Formula One drivers from the United Kingdom
There have been 160 Formula One drivers from the United Kingdom, three of whom raced in the 2016 season. The country has produced ten World Champions. Of those, Jackie Stewart and Lewis Hamilton have won the most, with three titles each. Hamilton is still active in the sport: he has won the most races and amassed the most points of any British driver (along with sharing the same number of World Championships as Jackie Stewart).
World champions and race winners
There have been ten British Formula One World Drivers' Champions winning a total of sixteen titles between them. The first champion was Mike Hawthorn, who in 1958 became only the fourth different person to win the title. In the 15 seasons between 1962 and 1976 the title was won by a British driver nine times: Graham Hill (1962, 1968), Jim Clark (1963, 1965), John Surtees (1964), Jackie Stewart (1969, 1971, 1973), and James Hunt (1976). Despite these successes, it wasn't until 2015 that a British champion retained their title, when Lewis Hamilton achieved this, following on from his victory in 2014. Hunt's victory was the last title until 1992, Nigel Mansell's winning season. Graham Hill's son Damon won in 1996 before another lengthy period without a British world champion. Lewis Hamilton won by just one point in 2008, with Jenson Button winning the following year, in 2009. Lewis Hamilton became the fourth British multiple world champion by winning the 2014 title and 2015 title as of this year.
The British Grand Prix has been won by eleven British drivers: Stirling Moss, Peter Collins, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, James Hunt, John Watson, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Johnny Herbert, David Coulthard, and Lewis Hamilton. They have won the event 22 times between them. Eight other British men have also won Formula One races, but never the British Grand Prix. These are Mike Hawthorn, Tony Brooks, Innes Ireland, Graham Hill, John Surtees, Peter Gethin, Eddie Irvine and Jenson Button.
Lewis Hamilton made his debut with McLaren in 2007. He managed to finish on the podium in each of his first nine races: a record which stands to this day. He achieved his first win at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix and came within one point of winning the world title in his rookie season. He made up for this defeat in his second year, winning the 2008 title by a single point. He continued to race for McLaren until the end of the 2012 season, and won races in each of his six seasons with the team. He moved to Mercedes for the 2013 season and has now broken what had been Nigel Mansell's national record, with a total of 61 Grand Prix wins.
Notable former drivers
Scotsman Jim Clark is one of the most highly regarded drivers in the history of the sport. He had won two world championships, missing out on two others due to car failure. He died on 7 April 1968 at an F2 race in Hockenheim after his Lotus suffered a tyre failure. His hall of fame entry on the official Formula One site summarises that "Few champions were as dominant. Fewer still are remembered so fondly." An Autosport survey taken by 217 Formula One drivers saw Clark voted as the fifth greatest F1 driver of all time just ahead of fellow Scottish driver Jackie Stewart.
Jackie Stewart won in 1969, 1971, and 1973. By the time of his retirement he had won 27 races, a record that would stand until finally being bettered by Alain Prost in 1987. Stewart remained highly active with the sport, running his own team and being one of the most vocal proponents for the improvement of safety standards in Formula One.
Stirling Moss has been called the "greatest all-round racing driver" for his successes in sportscars, touring cars, and rallying as well as Formula One. He finished second in the championship in four successive seasons (1955 to 1958) and has therefore been given the title of "the greatest British driver never to win a world title".
Mike Hawthorn was the first British world championship title winner, beating Moss to the 1958 title by just one point. He remains one of only two drivers who won the title with only one race win, the other being Keke Rosberg. Though he won the season he was disillusioned with the sport, having seen Ferrari team mate Peter Collins die in an accident at Nürburgring. Hawthorn had been reluctant to complete the season and quit Formula One immediately after the final race. Just a few months later, in January 1959, Hawthorn died when his speeding Jaguar skidded off a wet road.
