Who is the greatest Formula One driver of all time? An impossible question some might argue. Not anymore, following the University of Sheffield’s endeavour to classify the driver’s performances in a recent study which reveals Juan Manuel Fangio as the title holder.
Yes, you’ve read that right. Statistical analysis looking at who is the best driver because of their talent, rather than because they have a good car, suggests Juan Manuel Fangio, one of Mercedes’ most valued champions in history, is in fact also the best Formula One driver EVER.
“Our statistical model allows us to find a ranking and assess the relative importance of team and driver effects, and there are some surprising results. For example the relatively unknown Christian Fittipaldi is in the top 20, whilst three time champion Niki Lauda doesn’t even make the top 100. Had these drivers raced for different teams, their legacies might have been rather different,” Dr. Andrew Bell of the Sheffield Methods Institute explains.
The greatest driver of all time in terms of most race wins is Michael Schumacher. But the study found that once the effect of his team is removed, legendary racer Fangio claims the top spot, followed by Alain Prost in second and Fernando Alonso in third position. Of current drivers, Fernando Alonso is the highest ranked driver, and both he and Sebastian Vettel are ahead of reigning champion Lewis Hamilton.
Racing driver Juan Manuel Fangio was the leading figure in Mercedes-Benz’s campaign to win the Formula 1 World Championship in the 1954 and 1955 seasons. Fangio formed an almost symbiotic partnership with the W 196 R racing car: “It’s the perfect car. The machine which every driver dreams about their whole life long,” he once said of the Silver Arrow.
Fangio drove to a total of five Formula 1 world titles in vehicles from four different manufacturers. There was something very special about his relationship with Mercedes-Benz though. He had already been working as a dealer for the Stuttgart-based brand in Argentina since 1951. And following the end of his racing career, he became President of Mercedes-Benz Argentina S.A. in 1974. He died in Buenos Aires on 17 July 1995.
Today, tributes to Juan Manuel Fangio include five identical life-size bronze sculptures depicting the exceptional racing driver together with the W 196 R. They can be found in front of the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, outside the Mercedes-Benz headquarters in Buenos Aires, as well as at the Nürburgring, Monza and Monaco circuits.