The Top 5 British Racing Legends of Formula One

Following his first place triumph in Abu Dhabi over the weekend, Lewis Hamilton joined the likes of Fernando Alonso and Mika H√§kkinen as one of only seven men to win the Formula One Championship twice. Not only that, but he has now won, and amassed the most points, of any British racing driver in history. 

He has said of his relationship with Mercedes, that this is the start of ‘something special’, and we at Be An Athlete are certainly looking forward to watching his future unfold. Bit while we wait for that, let’s have a look at five other British racing legends that secured pole position in the hearts of the nation.

1. Jim Clark (World Champion, 1963, 1965)

Despite the fact that more than forty years have elapsed since Clark’s glory days, he still holds the record for the most Grand Slams, pole positions, fastest laps and race wins, in addition to be the only individual to have lead every lap of a race in eight races.

Like Hamilton, he won two world championships during his career. But perhaps most impressively, during his first title win, in the lead up to his victory at the Belgian Grand Prix, Clark lapped every single driver but one.

Tragically, Clark was killed in a Formula Two racing accident in Hockenheim, Germany, during 1968. Not only had he won more Grand Prix races than any other driver at this time, but like a true legend, died doing what he loved most.

2. Jackie Stewart (World Champion, 1969, 1971, 1973)

In 1966, Stewart became trapped in his overturned vehicle while fuel started to pour over him. His marshals were powerless to help, and if it wasn’t for his teammates, Graham Hill and Bob Bondurant, who improvised with the spanners from a spectator’s toolkit, he would undoubtedly have gone up in flames. In fact, during Stewart’s career as a Formula One driver, there was a two in three chance of a driver being killed in a crash.

It was this accident that spurred Stewart on to become the racing safety advocate that he is recognised as today. Despite his three world championships, and receiving the nickname ‘the flying scot,’ Stewart has stated that if he has any ‘legacy to leave the sport’ he hopes that it will be in the 'area of safety,' because when he arrived in Grand Prix, the 'so-called precautions and safety measures were diabolical.’

In addition to helping introduce a main switch to disconnect electrics and a removable steering wheel, it is safe to say that Stewart’s campaigns have completely revolutionised the safety side of Formula One today.

3. James Hunt (World Champion, 1976)

The George Best of the racing world, Hunt became a fan favourite due to his notorious antics on and off the tracks. In 1975, he infamously refused to sign a clause in his contract with McClaren, stipulating that he wore suits to official functions. Instead, he would roll up looking the epitome of casual, in a relaxed t-shirt and jeans combo, often barefoot, with his pet German Shepherd never far behind.

In 2013, Chris Hemsworth received critical acclaim for his portrayal of Hunt in the movie Rush. The film successfully depicted the electric relationship the driver had with his rival, Niki Lauda, in addition to his aggressive, devil-may-care style of racing. In fact, his talent for spectacular accidents earned him the nickname ‘Hunt the Shunt.’

4. Nigel Mansell (1992)

Active from 1980 to 1994, Mansell was the first driver in racing history to win the CART championship in his debut season. This win directly followed his Formula One Championship title, making him also the only person to ever hold the two titles simultaneously.

Perhaps the best example of his passion for the sport took place at the Dallas Grand Prix in 1984. Due to his brakes having failed on the final lap, Mansell got out and physically pushed his car over the finishing line. However, with temperatures reaching the 40°c mark, he fainted while doing so.

5. Damon Hill (1996)

The son of James Hunt’s teammate, Graham Hill, the two of them are the only father and son duo to have both won the World Championship.  After his title win in 1996, Hill moved from the Williams team to Arrows, into a car generally considered uncompetitive.

Despite his new team never having won a race, and only securing a single point the previous year, he proved his driving credentials at the Hungarian Grand Prix 1997. He was quick to overtake his rival, and tormentor, Michael Schumacher, and lead the majority of the race. If it wasn’t for a hydraulic problem, he would have finished first, but still managed a very respectable second considering the spec of his vehicle.

Who’s your favourite Formula One racer of all time? What’s your favourite Formula One moment? Let us know in the comment box below.  And while we wait for the next championship, take a leaf out of Lewis Hamilton's fashion book, shift your wardrobe into top gear, and take a Be An Athlete Baseball Cap out for a spin.

Image Credits
Title - Wikipedia
Jim Clark - Wikipedia
Jackie Stewart - Wikipedia
James Hunt - Wikimedia
Nigel Mansell - Wikimedia
Damon Hill - Wikimedia

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