Nigel Mansell has won 31 grand prix, placing him seventh in the overall race winners' list and making him, by that measure, the second most successful British driver after Lewis Hamilton. He also holds the record for the most races completed in his career before finally winning a world championship. Mansell made his debut in 1980 and came close to winning the title in both 1986 and 1987. He eventually achieved the success in 1992 in some style, securing the title in August, the earliest that it had ever been decided. Mansell left to join CART in 1993, winning the championship in his debut season and making him the only person to hold both the CART and F1 titles at the same time. He briefly returned to Formula One for the end of the 1994 season and the start of 1995.
Graham Hill started 176 races, all of which were in British-built cars. His long career lasted for 17 seasons, ending in 1975 when he died in a plane crash. He won the driver's title in 1962 with BRM and 1968 with Team Lotus. His son, Damon Hill, followed him into the sport, making his debut in 1992 for Brabham. He was described by team boss Frank Williams as "a tough bastard" and went on to win the championship with Williams in 1996. Despite that success he was dropped by the team and moved to the uncompetitive Arrows.
James Hunt was a British racing driver who won the Formula One World Championship in 1976. Hunt was notorious for his unconventional behaviour on and off the track, which earned him a reputation for cavalier indulgence in both alcohol and sex. Having been part of Formula One when the series was consolidating its global popularity, Hunt's image was the epitome of the unruly, playboy driver, with a touch of English eccentricity. The movie Rush is centered on the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda during the 1976 Formula One motor-racing season.
John Surtees was a multi-title winning motorcyclist before moving to four wheels. His 1960 debut saw him qualify in pole position in his third race and he would go on to win the championship title with Ferrari in 1964.
Tony Brooks, a qualified dentist, made his debut in 1956 for BRM. In his first race, the 1956 British Grand Prix, he was involved in a serious crash, being thrown from the car and breaking his jaw. At the 1957 British Grand Prix Brooks was in second place when he was called into the pits. He stepped out of the car and gave it to team mate Stirling Moss whose own car had developed technical problems. Moss rejoined in ninth and went on to win the race. This marked the first world championship victory for a British car, fittingly driven by two British drivers at the British Grand Prix. Brooks retired from Formula One in 1961 over safety concerns saying "I felt I had a moral responsibility to take reasonable care of my life".
David Coulthard came into F1 as a replacement for Ayrton Senna after Senna's death in 1994. He went on to finish in the top three in the world championship five times throughout his career. Compared to other British drivers, Coulthard had competed in the most races (246) and amassed the highest points total (535) at the time of his retirement at the end of the 2008 season.
Jenson Button made his Formula One debut in 2000 at the age of 20, making him the youngest British driver to compete in the sport. He started his career with Williams, scoring a point in his second race. He would later race for British American Racing, a team that would then be purchased by Honda with whom he would win his first race, the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix. Following the 2008 season, Honda decided to withdraw from F1, and the team was saved by a management buyout. The team returned as Brawn GP and saw immediate success. Button went on to achieve his most significant F1 successes, winning six of the first seven races in 2009 on the way to the world title. In 2010, he moved to McLaren, for whom he has raced ever since. He retired at the end of the 2016 season but raced in the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix.
Other former drivers
Additional to those detailed above the following drivers started at least ten races:
- Johnny Herbert
- Martin Brundle
- John Watson
- Eddie Irvine
- Derek Warwick
- Jonathan Palmer
- Mark Blundell
- Innes Ireland
- Jackie Oliver
- Mike Hailwood
- Roy Salvadori
- Tom Pryce
- Tony Brooks
- Mike Spence
- Peter Collins
- Peter Gethin
- Mike Beuttler
- Piers Courage
- Trevor Taylor
- Rupert Keegan
- Bob Anderson
- Anthony Davidson
- Brian Henton
- Ian Burgess
- Cliff Allison
- Richard Attwood
- Allan McNish
- Justin Wilson
- Johnny Dumfries
- Ken Wharton
- Horace Gould
- Ron Flockhart
- Stuart Lewis-Evans
- Martin Donnelly
- Lance Macklin
- Vic Elford
- John Miles
- Brian Redman
- Jack Fairman
- Bob Evans
- Guy Edwards
- Peter Arundell
- Peter Whitehead
- Tony Brise
- Chris Irwin
- Paul di Resta
- David Hobbs
- Max Chilton
- Will Stevens
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