With the 75th season of Formula 1 on the horizon next year, it’s about high time for the series to introduce its own Hall of Fame.
The closest thing the sport currently has is the FIA Hall of Fame, which falls far short of an acceptable alternative. The HOF is not even active, with its last class getting inducted in 2019.
There’s also no physical location for it, an issue F1 can very easily remedy with its new permanent location in Las Vegas. Even then, the FIA HOF could suffer from credibility problems: for example, the organization automatically inducted all of the World Driver champions in its inaugural class.
This decision gave questionable one-time champions Phil Hill and Jacques Villeneuve an easy entry instead of facing a ballot, while non-champions with outstanding on-track resumes like Stirling Moss were locked out entirely.
Finally, the FIA also included champions from other series, which leads to bizarre situations such as Sebastian Buemi having a spot in the Hall and doesn’t do any real service to any of them.
So, how would an F1 Hall of Fame work? As somebody who has dove into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame process in the past, I think I have a decent idea for one.
If I had to define F1 in one word, it would be “exclusive.” Therefore, an F1 Hall of Fame would be the best of the best. Every accredited F1 reporter, renowned historian, prominent competitor, and a single online fan ballot would write in three candidates in three different categories:
Modern Driver: Drivers who have made their first F1 entry in the last 50 years before induction. Eligibility would be limited to those who have either been retired for five full years or made their first F1 entry more than 20 years prior.
Classic Driver: Drivers who have made their first F1 entry more than 50 years before the induction year.
Non-Driver: Non-drivers who first entered the sport in some fashion more than 25 years prior to the induction year. Drivers may be entered in this category for off-track accomplishments if they have less than 50 career entries; somebody like Dr. Helmut Marko would be considered in this category (not as a driver.)
Voters are free to write in one or none in a category if they do not feel comfortable voting in it. Once the votes are tallied, only the top vote-getter in each category would be inducted annually. If two or more nominees tie for the top spot, a runoff occurs between all voters to determine who would be the inductee.
For the first year, however, to set a baseline, five inductees for each category would make up the 2024 Class. Below are my picks for each category, with a caveat.
I believe both Bernie Ecclestone and Nelson Piquet qualify for the first class, but neither deserve to go in ASAP due to their actions off-track. Just their problematic selection of words alone, both recently and historically, disqualifies both of them from getting inducted in the first class.
Here’s the inaugural edition of my Finley FIA Hall of Fame:
Michael Schumacher: A slam dunk inductee and somebody who should be on everybody’s ballot. Most F1 records not held by fellow seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton are held by Schumacher: total fastest laps, for example. The German’s superhuman feats helped unite his country in the aftermath of the Berlin Wall finally coming down.
Schumacher’s health and fitness also redefined what it meant to be an elite F1 competitor. A strict diet and workout regimen gave him an edge every modern driver tries to replicate today.
Ayrton Senna: Another obvious inductee. His peers constantly regarded Senna as the best driver of them all, and his feats have become mythical in the decades following his tragic death at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994. Nobody was better in the rain than Senna, nor at Monaco. He serves as an inspiration to his country even today, leading to a swarth of Brazilians competing in both F1 and IndyCar.
Alain Prost: The perfect rival to Senna, Prost was known as The Professor throughout his career. The nickname came from his thinking man’s approach to the sport, pushing his car just the right amount to ensure the win or best possible result. Prost retired with the most wins in F1 history at the time and was just a combined 12.5 points across four seasons from being an eight-time champion. Even still, winning four titles in a career with five other champions as your teammates, including three other inaugural inductees, is a pretty incredible accomplishment.
Nigel Mansell: Although the weaker of the three big names that dominated F1 in the late 1980s/early 1990s, Mansell was much more of an everyman than the other two. His ability to squeeze out 31 wins in a career almost entirely dominated by Prost and Senna, to go along with four top-two finishes in the championship, gets him into the first class.
Fernando Alonso: The only active driver on my list, and 2023 is the year that really sets Alonso apart. Alonso has never really lost to a teammate in 20 years of F1 competition, and his ability to go wheel-to-wheel with everybody except for a clearly dominant Red Bull in his age-42 season is absolutely incredible.
Juan Manuel Fangio: The ability Fangio had to adapt to so many different teams and cars throughout his career, to go along with the fact he was able to walk away in an era with so much death, was incredible. His championship record in the sport stood for over 40 years.
Jackie Stewart: Beyond just his incredible driving career, Stewart’s push for safety following his shock retirement has saved many lives in all forms of racing in the decades since.
Jim Clark: There’s a case to be made that Clark was the greatest of all time, and his stats for as short a career as he had still hold up extremely well today.
Niki Lauda: Lauda’s three-year run from 1975-77 alone gets him in here, never mind the legendary 1976 battle with James Hunt when Lauda almost died. His surprise 1980s comeback ending in a championship set the benchmark for all future comebacks following a sabbatical.
Jack Brabham: Not just a three-time driver’s champion, Brabham’s innovations, then success as an owner-driver are almost unthinkable in modern-day F1.
Enzo Ferrari: It’s Enzo Ferrari.
Jean-Marie Balestre: Led many safety innovations and was one of the principals in the first Concorde Agreement, which led to the modern era of F1.
Frank Williams: The most successful privateer owner of all time and a great example of the British/Winston Churchill mantra: never back down, never surrender.
Adrian Newey: The best car designer of all time, with this 2023 Red Bull car possibly being his greatest work.
Detrich Mateschitz: The founder of Red Bull and owner of two current F1 teams. Many drivers also hold a debt to Mateschitz after being shaped by the Red Bull Junior Program.
About the author
Michael has watched NASCAR for 20 years and regularly covered the sport from 2013-2021. He moved on to Formula 1, IndyCar, and SRX coverage for the site, while still putting a toe in the water from time-to-time back into the NASCAR pool.
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