Ranking The 10 Best Formula 1 Drivers Of The 1950s

If you are an F1 passionate you must have wondered who were the best drivers during a certain era. For the 1950s we got you covered with our ranking.

Before we get started let’s explain the methodology we used in order to create this ranking.

The Methodology

We gathered 6 statistics about the 11 drivers of the 1950s in our pool.

  • Number of titles
  • Number of wins
  • Number of poles
  • Win ratio: the number of wins divided by the number of starts
  • Pole ratio: the number of poles divided by the number of starts
  • Championship ratio: number of seasons where the drivers won divided by the total number of seasons raced

For all the metrics, we gave all 11 drivers a rank between 1 and 11. 11 points for the top drivers in that category and 1 point for the worst. We then added all 6 numbers and obtained a score on 66. We ranked the 11 drivers according to this system and picked the 10 best drivers. We gathered the stats from Wikipedia.

We only considered titles, victories, poles obtained between 1950 and 1959.

10 – Bruce McLaren

Bruce McLaren’s 1950-1959 stats Value Rank
Number of Titles 0 6
Percentage of Seasons Won in the 1950s 0 % 6
Number of Wins 1 (4 overall) 1
Number of Poles 0 3
Win Ratio 11,1 % 6
Pole Ratio 0 % 3
Total Score   25

Better known for his F1 team, Bruce McLaren was a racing driver who started his career in the 1950s. He first became passionate about cars and auto racing due to his father owning a service station and a workshop.

After launching his junior career in his natal New Zealand, he impressed during the 1958 New Zealand Grand Prix earning a place in F2 in Europe. After 7 years in then joined the Cooper F1 team in 1959 alongside Jack Brabham.

He became at 22 the youngest F1 Grand Prix winner during the 1959 US Grand Prix. He followed that by winning the Argentinian Grand Prix in 1960 and the Monaco Grand Prix in 1962. He stayed some more in F1 before creating his own team at the end of 1965: the McLaren F1 team. McLaren then participated in different competitions over the world: the CanAm series, Les 24h du Mans, Tasman Series, etc.

McLaren died at 32 during a testing session after he lost control of his car. His memory survives through his team which is one of the most successful in F1 history with 8 Constructors’ Title and 12 Drivers’ Title.

9 – Peter Collins

Collins and Hawthorn in 1957
Peter Collins’ 1950-1959 stats Value Rank
Number of Titles 0 6
Percentage of Seasons Won in the 1950s 0 % 6
Number of Wins 3 6
Number of Poles 0 3
Win Ratio 8,57 % 4
Pole Ratio 0 % 3
Total Score   28

There is lot to say about Peter Collins. As often he was the son of a garage owner and started to be interested in racing at a young age. He started in F3 at 17 years old in 1949, quickly went to F2 before entering F1 in 1952.

He raced for several teams between 1952 and 1956. First for HMV, without a lot of success. Then he joined Vanwall with teammate Moss and Maserati. His career started to become more interesting when he joined Ferrari in 1956. He was paired with the great Fangio.

He then went on to finish second in Monaco in 1956 and to win the 1956 Belgian and French Grand Prix. He had a serious shot at becoming the first British World Champion in history before losing his title hopes in order to help Fangio.

During the 1956 Italian Grand Prix, Fangio had a failure and was forced to retire. Moss was a close second in the championship and in order to ensure that Fangio won the title, Collins handed his car to his teammate, as it was allowed at the time. After this selfless act, Collins finished 3rd in 1956 and earned the respect of both Fangio and Enzo Ferrari. Fangio even said:

“I was moved almost to tears by the gesture… Peter was one of the finest and greatest gentlemen I ever met in my racing career.”

Following the 1956 season, his focus started to falter. He was found more often in parties drinking than working on his car or his driving skills. During the 1958 German Grand Prix, he had a fatal a crash after losing control of his car. His teammate and close friend Mike Hawthorn quit F1 after Collins’ death.

