Life In The Fast Lane: The Drivers Behind The Wheels Of Formula One Racing

Athletes | 10/12/20

Racing is one of those niche sports that has a huge community backing it, especially when it comes to Formula One. This is the highest class of single-seat racing and is considered to be one of the premier forms of racing in the entire world, with 20 drivers in ten teams.

From race tracks to public roads, the sport is full of adrenaline as the F1 drivers’ race to win the Grand Prix, the series of races they compete in throughout the season. Without further ado, it’s time to meet the need-for-speed drivers who make up the ten Formula One teams.

Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes
Clive Mason/Getty Images
Clive Mason/Getty Images

The title “Still I Rise,” a famous Maya Angelou poem, is displayed across the back of Lewis Hamilton’s helmet. Those words couldn’t be more fitting. Since his stunning rookie debut in 2007, arguably the greatest in history, Hamilton has risen to the top of many F1 standings, including the most championship titles for a British driver, six.

He might be young, but Hamilton’s competitors know that no matter the track, the conditions, or the odds, when his visor goes down, it’s game time. Hamilton’s been driving F1 for Mercedes since 2013.

Valtteri Bottas – Mercedes

Valtteri Bottas - Mercades
Emmanuele Ciancaglini/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Emmanuele Ciancaglini/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Coming straight out of ice and snow, it’s almost like Finland native Valtteri Bottas was born to race in the Grand Prix. Making his F1 debut in 2013, Bottas soon proved himself as a serious contender, amassing the most points that season without an actual win. Granted, the racer kind of resented the standing, but it did show his ability on the track.

Things started to look up for Bottas when he was offered a coveted seat on the Mercedes racing team. Since joining the team, Bottas won three races in 2017, four in 2019, and two in 2020, for a total of nine wins.

Max Verstappen – Red Bull

Max Verstappen - Red Bull
Morgan Hancock/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Morgan Hancock/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In 2016, at the age of 17, Max Verstappen became the youngest contender to earn a seat in Formula One racing. He proved to be someone to watch. Just one year later, he took the Red Bull by the horns, debuting for the team in Barcelona and securing the Spanish Grand Prix win.

He became the youngest driver to ever snag a Grand Prix win, not to mention the only Dutch driver. Verstappen is set to drive for Red Bull through the 2023 season, after signing a contract extension with the team post-2019 F1 championship where he secured third place.

Alexander Albon – Red Bull

Alexander Albon - Red Bull
Morgan Hancock/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Morgan Hancock/NurPhoto via Getty Images

With the first word coming out of his mouth being “Ferrari,” it’s clear Alexander Albon was born to race. Albon got his big Formula One break in 2019 when he drove for Toro Rosso in the opening races. Soon after, he was promoted to the Red Bull Racing team.

He wasn’t fazed by the promotion or the fact that he was partnering with powerhouse Max Verstappen for the second half of his rookie year. In fact, Albon dominated the track. He placed in the top six in eight out of his nine races, prompting Red Bull to keep him on their team for the 2020 season.

Carlos Sainz Jr. – McLaren

Carlos Sainz Jr. - McLaren
Xavier Bonilla/NurPhoto via Getty Image
Xavier Bonilla/NurPhoto via Getty Image

Son of double World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz, Carlos Sainz Jr. was born with the blood of a racer. Making his racing debut for F1 as a driver for Toro Rosso, Jr., aka Chili, soon found himself moving up the ranks and being offered the newly vacant seat at McLaren, taking over for him childhood idol Fernando Alonso.

During his first Grand Prix with the team in 2019, Chili stood on the podium in third place for the series of Brazilian races. Sainz Jr. has since signed a contract with Ferrari for the upcoming 2021 Formula One season.

Lando Norris – McLaren

Lando Norris - McLaren
Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

After racing for McLaren as one of their junior drivers, Lando Norris moved up to a full-time seat in 2019 after signing a contract with the team. With a penchant for wheel-to-wheel tussles and pole positions, Norris didn’t disappoint during his debut race at the 2019 Formula One World Championship, ending in 11th place with 49 points.

The following year, at the 2020 Italian Grand Prix, Norris wound up securing fourth place. Impressively, McLaren offered Norris a multi-year contract in the middle of his debut year, securing him as a driver for the team through the 2022 Formula One season.

