Is Great Britain holding onto the past? I look at previous glories and the future of British drivers in Formula 1.
Since the 1950 British Grand Prix, we have seen a total of 160 British drivers in Formula 1. The UK is the most represented nation, with the United States in 2nd place having had 158 drivers, Italy 98, France 72, Germany 52 and Brazil with 31.
In terms of World Champions, the UK boasts 10 drivers that have claimed the title. Finland and Brazil both have 3 World Champions, along with the United States, Italy, Germany, Austria and Australia on 2.
Total Championships also makes good reading for the UK, 16 Championships have been shared amongst those 10 drivers, Jackie Stewart and Lewis Hamilton with 3 each, along with Jim Clark and Graham Hill who were both double World Champions.
The domination of Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel meant Germany achieved 11 Drivers Championships in a 19 year period between 1994 and 2013. Brazil follows closely behind on 8 having had triple World Champions Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna, with double winner Emerson Fittipaldi collectively keeping them ahead of Juan Manual Fangio.
Arguably the best driver that ever was, Fangio flies the flag for Argentina having achieved 5 Drivers World Championships alone.
Mike Hawthorn became the first British Driver to lift the title in 1958, spawning an era of dominance for British drivers. During a 14 year period between 1962 and 1976, the title only left British shores on 6 occasions.
However, we should learn from history, as after 1976 – when James Hunt famously lifted the title ahead of Niki Lauda – the UK went 16 years before seeing another British World Champion when Nigel Mansell roared to the title in the revolutionary Williams FW14B with a then record breaking 9 wins during the 1992 season.
Damon Hill emulated his father’s achievements winning 4 years later in 1996, lifting another Drivers title for Williams. However, we then had to wait 12 years before Lewis Hamilton burst on to the scene, cruelly missing out on the title in 2007 before going on to win the World Championship in 2008.
Jenson Button, the most experienced British driver of all time with 288 race starts had his loyalty rewarded when he won 6 of the first 7 races of the 2009 season on his way to the Championship with Brawn GP.
Since Button entered Formula 1 in 2000, we have seen 8 British drivers make their way onto the grid, Lewis Hamilton being one of them. Allan McNish, Justin Wilson, Paul di Resta, Max Chilton, Will Stevens and Jolyon Palmer have all raced in F1, yet have failed to win a race.
Button’s seat in F1 is hanging on a thread and Lewis may decide sooner rather than later that his future lies outside of the sport. So where is the new British talent coming from?
Alex Lynn’s inclusion for Williams as their development driver may pave the way for future British racers in F1, otherwise with the emergence Max Verstappen, Stoffel Vandoorne and Pascal Wehrlein could we see a race in the next few years without a British driver on the grid?