In the 72-year history of Formula 1, no country has done more for the sport than Great Britain. A home for countless teams – seven of the 10 teams competing in 2022 base themselves in England – the small island nation has provided some of the most iconic cars and its drivers in the sport.
No less than 164 drivers have raced under the Union Jack Flag with 10 of those racers going on to claim world title glory.
Amongst those 10 are some outstanding drivers, including Jenson Button, Damon Hill, Jim Clark, Mike Hawthorn and James Hunt, but there’s only room for five on this list, starting with the greatest F1 driver never to win the world title.
Stirling Moss (1951-1961)
Arguably the first British F1 icon, Moss was a serial winner in whatever form of motorsport he turned his hand to before his career was cut short by an accident in 1962. Revered as one of the greatest competitors of his generation, Moss drove for Mercedes, Maserati, Vanwall, Cooper and Lotus, winning 16 out of 66 races in Formula 1 and was the first homegrown winner of the British Grand Prix in 1955.
Despite his talent and strike rate, Moss never claimed a world title, finishing runner-up in the drivers’ standings on three occasions, including in 1958 when an act of sportsmanship at the Portuguese Grand Prix effectively handed compatriot Mike Hawthorn the championship.
Graham Hill (1958-1975)
Hill senior just edges out his son for a spot on this list with Damon Hill having been an outstanding driver in his own right, beating the legendary Michael Schumacher to the title in 1996. But his late father Graham gets the nod for two reasons, the first being that he’s a two-time world champion after successes in 1962 and 1968. He was also runner-up on three occasions, while his unremarkable race stats of 14 wins from 176 starts can be put down to a dip in performance following a big accident in 1969.
The second reason Graham Hill gets the nod is he’s the only driver to ever complete motorsport’s triple crown by winning the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indianapolis 500 and the Le Mans 24 hours. Winning in Monaco came naturally to Hill, who earned the nickname ‘Mr Monaco’ for his five wins in the principality, a mark only bettered by Ayrton Senna.
Sir Jackie Stewart (1965-1973)
British motorsport enjoyed a golden period of success from the 1960s to mid-70s with Jackie Stewart following Hill into F1’s history books. The Scottish-born driver captured the drivers’ title three times and finished in the top three of the standings on three more occasions.
The Flying Scot was largely untouchable behind the wheel of his Tyrrell in the early parts of the 70s but he’s not just part of F1 folklore as a result of his driving. Stewart did more than anyone for driver safety at the time, pressurising the governing body and track owners to take more precautions after being badly hurt in an accident at the Belgian Grand Prix in 1969. His push for full helmets, mandatory seal belts and crash barriers – the very basic levels of safety now – were the start of the push that continues to this day to make motorsport safer.
Nigel Mansell (1980-1995)
Nigel Mansell may have only one world title to his name but in arguably the most competitive era of F1, one is an impressive number. Up against Nelson Piquet, Alain Prost and Aryton Senna in their pomp and with Michael Schumacher on the rise towards the end of his career, Mansell’s 1992 championship was quite some achievement.
The man with the most famous moustache in motorsport could have won more titles had it not been for some unfortunate retirements with Williams boasting the quickest car on the grid in the early part of the 1990s. A falling out with Williams also cost him the chance to defend his F1 title in 1993 with Mansell jumping ship to the CART series, where he would promptly clinch world title glory.
Only one other Briton has enjoyed more race wins than Mansell, who claimed 31 checkered flags in 187 F1 races, while he won over plenty of fans with his aggressive, charging style of driving.
Sir Lewis Hamilton (2007-present day)
Like him or loathe him, Lewis Hamilton stands alone as the most successful driver in Formula 1 history. Only Schumacher has as many world titles to his name as Hamilton, who is in a class of his own when it comes to race wins (103), podium finishes (186), and pole positions (103).
His detractors would argue that he had a significant advantage over the competition being behind the wheel of the all-conquering Mercedes in the V6 era but that car only gave him the opportunity to win, Hamilton had to take it. Although the Silver Arrows aren’t as competitive in 2022, Hamilton is far from done with F1 and will be determined to maintain his streak of winning at least one race in every year he’s been in the sport.