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The 10 British Formula 1 World Champions
Graham Read, Formula 1 Correspondent
Since its introduction in 1950 the fast and exciting, if sometimes dangerous, world of Formula 1 motor racing has gripped millions of fans around the world and just a week ago 32 year old Lewis Hamilton added a fourth Drivers’ title to his impressive CV.

To date we have had 10 British F1 world champions and they are all household names, but here's a quick look at their differing achievements and characters.



Mike Hawthorn, 
Champion 1958



Mike was a blond-haired, flamboyant character who usually raced wearing a bowtie.

After winning the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hour race for Jaguar in 1955 (an event also remembered for a major accident which led to the deaths of a driver and 83 spectators) he claimed his sole Formula 1 title in 1958 for Ferrari despite winning only one race that year.

Sadly Mike was killed in a high speed road accident in January 1959 shortly after his retirement from racing and at a time when he was suffering from a serious kidney illness, something he had tried to keep quiet during his racing career.



Graham Hill, 
Champion 1962 & 1968

Graham Hill


Graham was a handsome and witty raconteur who loved to party as well as being a very quick racing driver.

In the 1960s he became known as 'Mr Monaco' after winning the famous Grand Prix there five times and has gone down in history as the only driver to date to win an F1 title, the American Indy 500 race and the Le Mans 24 Hour classic.

After retiring from racing in 1975 he established his own Formula 1 team, but tragically he and five colleagues died on 29 November that year when the private plane he was piloting crash-landed near Elstree airport in foggy conditions as they returned from a test session at the Paul Ricard circuit in the south of France. 



Jim Clark, 
Champion 1963 & 1965

Jim Clark


Jim was a quiet, almost introverted man from a Scottish farming family, but he possessed exquisite car control and was amazingly quick, but in a very controlled and calculated manner.

He spent his whole Formula 1 career driving for the famous Lotus team headed by Colin Chapman and they formed a formidable partnership.

Back in the 1960s it was common for F1 drivers to compete in other championships too and Jim would surely have won more than his two Formula 1 titles but for a fatal accident during an F2 race at Germany's Hockenheim circuit in 1968 when he was aged just 31.



John Surtees, 
Champion 1964

John Surtees


John is the only racer to date to have won world titles on both two and four wheels.

After amassing a mighty seven motorbike titles he made his F1 debut in 1960 and joined the iconic Ferrari team in 1963.

The following year he became champion for the Scuderia after a dramatic Mexican Grand Prix, the final race of the season, during which his Ferrari team-mate Lorenzo Bandini allowed him past into second place which was enough to give him the title by a single point.

He formed his own team in 1970 before retiring from driving in 1972 to concentrate on managing it.

John was made an OBE and later a CBE, but controversially never knighted. 



Sir Jackie Stewart, 
Champion 1969, 1971 & 1973

Sir Jackie Stewart


Sir Jackie was an Olympic standard clay-pigeon shooter, but after just missing out on a place in the British team for the 1960 Olympics he turned his attention to climbing the motorsport ladder and made his F1 debut in 1965.

After surviving a horrendous accident at Belgium's Spa Francorchamps circuit a year later he became a leading and highly effective campaigner for improved safety in Grand Prix racing, but this did not slow him as he went on to claim a trio of well deserved titles.



James Hunt, 
Champion 1976


James Hunt

James was nicknamed 'Hunt The Shunt' during his early racing days as a result of some of his wilder moments, but he developed into a fine racing driver who also lived life to the full off track, becoming a charismatic playboy figure.

In 1976 he won his sole world title for the McLaren team at a rain soaked Japanese Grand Prix held at the Fuji circuit when his more studious arch rival, the Austrian Niki Lauda, retired his Ferrari early in the race due to the dangerous conditions.

James retired mid-season in 1979 and later became an F1 co-commentator with Murray Walker before suffering a fatal heart attack in 1993 aged just 45.



Nigel Mansell, 
Champion 1992



British F1 fans referred to Nigel affectionately as 'Our Nige' and Ferrari's followers soon christened him 'il Leone' (the lion) due to his fighting spirit and determination to succeed.

He was made to work hard for his success though, but that elusive F1 world title eventually came his way in 1992 when his Williams FW14B car was by far the best car on the grid.

The following year he took on the Americans in their Indy Car championship and claimed the title before returning to Formula 1 and subsequently retiring early in the 1995 season.



Damon Hill, 
Champion 1996

Damon Hill


Compared to his father Graham, Damon was quiet and introspective, but he progressed from motorbike racing to cars and made his F1 debut for the uncompetitive Brabham team in 1992 aged 31.

He was promoted to the highly successful Williams team in 1993 and, after losing out to Benetton’s German driver Michael Schumacher in 1994 and 1995, Damon emulated his father the following year by clinching the title at the Suzuka circuit in Japan.

After leaving the Williams team at the end of that season he subsequently retired from driving at the end of 1999 and is currently a regular television pundit for the Sky F1 team.



Jenson Button, 
Champion 2009

Jenson Button


Jenson made his Formula 1 debut in 2000, driving for the Williams team, and enjoyed a further 16 seasons competing at the highest level of world motorsport.

He claimed his single title back in 2009 with the Brawn team before moving on to McLaren.

Jenson made a one-off return to F1 for this year’s Monaco Grand Prix whilst deputising for McLaren’s absent Fernando Alonso who had headed to the USA in an attempt to win the famous Indy 500 race.

His easygoing character has made him universally popular with the media and fans alike and, with a passion still to race, he is currently considering full-time racing options for 2018 even if this is very unlikely to include F1.



Lewis Hamilton, 
Champion 2008, 2014, 2015 & 2017


Lewis Hamilton

In a highly successful Formula 1 career Lewis has already notched up more victories than any other British driver and surpassed Sir Jackie Stewart's tally of three Drivers’ championships very recently.

Also by Graham Read...
Vettel’s Brazilian Masterclass
Mexican Grand Prix
From The Grid: Lewis Wins In The US, But Seb Keeps The Championship Alive
From The Grid: Lando Norris - The Next Lewis Hamilton?
From The Grid: Hamilton Closes On A Fourth Title In Japan As Ferrari Stumble Again
After starting his career with the McLaren team, taking the 2008 title for the Woking based outfit, he moved on in 2013 to join Mercedes, who were to become totally dominant from 2014 onwards.

Three more titles have followed in the four years since then and in 2017 Lewis drove better than ever.

If he can maintain this sort of form and his team can continue to give him a highly competitive car, he may in time match or even better Michael Schumacher’s record of seven titles.

Public opinion about Lewis is sometimes divided, but what is in no doubt is his immense natural speed at the wheel of a racing car.



Images provided courtesy of LAT Photographic (www.latphoto.co.uk) and the Williams, McLaren and Mercedes Formula 1 teams (www.williamsf1.com, www.mclaren.com and www.mercedesamgf1.com).

The 10 British Formula 1 World Champions, 5th November 2017, 16:54 PM