F1 is a sport where elite drivers compete to see who is the best among them. The twenty drivers on the grid are more often than not the best drivers in the sport.
Of those twenty, however, only a handful win races and even fewer win the title. All of these drivers are talented; they can all drive an F1 car to the limit and beyond, but only a tiny fraction of them are considered legends.
So, what are the qualities that make legends stand out? What are the qualities that make these precious few drivers F1 legends? With that in mind, here’s a look at the top three qualities that make a driver an F1 legend. These are qualities that go beyond being exceptionally fast over a lap in an F1 car.
Without further ado, let’s start:
3. A ruthless approach to racing.
One of the key aspects that you often find in an elite driver is that they are nobody’s best friend. When it comes to racing, winning is their priority, with everything else coming second.
For this reason, it is well known that every elite driver, be it, Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher or Lewis Hamilton, races hard. They don’t give an inch to any of their competitors when it comes to racing.
This ruthless approach is evident in several championship battles we have seen over the years. Be it between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in 2021 or even in the past between Michael Schumacher and Mika Häkkinen in the late 1990s, the top drivers, even if they have an innate respect for each other, are not each other’s best friends on the track or off it.
2. Mental strength to block out the outside noise.
It’s fair to say that media plays a crucial role in sports. But at the same time, it’s not a stretch to say that media exercise a few freedoms here and there.
They might tilt the narrative in favor of one driver or another. More importantly, the media is notorious for spreading fake news and misquoting drivers’ statements.
F1 drivers are inundated with media duties before the Grand Prix weekend even begins. So what has been said by them or about them in the press can be somewhat distracting. On top of that, hearing false rumors and negative things about yourself in the media can also be mentally draining.
However, as an F1 driver, you have to put up with that and block as nothing but noise.
Probably one of the biggest examples of blocking outside noise was what Max Verstappen did in the final race of the 2021 season. With several factions of the media questioning his integrity as a driver and his driving standards (with suggestions that he intentionally collided with Lewis Hamilton), the Red Bull driver drove a sensational lap to secure pole position for Hamilton.
As a 24-year-old, it would have been difficult to block the negative press he received before the final race of the season. Nevertheless, when it came time to perform, Verstappen did exactly what was asked of him.
1. Ability to identify the best F1 teams.
Arguably the most important attribute for any F1 driver is his ability to identify the teams that are best positioned to succeed in the near future.
F1 is in many ways a transitional sport. There were times when McLaren dominated the sport, and then there were times when Ferrari did. But in the last decade, Mercedes and Red Bull have won all the gold. As a driver, you need a special ability to recognize which team is going to be successful.
One of the reasons Fernando Alonso has two titles but Lewis Hamilton has seven is precisely that. While Alonso turned down the opportunity to drive for Red Bull in 2008 because he missed years of driving a competitive machine, Hamilton moved to Mercedes and won seven titles.
In a sport where the car under a driver is critical to whether they compete for wins or are a tail-ender, the ability to identify the best teams on the grid and make them their home is essentially what guarantees success. And fundamentally, it’s that success that separates a good driver from a legend.