8 – José Froilàn Gonzàlez

José Gonzàlez’s 1950-1959 stats Value Rank
Number of Titles 0 6
Percentage of Seasons Won in the 1950s 0 % 6
Number of Wins 2 4
Number of Poles 3 6
Win Ratio 8 % 3
Pole Ratio 12 % 7
Total Score   32

Meet José Gonzàlez, a guy with a plethora of nicknames. He was called “El Cabezon” for his prominent head. He was also nicknamed “the Pampas Bull” in reference to his combative driving style.

Gonzàlez started in F1 in 1950 on a private Maserati before being recruited by Ferrari in 1951. Notable point: he is the first driver to have a won a Grand Prix with Ferrari. It was the 1951 British Grand Prix that he won by outpacing Fangio.

He then finished 3rd of the championship in 1951 behind 2 legends: Ascari and Fangio. The year after he finished second in the Drivers’ Championship behind Fangio. After 1955, he started to race occasionally in F1 and ended his F1 career in 1960.

7 – Jack Brabham

Jack Brabham meeting Stirling Moss in 2004
Jack Brabham’s 1950-1959 stats Value Rank
Number of Titles 1 9
Percentage of Seasons won in the 1950s 20 % 9
Number of Wins 2 (14 overall) 4
Number of Poles 1 (13 overall) 4
Win Ratio 10 % 5
Pole Ratio 5 % 4
Total Score   35

Meet the 3-time World Champion, Jack Brabham. Brabham actually won his titles in 1959, 1960 and 1966. This is why he is not so high in our ranking: he only won a title in the 1950s.

Jack Brabham is a quite rare driver in the history of F1. Before becoming a professional driver, he was actually an engineer and a mechanic. Having raced with success in New Zealand and Australia, Brabham went to try his luck in 1955 in Europe. He went to see Ferrari and Mercedes in order to get a job, they refused to hire him.

He then got the trust of John Cooper, founder of Cooper Cars, who allowed him to start racing in F1 in 1955. His first F1 season was not great even if he showed grit and talent. It wasn’t until 1959 that Brabham won his first race during the 1959 Monaco Grand Prix. He was driving a Cooper T51 that he fine-tuned with his mechanical skills. He would often work on the car until very late at night to perfect it. He won his first title in 1959.

Brabham then started to work on the next generation of Cooper cars, the Cooper T53, in association with the team’s engineering department. The car was so fast that it won 5 races in a row during the 1960 season allowing him to secure a second title.

By the end of 1961, Braham left Cooper in order to create his own F1 team: Brabham Racing Organisation. Between 1962 and 1965, he wasn’ very successful. This is mainly due to FIA regulations that limited the max displacement of engines to 1.5L. In 1966 however, this value was raised to 3.0L. Brabham was the first to use these new regulations as much as possible. His new BT19 was lighter and more powerful and reliable than its competitors. It allowed him to win 4 races in a row during the season, securing his final title.

To date, Jack Brabham is the only driver to have ever won the Drivers’ Championship with a car that he made. After that, he had some decent seasons and finally retired in 1970.

6 – Mike Hawthorn

Mike Hawthorne’s 1950-1959 stats Value Rank
Number of Titles 1 9
Percentage of Seasons Won in the 1950s 14,3 % 8
Number of Wins 3 6
Number of Poles 4 7
Win Ratio 6,4 % 2
Pole Ratio 8,5 % 5
Total Score   37

Mike Hawthorn is the first British driver to ever win the F1 Drivers’ World Championship. He started in F1 in 1953 with Ascari as his teammate and was regularly confronted to Fangio. He was never able to get the best of him and had to wait for Fangio’s retirement in 1958 in order to be champion. Phil Hill, who was his teammate in 1958, gave him his 2nd spot on the last race that year, giving Hawthorn enough points to be world champ. Fun fact: during Fangio’s last race, Hawthorne refused to lap him out of respect.

After his 1958 title, he announced his retirement due to many of his friends dying while racing such as Peters Collins.

