The Formula One Drivers’ Championship has been won by a British driver on ten occasions since 1958. The country achieved dominance in the sport between 1962 and 1976, with nine of the championships during that period being won by British drivers. Each of the drivers has created a legacy that has enabled drivers that followed them to flourish, but which of the Formula One Brits have been among the most iconic champions to have represented the United Kingdom?
The very first F1 champion came back in 1958 as Mike Hawthorn was crowned the champion. His success meant that he became the fourth different driver to win the championship. Hawthorn’s legacy will always be that he was the first British champion to ever win the championship, and if it wasn’t for him, then the championships that followed may not have happened.
However, Hawthorn’s F1 career was cut short due to the impact that his teammate’s death had on him. Peter Collins died during the 1958 Grand Prix in Germany, which came during Hawthorn’s championship-winning season. Shortly after becoming world champion, he announced that he would be retiring from the sport. Hawthorn also won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1955, but his success was marred by the tragic crash during the race. There was a sad end to the Hawthorn story as he passed away less than a year after winning the F1 championship, aged just 29.
By the time that Nigel Mansell won his only F1 championship in 1992, there hadn’t been a British champion for 16 years. Mansell is regarded as one of the best F1 drivers of all-time and was named in the top 25 drivers ever by ESPN. His success in 1992 was dominant, as he kicked off the season with five straight victories. That record was held by the Brit until Michael Schumacher eclipsed it in 2004.
During the season, he also became the most successful British driver at the time as he beat the 27 wins set by Jackie Stewart at the British Grand Prix. He was finally crowned world champion after success at the Hungarian Grand Prix, which was the earliest than any driver had won the championship in a 16-race season. The British public adored his success as he remains only one of four athletes that have won the Sports Personality of the Year award on two occasions.
The records that were set by both Mansell and Stewart have been passed recently by the driver that will be regarded by some as the best of all-time. Lewis Hamilton has enjoyed a period of dominance since emerging, and he is only one win away from matching the championship record set by Schumacher.
No British driver has come close to the six won by Hamilton, while the 35-year-old also holds the record for most wins and most pole positions recorded by a British driver. He is on course this year to become only the fourth driver to win four F1 Championships in a row.