The “GOATS” of motorsport - old and new
Written by Owen Bradley, Edited by Alexandra Campos
With the mainstream picking Formula 1 back up over the last few years, I have noticed a trend going around, the frequent question of “who is the greatest of all time?”. The usual names are thrown out there; Schumacher, Senna, Hamilton. But this always leaves me feeling disappointed with how little people seem to know about motorsport, because as you know folks, there is a whole lot more to racing, than just winning (yes, I did just reference Cars).
So… does this make Lewis Hamilton better than Michael Schumacher? No, it absolutely does not, when you consider the fact that we run more races per year, between 21-22 in the current era of F1, in comparison to the 17-19 that we had when Michael Schumacher was racing, meaning that a driver in the best team and car, now has a few more races to earn wins at, making their win ratio higher.
There’s a lot more motorsport legends than you think:
It is my pleasure to introduce to you; Richard Petty. Petty has won 200 NASCAR Races in his career and managed to win seven NASCAR Cups, and now owns Petty Motorsports, which is a team which still races in NASCAR (despite a new identity change). NASCAR is an entirely different skillset to F1, while many say that NASCAR is “just driving in circles” it is far, far from the case. Bump drafting, drafting, constant collisions and positioning your car in the correct way are all vital to be successful in NASCAR. Something that Petty had mastered. Richard Petty also voiced “The King” in popular film Cars (2006), which I gather most of the European people reading now will understand who he is.
Speaking of kings, in a kingdom you need medical services, so who better to introduce you to, than: “The Doctor”.
Valentino Rossi has won 114 races in his career, 89 of them in the premier class of motorbike racing, with 235 podiums to his name as well. He also has seven world championships in MotoGP, and nine overall with 125cc and 250cc, now called - Moto3 and Moto2. Retiring from bikes in 2021, Rossi moved into GT Racing, and has earned a podium in the Gulf 12 hours, and now races for Team WRT in the GT World Challenge, earning his first set of points at Brands Hatch. Rossi mastered the art of two-wheels, and now is hoping to become successful on four-wheels.
We go from “The Doctor” Valentino Rossi, down the road in this motorsport kingdom, to “The Professor” - Alain Prost.
Prost is without a doubt one of the most intelligent drivers to ever race in Formula 1. He might not have been the quickest on the track, but he knew exactly what to do. Prost won four world championships in his time in Formula 1, with his rivalry and friendship with Ayrton Senna being one of the most famous sporting rivalries ever. Prost scored 51 wins, as well as 106 podiums. Prost is without question one of the greatest, nicknamed “The Professor” because of his intelligence, especially considering the era, where he did not have constant updates on a radio - or telemetry from his engineers.
In our motorsport kingdom, we next bring you to a man who is adored by his home crowd - which still sings his name to this day - “The Rainmaster”, Ayrton Senna.
Ayrton Senna, is one of the most beautiful drivers to have ever graced our screens, with his endearing personality and wonderful philosophies, matched with his aggressive but passionate driving style - Senna is a true Motorsport icon and hero, still looked upon today as one of the greatest drivers of all time.
Senna won a total of 41 races in his eleven-year stint in F1, and got 80 podiums in his relatively short time in the sport.
Back in Senna and Prost’s time, there was also only about 16 races per season, so their opportunities to win races are shorter per season than that of modern day F1 drivers like Lewis Hamilton, which is one reason why this entire singular “GOAT” nonsense is ridiculous, because there is just too many people of too many different eras and different categories to consider.
This article would be far too long if I listed every single driver’s achievements - but here is a quick list of drivers and riders - who ultimately deserve the title of “Motorsport’s Greatest”.
Sir Stirling Moss - The “Gentleman” of motorsport, runner-up in the F1 championship four times, regarded as the greatest driver to never win the Formula One world championship.
Niki Lauda - Three F1 world championships despite serious injury.
Colin Mcrae - One World Rally title, 25 Rally wins.
Sebastien Loeb - Nine World Rally championships.
John Surtees - The only man to ever win a championship in both MotoGP and Formula 1.
Giacomo Agostini - 15 MotoGP titles and 122 race wins.
Barry Sheene - 19 MotoGP wins and two world titles.
Mick Doohan - Five MotoGP world titles.
Wayne Rainey - Three MotoGP consecutive titles.
Sebastian Vettel - Four F1 world championships, record for most wins in a row (9).
Fernando Alonso - Two F1 world championships and Two-Time Le Mans 24 Hours winner.
Jim Clark - 25 F1 wins, at a time where F1 was extremely dangerous.
Mario Andretti - 109 overall career wins, championship winner in F1, Indycar and winner of the Indianapolis 500 - considered to be the most versatile driver ever.
Dale Earnhardt - Seven NASCAR titles nicknamed “The Intimidator” and widely considered to be one of the greatest NASCAR drivers ever.
Jimmie Johnson - Seven NASCAR titles.
Marc Marquez - Eight MotoGP world championships.
Jorge Lorenzo - Three MotoGP world championships, had an iconic rivalry with Valentino Rossi, which resulted in a wall being built in their garage!
As you can see, the list just goes on and on and on.
There is no singular greatest of all time - because despite the different series, the physical challenges are just so much more different to each other, which is why personally - I would consider people like:
John Surtees, Valentino Rossi, Mario Andretti, Jim Clark and Richard Petty to be among the best of the best, as they have transcended their motorsport categories, and even proved themselves outside of their respective sport, some being successful on both 2 and 4 wheels.
This is just my opinion of course, and I would never want to discredit or downplay the success of people who stuck to their sport - like Michael Schumacher or Lewis Hamilton, but there is a whole different kind of level of respect I have for those who challenge other series’, and seem to have an eternal passion for motorsport in general.
I hope this has made you at least aware of the amount of other drivers and riders who deserve a lot more respect than seems to be given to them.
The worst part of all this, is that I know that people will suggest other drivers and riders who have done a great job in other categories, for example the British Superbikes and World Superbikes, or the BTCC (British Touring Car Championship), or the World Touring Cars as well. Not to dare forget the Aussie V8 Supercars either, or the World Endurance Championship.
However, if I were to include all of those, this article would be even longer than it already is.
Thanks for reading, and if there’s anything to take from this - become more versed in the world of motorsport.
If you’d like to give me any feedback - or just talk pure racing, then please leave a comment below, or you could get in contact by following my Instagram:
Finally - be sure to check out the first episode of the Divebomb Power Rankings Podcast:
Dedicated to the legends of motorsport, especially the forgotten ones.