5 – Tony Brooks

Tony Brooks’ 1950-1959 stats Value Rank
Number of Titles 0 6
Percentage of Seasons won in the 1950s 0 % 6
Number of Wins 6 8
Number of Poles 3 6
Win Ratio 24 % 9
Pole Ratio 12 % 7
Total Score   42

After studying to become a dental surgeon, Brooks turned to racing in his early twenties. He was nicknamed “the racing dentist”. He made his F1 debut during the non-championship 1955 Syracuse Grand Prix that he won. It was the first international Grand Prix win by a British car since 1924.

Along with Moss, Brooks is considered to be one of the best drivers to have never won the Drivers’ Championship. During the 1958 season, he won 3 races out of the 11 races that were held that season. He finished 3rd of the Drivers’ Championship that year. During the 1959 season composed of 9 races, Brooks obtained 2 poles and won 2 races. He finished 2nd of the Drivers’ championship behind Jack Brabham.

After the death of Stirling Moss in 2020, he his the last surviving Grand Prix winner of the 1950s.

4 – Giuseppe Farina

Giuseppe Farina’s 1950-1959 stats Value Rank
Number of Titles 1 9
Percentage of Seasons won in the 1950s 14,3 % 8
Number of Wins 5 7
Number of Poles 5 8
Win Ratio 13,9 % 7
Pole Ratio 13,9 % 8
Total Score   47

First winner in 1950 of the Silverstone Grand Prix, Farina was also the first World Champ in history. He obtained 5 poles and 5 wins which was a lot at the time, the seasons holding only 7 to 8 races. That explains why he is so high in our ranking.

Farina started racing in 1925 at 19 years old at a time where the F1 championship didn’t exist. By the time he won the first title of the sport with Alfa Romeo in 1950, he was 44 years old. He was then quickly outpaced by Ascari and Fangio and was forced to exit the competition in 1955 due to his age.

3 – Stirling Moss

Stirling Moss’ 1950-1959 stats Value Rank
Number of Titles 0 6
Percentage of Seasons Won in the 1950s 0 % 6
Number of Wins 12 (16 overall) 9
Number of Poles 11 (16 overall) 9
Win Ratio 22,2 % 8
Pole Ratio 20,4 % 9
Total Score   47

Meet the most unlucky guy in F1 history. Nicknamed the crownless Champion, Stirling Moss ended runner up of the Drivers’ Championship 4 times in a row between 1955 and 1958. He is a legend with incredible stats.

Stirling rapidly passed all the levels of auto racing before entering in F1 in 1951 at only 22. He started to race with English teams with few successes in 1952 and 1953. He then decided to join Maserati in 1954 and quickly made a name for himself. Being subject to mechanical problems he could not win that year yet. However, he was noticed by the best teams. Mercedes made him Fangio’s teammate. But, Moss couldn’t beat Fangio. In 1955 however, he won the 1955 British Grand Prix. To this day, some say that Fangio let Moss win his home Grand Prix.

At the end of the 1955 season, Mercedes decided to leave the auto racing arena following the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans tragedy where 84 people lost their lives. During the event, a Mercedes lost control and crashed into an embankment separating spectators from the track. Some parts of the car flew into the public killing 80 people.

Moss then joined Maserati in 1956 whereas Fangio went to Ferrari. He was again beaten by Fangio in 1956 and 1856 and subsequently by Mike Hawthorne in 1959. He never managed to win a title. During his last 2 seasons, in 1960 and 1961, he managed to win 4 races and obtain 5 poles over a span of 18 races. This is why he is rated so high in our rankings. He left the racing world in 1962.

2 – Alberto Ascari

Alberto Ascari’s 1950-1959 stats Value Rank
Number of Titles 2 10
Percentage of Seasons Won in the 1950s 33,3 % 10
Number of Wins 13 10
Number of Poles 14 10
Win Ratio 39,3 % 10
Pole Ratio 42,2 % 10
Total Score   60

We are now entering the arena of true legends. Alberto Ascari is considered to be one of the best drivers in F1 history. He died following his second title and many consider that he would have won more titles if he had stayed alive.

Alberto Ascari was the son of a racing driver who died while racing. He started with moto racing before turning to auto racing in the early 1940s. World War II momentarily put an end to his racing ambition. He resumed auto racing in 1947. After a couple of Grand Prix where he stunned the attendance, Enzo Ferrari hired him. During the 1949 and the 1950 seasons, he had wins and a decent success but was never able to beat the Alfa Romeo cars of Farina and Fangio.