Sergio Perez – Racing Point

Sergio Perez - Racing Point
Charles Coates/Getty Images
Charles Coates/Getty Images

Sergio Perez started his Formula One journey back in 2012, racing for Sauber in the Malaysian Grand Prix and taking his first podium. From there, the driver moved teams quite a bit. The following F1 season, Perez joined McLaren, but the car underperformed, and he was almost left without a seat for 2014.

As fate had it, Perez was picked up by Force India, who offered him a 15 million euro contract. The F1 driver stayed with the team up until 2018 when they changed their name to Racing Point. Perez is still with Racing Point, having matured past his spitfire stage and into a team leader and analytical racer.

Lance Stroll – Racing Point

Lance Stroll - Racing Point
Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Lance Stroll made his Formula One debut in 2017, racing under the Canadian flag for Racing Point. He became the second-youngest driver to finish an F1 Grand Prix and the youngest rookie driver to make his way to the podium when he secured third place at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

But that wasn’t the only record the young driver broke during his rookie season. During the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, Stroll secured second place on the starting grid, mastering the downpours that accompanied the race. At 18 years old, the position made him the youngest F1 driver to get a spot in the front row.

Daniel Ricciardo – Renault

Daniel Ricciardo - Renault
Leon Bennett/Getty Images
Leon Bennett/Getty Images

Australian racer Daniel Ricciardo combines impressive race craft with all-out speed, making him a racer to look out for in the F1 circuit. He might beam a huge smile off the track, but once he’s behind the wheel, the “Honey Badger” has quite a bite to him, proving that he’ll do what it takes to secure a spot on the podium.

Making his debut in 2011 with the HRT racing team at the British Grand Prix, Ricciardo was soon turning heads with his funny personality and serious driving skills. In 2019, Ricciardo signed with Renault, finding success at the Italian Grand Prix. The 2021 season will see him driving with McLaren alongside Lando Norris.

Esteban Ocon – Renault

Esteban Ocon - Renault
GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images
GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images

From the time he decided racing was going to be his career, Esteban Ocon’s journey to becoming a Formula One racer was all about sacrifice. From living on the road with his parents, going from circuit to circuit, Ocon finally got his F1 break in 2016, driving for Manor.

He switched teams the following year, signing on to Force India where he finished the 2017 season with 87 points and in eighth place. By the time the end of 2018 rolled around, Ocon’s future was once again uncertain. He would up a reserve driver for Mercedes in 2019, finally signing to Renault for the 2020 F1 season.

Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel - Ferrari
Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Sebastian Vettel is considered to be the poster boy for Formula One. He won more races by the time he was 26 than any other driver, aside from two, including two consecutive world titles with Red Bull Racing. Then, in 2014, Vettel said goodbye to the Bull and signed with the Prancing Horse of Ferrari.

Known for his pure pace on the track and one-finger salute once he passes the checkered flag, Vettel has been a force to be reckoned with since his first time as a test driver in 2006. Now, he’s a four-time world champ.

Charles Leclerc – Ferrari

Charles Leclerc - Ferrari
Charles Coates/Getty Images
Charles Coates/Getty Images

When someone is able to pull off a victory even though their car caught on fire, it’s safe to say they’re the real deal. But pulling off that amazing feat isn’t the only thing Charles Leclerc’s done in F1 racing. The young driver has muscled his way through top-tier competition, winning back-to-back championships to prove he deserves his spot on the track.

Leclerc has been driving with Ferrari since 2019, having signed a multi-year contract through the 2024 racing season. One of his biggest accomplishments with the team was winning the 2019 Pole Trophy, becoming the youngest driver to receive the honor as well as the first non-Mercedes driver.

Daniil Kvyat – AlphaTauri

Daniil Kvyat - AlphaTauri
WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images
WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images

Daniil Kvyat, aka the comeback kid of Formula One racing, has had quite the career since his F1 debut in 2014 with Toro Rosso. He was then picked up by Red Bull Racing for the following two seasons, during which the Russian driver score his first F1 podium finish.

Then, in 2017, after a slew of issues, Kvyat was sent back to Toro Rosso. But he left Red Bull after the end of the season, becoming a development driver for Ferrari before being picked up once again by Toro Rosso. By the 2020 season, the need-for-speed driver was racing for AlphaTauri.

