United Kingdom is considered the home of motorsport, having an amazing history in racing, especially Formula One, followed by other European countries like Italy, Germany or France.
However, what few of you might now is that among the 41 countries that “supplied” Formula One with drivers are countries like Lichtenstein (Rikky von Opel, 1973-1974), Thailand (Prince Bira, one of the first Formula One drivers, 1950-1954) or Rhodesia, an unrecognized state in the area now known as Zimbabwe. Considering the racing heritage some European countries have, the first position in this chart is quite surprising, but let’s see all of them first…
10. Japan – 20 drivers
There were plenty of Japanese drivers that raced in Formula One, but what’s interesting is that none of them ever managed to win a race or a pole-position. If we look at numbers, Kamui Kobayashi is probably the best one, with 125 points scored in 60 races. And with a third place at Suzuka in 2012, he is one of the only three Japanese drivers to finish on a podium, alongside Takuma Sato and Aguri Suzuki. The driver with most races is Ukyo Katayama, which raced for Venturi (1992) and Tyrrell (1993) in 94 Grands Prix, but he only managed to score 5 points in all his career. Another interesting mention is Satoru Nakajima, whose best performance in 74 races was a fastest lap in Australia in 1989.
9. Belgium – 23 drivers
Out of the 23 Belgium drivers in Formula One history, there are only two worth mentioning. The most popular one is, without any doubt, Jacky Ickx, who raced between 1967 and 1979 for Ferrari, Brabham and Lotus and was runner-up in two championships (1969, 1970). However, the Belgian driver with most Formula One races remains Thierry Boutsen. He started in 163 races, winning three of them (Canada and Australia in 1989 and Hungary in 1990). Out of the rest, only 5 other Belgian drivers managed to score points: Olivier Gendebien, Lucien Bianchi, Willy Mairesse, Paul Frere and Andre Pilette.
8. Switzerland – 25 drivers
For a country that has banned motorsport since 1955, following the Le Mans disaster, Switzerland holds an impressive position. The best Swiss driver in history is Clay Regazzoni, who won three races between 1970 and 1979, four of which for Ferrari. The other Swiss that won races in Formula One is Jo Siffert, who was the first one to cross the finish line in two races out of a total of 96. The most recent Swiss driver was Sebastien Buemi, but after three seasons he lost his position at Toro Rosso.
7. Argentina – 28 drivers
The first name that crosses your mind when you say Argentina is definitely Juan Manuel Fangio. The legendary driver won five championships (1951, 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957), winning 24 races and 29 pole-positions in 51 races. His record is unique for Argentina, whose next best driver was Carlos Reutemann, but with only 12 wins in three times more races than Fangio, doesn’t even come close to him. Reutemann raced for Ferrari, Brabham and Williams and his best performance is a second place in the 1981 World championship. Besides these two, Jose Froilan Gonzalez is the only other Argentinian driver to win a Formula One race (he actually won two).
6. Brazil – 31 drivers
Even though there were many popular Brazilian drivers, triple world champion Ayrton Senna is definitely one of Formula One’s legends, mainly for his 41 wins, his spectacular driving style, the famous rivalry with Alain Prost and also for the circumstances surrounding his death at Imola in 1994. But he’s not Brazil’s only champion, two other great drivers achieving this performance: Nelson Piquet (1981, 1983 and 1987) and Emerson Fittipaldi (1972 and 1974). Besides them, only Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa managed to impress in Formula One by winning 11 races, while the Interlagos racetrack is named after Carlos Pace, the Formula One driver who lost his life in an aircraft accident in 1977.
5. Germany – 52 drivers
Considering it’s the country that gave Formula One Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel, it might come as a surprise that Germany is only fifth on this list. However, besides the two champions, only a few other German drivers had their presence felt in Formula One. Wolfgang von Trips, Heinz-Harald Frentzen Jochen Mass, Nico Rosberg and Ralf Schumacher are the only ones to win at least a race, while 33 drivers “collected” only 9 races, combined.
4. France – 73 drivers
Four World championships make Alain Prost the best French driver in history, without question. Other notable drivers were Rene Arnoux (seven wins) and Jacques Laffite (six wins). Out of the rest, only nine other drivers won Formula One races and the record for most races is held by Jean Alesi, with 201 (however, he only won one race). What’s interesting is that only half of all French Formula One drivers (37) drove in more than 10 races.
3. Italy – 98 drivers
Italians are known for their racing appetite, so it’s no surprise the country had so many drivers in Formula One. But what’s worth mentioning is that most impressive performances came in the first decade of Formula One. The first World champion in the sport’s history was Italian, Nino Farina (1950), while Alberto Ascari dominated the 1952 and 1953 seasons, winning 13 races from a total of 32. Other four Italians achieved an impressive performance, droving in more than 200 races (Riccardo Patrese, Giancarlo Fisichella, Jarno Trulli and Andrea de Cesaris), but only Patrese came close to winning a championship, placing 2nd in the 1992 season.
2. United Kingdom – 156 drivers
It’s no doubt that some of Formula One’s best and most popular drivers came from the United Kingdom, two of them being Jackie Stewart (world champion in 1969, 1971 and 1973) and Jim Clark (1963 and 1965). Another great British driver was Nigel Mansell, the first driver to break the Prost-Senna hegemony by winning the world championship in 1992. Of course, we can’t forget Sir Stirling Moss, considered to be one of the best drivers in Formula One history that was never world champion. As for James Hunt, even though he won 10 races and was world champion in 1976, he is remembered mostly for his unconventional lifestyle that included a lot of drugs, alcohol and sex.
1. United States – 157 drivers
With an impressive number of drivers, the United States take the first position from the UK in this list, with just one “extra” driver. But with only two world championships (Phil Hill in 1961 and Mario Andretti in 1978), the American drivers’ record in Formula One doesn’t even come close to the UK’s. Not to mention that the most prolific American driver, Mario Andretti (one title and 12 wins) was born in Italy and was naturalized at the age of 24. Phil Hill is the only American champion to date that was born in the United States. As for the rest, only 19 drivers competed in more than 10 races.