Following the withdrawal of Alfa Romeo in 1952, Ascari dominated heavily. He won the titles in 1952 and 1953 by winning a total of 11 races out of the 19 races that were held in those 2 seasons. It was also the first titles for Ferrari.

In 1954, Ascari joined the newly created Lancia team. But it quickly turned out to be a really bad decision. The car was ready only for the last races of the season. He only managed to obtain a pole and did not win a single race in 1954.

In 1955, the car was ready but still uncompetitive. Ascari almost won the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix before losing control of his car and ending up in harbor waters. He was barely saved from drowning. Four days later, during a private testing session in Monza, Ascari lost control of his car and died.

He had a short career of only 5 seasons on which he won 2 world titles and 40% of the race he started. Really impressive stats.


1 – Juan Manuel Fangio


Juan Manuel Fangio’s 1950-1959 stats Value Rank
Number of Titles 5 11
Percentage of Seasons Won in the 1950s 62,5 % 11
Number of Wins 24 11
Number of Poles 29 11
Win Ratio 46,1 % 11
Pole Ratio 55,8 % 11
Total Score   66

There is lot to be said about Fangio. Probably more that a short blog post can cover.

He completely dominated F1 in the 1950s winning 5 titles in a career that lasted only 8 seasons. He won 24 races of the 53 he entered, almost 1 out of 2. He got the pole position on more than half the races he participated in. A true legend with astonishing stats. He won the title with 4 different teams and held the record of world titles for 45 years before Schumacher won his sixth Drivers’ Championship in 2003. To cut it short: one of the best if not the best driver of all time.

Fangio started to be passionate about auto mechanic when he was a kid. He started to work on a garage and became an apprentice mechanic at 11 years old. After finishing his military service, he opened a garage with his family in Argentina. In 1933, he started racing. Between 1939 and 1941, he left racing on race tracks for long road races popular in Argentina. In 1942 came the economical consequences of the war, forcing him to leave the racing world and concentrate in his garage.

After the end of the war, Fangio kept racing in Argentina. In 1948, having shown talent, the Argentinian Auto Racing federation decided to send him to Europe in order to compete with the best drivers in the world. He then quickly made his F1 debut during the French Grand Prix of 1948 at 37 years old. After winning a plethora of Grand Prix in 1949, he returned as a hero in Argentina. He was then hired by Alfa Romeo for the 1950 F1 season. He started his F1 career at 39 years old!

His first season in F1 turned to be a duel between him and Farina. Fangio and Farina both won 3 races and Fangio ended up 2nd in the championship 3 point behind Farina. He realized during the 1950 Monaco Grand Prix, the first hat trick of the history of F1 by obtaining the pole, winning the race, and holding the fastest lap.

During the 1951 season, he was confronted to another great driver: Alberto Ascari. He won the title on the last race of the season 6 points ahead of Ascari. In 1952, he ran out of luck. After a serious accident he was left injured for months and missed a large chunk of the season. In 1953, he returned to the competition but was not able to beat the Ferrari of Ascari.

His luck turned again in 1954 when he joined Mercedes. During his first race with his new car he obtained the pole and won the race. He was then dominant in 1954 with 6 wins over the 9 races that were held that season. He won his second title. He dominated again in 1955 for a third title win.

After the 1955 accident of the 24h Hours of Le Mans when 84 people lost their lives, Mercedes decided to quit auto racing. Fangio considered then retiring. After the General Peron was ousted of power in Argentina Fangio feared that the new political regime put in place would seize his assets. He then decided to pursue racing in order to gain more money and secure his lifestyle. He signed with Ferrari in 1956. He went on to win the title with Ferrai in 1956 and subsequently in 1957 with Maserati during his last F1 season. Unequivocally, Juan Manuel Fangio is our choice for the best F1 driver of the 1950s.

Fun fact: he obtained his driving license in 1961 several years after winning 5 world titles.

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