Pierre Gasly – AlphaTauri

Pierre Gasly - AlphaTauri
WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images
WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images

Making his Formula One debut driving for Toro Rosso at the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2017, Pierre Gasly went from a rookie to watch to a serious competitor. During the 2018 season, he finished the Bahrain Grand Prix with his first F1 points, earning him a seat at Red Bull Racing for the next season.

Unfortunately, Red Bull didn’t go as planned, and the young driver was demoted back to Toro Rosso half-way through 2019. But after a stellar one-two finish at the Brazillian Grand Prix, Gasly was picked up by AlphaTauri. He was driving for AlphaTauri during the 2020 Italian Grand Prix when Gasly secured his first F1 win.

Kimi Raikkonen – Alfa Romeo

Kimi Raikkonen - Alfa Romero
Clive Mason/Getty Images
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Kimi Raikkonen, aka the iceman from Finland, might not say much publicly, but all he has to say can clearly be seen on the track. His rugged and raw talent landed him his F1 debut in 2001, leading to fast, fearless, and memorable wins throughout the years, particularly with McLaren.

Having one world title, 21 wins, 103 podiums, and 1,861 career points throughout his almost two-decade-long career in the Formula One circuit, Raikkonen has proved himself an elite athlete. He signed a two-year contract with Alfa Romeo for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, so it’ll be interesting to see where this “cult athlete” winds up after his contract ends.

Antonio Giovinazzi – Alfa Romeo

Antonio Giovinazzi - Alfa Romero
Xavier Bonilla/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Xavier Bonilla/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Coming from a country where racing is one of the most popular sports, it’s no surprise Italian driver Antonio Giovinazzi found his way to the F1 circuit after years of paying his dues with F2 and F3 racing. Giovinazzi quickly proved he is crafty on the track, pulling off incredible passes.

His natural racing ability made him very attractive to some of the top-tier F1 teams, including Sauber, Haas, and Ferrari. Then, in 2019, the young driver signed on to drive for Alfa Romeo full time.

Romain Grosjean – Haas

Romain Grosjean - Haas
Charles Coates/Getty Images
Charles Coates/Getty Images

It took some time, but head chef Romain Grosjean learned how to cook up the perfect formula for his Formula One racing career. Debuting as an F1 driver in 2009 for Renault, it didn’t take long for the inexperienced rookie to be demoted back to the sub bench.

Then, in 2012, he was picked up by Lotus. Unfortunately, his claim to fame with the team is causing a multi-car pileup and being banned from the Belgian Grand Prix! The following season was a bit better, with Grosjean securing six podiums. He then moved to Haas in 2016, singing a contract with them through the 2020 season.

Kevin Magnussen – Haas

Kevin Magnussen - Haas
Charles Coates/Getty Images
Charles Coates/Getty Images

Kevin Magnussen might be somewhat of a lone ranger, but racing is in his blood, and it shows. As a second-generation F1 driver, Magnussen’s love for the sport is apparent when he hits the track. His debut in 2014 with McLaren proved that he was ready to follow in his father’s footsteps, securing one of the top-tier positions at the Australian Grand Prix.

This made him the first racer from Denmark to claim a podium during a Formula One Grand Prix. Not too bad for a debut! He went on to have a brief stint driving for Renault in 2016 before finding his racing family with Haas in 2017.

George Russell – Williams

George Russell - Williams
Charles Coates/Getty Images
Charles Coates/Getty Images

George Russell is the newest F1 driver on this list, having made his debut back in 2019 with Williams. He soon proved his worth with his hard work and tenacious driving, of which helped him out-qualify former Williams teammate Robert Kubica at all 21 Grand Prix meets.

While his winning mentality, controlled speed, and unwillingness to allow his competition to pass him on the track didn’t grant him any points during the 2019 season, “Russell the Rocket” hopes to make it right in 2020, especially considering the team brought on a new driver.

Nicholas Latifi – Williams

Nicholas Latifi - Williams
David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images
David Davies/PA Images via Getty Images

Beginning his driving career at the young age of 13, Canadian driver Nicholas Latifi found himself behind the wheel of an F1 car only 11 years later. It was after an incredible 2019 F2 season that had Latifi finishing second in the championship that had Williams looking at the driver for potentially taking over their second seat.

In the end, Williams opted to drop Robert Kubica and promote Latifi to a fully-fledged Formula One driver for the 2020 season. His friendly attitude, helpful feedback, and straightforward attitude helped swing the vote for a promotion in his favor!