Study ranks F1 drivers according to science

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Fangio dopo la vittoria. Juan Manuel Fangio al volante della Maserati 250 F al termine del vittorioso GP di Germania 1957 che gli ha assegnato il quinto titolo mondiale di F1.

Formula One drivers have previously been ranked on number of wins and titles, however researchers at the University of Sheffield's Method Institute have used a clever analytical system to position drivers in what they claim is order of their true skill.

Taking into account the driver's team's prowess and the capability of their car, as well as the improvements in vehicle technology, the study claims that the greatest driver in the sport's history was the Argentinian Juan Manuel Fangio, who raced between the years of 1950 and 1958.

However, based purely on titles, it is Michael Schumacher who takes the top spot, with an incredible 91 wins collected during his career. Fangio would take second place on this list, and Alain Prost third.

Instead, on the researchers' list – which was published in the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports – French driver Prost takes second, Spaniard Fernando Alonso third and Scottish racer Jim Clark takes fourth.

The enigmatic Brazilian Aryton Senna, who was tragically killed during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, is in fifth place, followed by Brit Jackie Stewart and fellow Brazilians Nelson Piquet and Emerson Fittipaldi in seventh and eights spots respectively.

While Germans Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel take ninth and tenth spots, surprisingly some of today's top drivers, including leading Mercedes team mates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton do not feature in the top ten.

Dr Andrew Bell and his colleagues, of the University of Sheffield's Methods Institute, believe that the effect of the driver's team makes up 85 per cent of the performance, with the driver' skill accounting for the final 15 per cent.

Race results could have been different if driver's had different teams, Dr Bell believes. He added: 'The question of "who is the greatest F1 driver of all time" is a difficult one to answer, because we don't know the extent to which drivers do well because of their talent or because they are driving a good car. The question has fascinated fans for years and I'm sure will continue to do so.'