Formula 1 is becoming one of the fastest-growing sports in America, largely because of the popularity of a Netflix documentary showing behind-the-scenes of the paddock where drivers, constructors, and others interact. It brings the reality and drama from the races to light that otherwise wouldn’t be seen because it isn’t widely covered in the United States.
Aside from Mario Andretti’s run beginning in the 1970s, Formula 1 has missed a strong American influence. They’re likely focused on other sports, dramas, online casino games, and other forms of entertainment.
Formula 1 is a 20-driver field at the highest level of open-wheel single-seater racing as sanctioned by FIA (Federation Internationale de L’Automobile). There are several classes below it in the professional ranks, but unlike European soccer with relegation forms of leagues, drivers are contracted and can be elevated to the top class when a seat becomes open.
Each team gets two drivers in the field for a total of 10 drivers. There are different levels of fan interest, whether the constructor (Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, etc.) chooses a driver by country or the traditional route of picking someone who is good or emerging.
Active Golden Era
There are three drivers in the field who are already in the top 10, including the greatest driver of all time in Lewis Hamilton. However, Hamilton does not have a win in 2022. The United Kingdom native finished first in the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix and won four straight championships from 2017 to 2020. He’s the first and only driver to reach 100 wins.
Sebastian Vettel has 53 wins since he initially crossed first to win the 2008 Italian Grand Prix. He became the youngest pole and championship winner at Toro Rosso and Red Bull, who he drove for from 2009-14. He then went on to race for Ferrari from 2015-20 and has sat in an Aston Martin for the last two years. He sits third on the wins list.
Lastly is Max Verstappen of the Netherlands, who has had one of the most impressive stretches across the past two years. His first Formula 1 win came at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, and he now sits at 32 total wins, tied for sixth with Fernando Alonso.
Over the last two years, Verstappen has won 22 races and has secured back-to-back drivers world championships. That run of individual races could continue throughout the rest of 2022, and who knows how dominant he can be moving forward.
Speaking of Alonso, he’s signed with Aston Martin for 2023 after spending 2021-22 seasons with Alpine. His legendary career weaved from McLaren to Ferrari and back to McLaren. His first win came all the way back in the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix.
Next In Line?
Two more active drivers have at least eight wins. Valtteri Bottas, of Finland, has 10 Grand Prix victories to his name. He won his first race at the 2017 Russian Grand Prix, a breakthrough season in which he won three races, followed by four in 2019 as a part of Mercedes. However, he was let go in favor of George Russell, and now Bottas races for Alfa Romeo and is in search of his first win.
Daniel Ricciardo won his first race back in 2014 at the Canadian Grand Prix. The polarizing figure began racing with Red Bull, with which he’s won seven races. However, he has just one win since the 2019 season began and bolted from Renault for McLaren, and is searching for a new team in 2023.
The aforementioned Russell has pressure on himself to earn his first win and help Mercedes – after being promoted from Williams – to win the constructor’s cup once again. Seated alongside Hamilton, a fellow Englishman, Russell has seven podiums, one pole, and one fastest lap in his young career.
Alexander Albon, a 26-year-old from England, has three podiums racing for Williams and has the potential to be elevated to a better constructor with openings. His flashes of greatness are worth considering. So, too, is an edgy Pierre Gasly, who at 26 has a win, three podiums, and three fastest laps.