcase his incredible talents in inclement weather.

That win proved to be a false dawn for Honda, consistently running around at the back of the pack for 2007 and 2008, something that saw the Japanese manufacturer leave Formula 1 for 2009.

Button was now without a drive, until Ross Brawn founded his own team ahead of the new season, Brawn GP. This proved to be the catalyst for Jenson to ascend to greatness, as Brawn had the fastest car in the series, thanks to a change in regulations.

Six wins in the opening seven races gave Button a 26-point lead (when it was 10 for a win), a lead that proved to be insurmountable despite Brawn's lack of development during the remainder of the season.

Button won the drivers' championship after Brazil, consistently scoring solid points during the campaign proved critical. 2010 was Button's final team change, moving to McLaren to partner Hamilton. Despite coming up against one of the best drivers in the history of the sport, Button actually outscored Hamilton during their time as teammates.

However, Jenson wouldn't challenge for the title again, the closest he came was a second place in 2011, albeit having a huge gap to Vettel. His final win was at Brazil in 2012 and the final podium came at Australia 2014 before McLaren plummeted to backmarker status for 2015.

He retired at the end of 2016 but made a cameo appearance at Monaco 2017 when he was subbed in for Alonso, but the less said about his race there the better for Button...

#3 - Michael Schumacher (306)

Michael Schumacher won 5 titles in a row at the start of the 2000s
Michael Schumacher won 5 titles in a row at the start of the 2000s

Who would've guessed that Bertrand Gachot's imprisonment would pave the way for the most successful career in Formula 1?

Michael Schumacher began his Grand Prix career as a stand-in for Gachot at Jordan for the Belgian Grand Prix and immediately impressed everybody by qualifying seventh, despite never driving around Spa before.

Schumacher was brought back down to earth by a clutch failure on the opening lap but the seeds were planted for an immediate promotion. Benetton signed Schumacher for the next race in Italy, where the German would score his first points, finishing ahead of his triple world champion teammate Nelson Piquet. Schumacher would claim his first of a record 91 wins at Spa in 1992 and further success would soon follow.

The banning of electronic aids proved crucial in propelling Benetton to the forefront of the sport for 1994, locking Schumacher into a title fight with Damon Hill. Michael came out on top in this scrap, despite missing four races through bans and disqualifications, and became the first German world champion in the process.

1995 was more of the same, another Hill-Schumacher fight that the latter won but 1996 would provide a very different challenge for the der Kaiser.

Michael moved to the struggling Ferrari team for 1996 and set about transforming them into a top team once again, eventually winning his third title in the year 2000. That title win opened the floodgates, so to speak, as Schumacher would rewrite every record in the book by 2004, the year of his unprecedented seventh world championship.

Schumacher retired after 2006 but would return to the sport in 2010 for one last hurrah with Mercedes. Despite only finishing on the podium once, he laid the groundwork for the Silver Arrows' domination of the sport, which echoes his own success at Ferrari.

#2 - Fernando Alonso (312)

Fernando Alonso was another legend to get his start in F1 at Minardi in 2001
Fernando Alonso was another legend to get his start in F1 at Minardi in 2001

To say that a double world champion should've achieved more may sound like exaggerating, but it really isn't. Fernando Alonso is not only one of the fastest drivers in the history of Formula 1, but motor racing in general and has a real chance of becoming just the second man to achieve the triple crown.

Alonso began his career at Minardi in 2001, becoming the third youngest driver to ever compete in the sport at just 19. The Italian team typically hung around at the back of the grid for the campaign, but the Spaniard's talents were obvious and he was promoted to Renault as a test driver for 2002, before becoming a full-time driver the next year. 2003 brought Alonso's first pole, podium and win, the youngest man to ever achieve these three accolades at the time.

Renault would become title challengers for 2005 and Alonso was their title contender, the Spaniard winning the driver's championship thanks to his excellent consistency. 2006 would bring similar success for Fernando, this time beating Michael Schumacher in a tremendous season-long scrap.

2007 would be the beginning of Alonso's decline in the standings, as he moved to McLaren for 2007 and soured his relationship with the team and lost out on the title to Kimi Raikkonen.

Alonso returned to Renault for 2008, but the team wasn't the force it once was and Fernando jumped ship for Ferrari.

In his first year with Ferrari, 2010, and 2012 would both bring title challenges but both years he'd lose out to Vettel's Red Bull and that would be the last times Alonso would come close to a third championship.

Fernando made a surprise return to McLaren in 2015, but the Woking outfit struggled hugely with their "GP2" Honda engines for three seasons. Alonso showed he still had the talent, producing some epic drives along the way, but his machinery let him down time and time again.

2018 looked as though the papaya cars could find their way onto the podium once more, but the first race in Australia flattered to deceive and McLaren slowly slid down the pecking order and Fernando left the sport, probably for good.

#1 - Rubens Barrichello (322)

Rubens Barrichello (left) claimed an emotional first F1 win in Germany in 2000
Rubens Barrichello (left) claimed an emotional first F1 win in Germany in 2000

No man has started in more Grands Prix than Rubens Barrichello and the Brazilian great is one of the best drivers to have never won the world title. He competed in every season from 1993 to 2011, 19 in total.

Rubens got his F1 break in 1993 for the Jordan team, where Rubinho would remain until 1996 and in that time he showed what a special talent he was. The standout performance was probably the Brazilian's surprise pole at Spa in 1994, a race he'd sadly retire from but success would come later.

Stewart GP took him in for 1997 and Jackie Stewart's outfit rose through the ranks rapidly, claiming their first win with Johnny Herbert at the Nurburgring in 1999. The win still escaped Rubens but a move to Ferrari for the new millennium provided Barrichello with the opportunity to claim the top step, and he did so at Hockenheim in 2000, despite starting 18th on the grid.

Ferrari would become unstoppable in the following years but being the number 2 driver at the Scuderia meant that Rubinho had no chance of winning the driver's championship. This was exemplified at Austria in 2002 when he was forced to hand the win to Schumacher despite the German having a 21-point lead in the standings.

His move to Honda in 2007 didn't bring any success but the rebranded Brawn team saw Barrichello win his final race in the sport in Italy 2009, 16 years after his debut. Williams was Rubens' final team, moving there for 2010 and leaving the sport after 2011 due to a lack of financial backing. The record of the most starts may go after 2020, but Barrichello will always be remembered for being a true motorsports gentleman.

Edited by Victor R. Lopez M.

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