Which F1 driver has the most race starts? Hamilton, Raikkonen and more

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Lewis Hamilton will become the sixth driver to reach the 300 F1 races milestone when he starts the 2022 French GP. Fernando Alonso is the only active driver to have more than 300 starts to his name, though Sebastian Vettel is on course to join the exclusive club if he continues in 2023.

Due to the threat of death or serious injury, combined with smaller world championship calendars, F1 careers used to be shorter, though drivers did also contest non-championship events not included in these numbers.

Double world champion Graham Hill held the record for more than a decade, before Jacques Laffite matched his tally of 176 at the 1986 British GP. Sadly, Laffite was involved in a startline crash at Brands Hatch that ended his F1 career.

Riccardo Patrese subsequently moved the record to 256, but there are now eight drivers who have surpassed that number. Here are those eight.

Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo Racing C41

Photo by: Alfa Romeo

Starts: 349
Years: 2001-09, 2012-21
Wins: 21
Poles: 18
Fastest laps: 46
Titles: 1 (2007)

After an incredibly short junior single-seater career, Raikkonen graduated to F1 with Sauber at the age of 21 in 2001. He impressed enough to be snapped up by McLaren for 2002 and stayed at the Woking-based squad for five seasons.

His first win came in the 2003 Malaysian GP and Raikkonen racked up nine F1 victories at McLaren. He came close to winning the 2005 title but was thwarted by unreliability and moved to Ferrari after a disappointing 2006 campaign.

PLUS: McLaren’s fastest failure

Raikkonen won on his Ferrari debut in the 2007 Australian GP and snatched the drivers’ crown at the finale following a dramatic fight with McLaren drivers Hamilton and Alonso.

Thereafter Felipe Massa started to get the upper hand at Ferrari, but Raikkonen stepped up after the Brazilian’s accident in qualifying for the 2009 Hungarian GP. He won the Belgian GP before being released from his contract at the end of the season.

Raikkonen tried rallying and NASCAR before returning to F1 with Lotus. He won the 2012 Abu Dhabi GP on his way to third in the standings and won the following year’s Australian GP.

He rejoined Ferrari for 2014, but largely had to play second fiddle, first to Alonso and then Vettel. Raikkonen took his 21st and final F1 victory in the 2018 United States GP before closing out his career with three seasons at Sauber-run Alfa Romeo.

Top 10: Kimi Raikkonen’s F1 races ranked

2. Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso, Alpine F1 Team

Fernando Alonso, Alpine F1 Team

Photo by: Andrew Ferraro / Motorsport Images

Starts: 352
Years: 2001, 2003-18, 2021-present
Wins: 32
Poles: 22
Fastest laps: 23
Titles: 2 (2005-06)

Of all the drivers on this list, Alonso probably has a record that most poorly reflects his impressive performances over two decades. Seeing as he is a double F1 champion and sits sixth in the all-time winners list, that’s saying something.

After starring with the minnow Minardi squad in his rookie F1 season in 2001, Alonso took his first victory at the 2003 Hungarian GP with Renault, following a year as test driver.

A brilliant campaign brought him the 2005 title and he successfully defended his crown in 2006 despite a challenge from a revitalised Michael Schumacher.

Alonso joined McLaren for 2007. The car was quick but so was precocious rookie Hamilton and the intra-team battle helped Raikkonen beat both to the crown. Alonso, feeling unsupported, left to join Renault and won twice in 2008.

Alonso moved to Ferrari for 2010 and was arguably at his best while at the famous Italian team. Despite mediocre machinery, Alonso came close to taking the crown in both 2010 and 2012, but Ferrari started the turbo-hybrid era badly and Alonso left after a disappointing 2014.

The McLaren-Honda combination proved disastrous and Alonso wasted four seasons before taking a break from F1. He won the Le Mans 24 Hours twice and added the World Endurance crown to his CV, then returned in 2021 with Alpine as he continues his quest for that elusive third F1 title.

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PLUS: Alonso’s 10 greatest F1 races

Podium: Race winner Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari F1 2000, second place Mika Hakkinen, Mclaren  MP4-15, third place David Coulthard, Mclaren MP4-15

Podium: Race winner Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari F1 2000, second place Mika Hakkinen, Mclaren MP4-15, third place David Coulthard, Mclaren MP4-15

Photo by: Sutton Images

Starts: 322
Years: 1993-2011
Wins: 11
Poles: 14
Fastest laps: 17
Titles: 0

Barrichello started his F1 career with Jordan and stayed with the team for four seasons. Often impressive in wet conditions, Barrichello took his first F1 pole in a rain-affected session at Spa in 1994, then scored a brilliant second place in the soaking 1997 Monaco GP driving for Stewart.

The Brazilian joined Ferrari for 2000 alongside Schumacher and finally scored his first F1 victory on his 123rd start, coming from 18th on the grid to win the German GP.

Barrichello proved a fine team player alongside Schumacher, contributing to five consecutive constructors’ titles. Sometimes close enough to challenge his team leader, Barrichello was occasionally asked to move aside for Schumacher, most infamously at the 2002 Austrian GP.

Replaced by Massa for 2006, Barrichello joined Honda for 2006. He endured a difficult three years alongside Jenson Button and the team hit financial issues in 2008 when Honda decided to pull out of F1.

Resurrected as Brawn, the team had the best car at the start of 2009, but it was Button who made the most of it. Red Bull came on strong as the campaign progressed, leaving Barrichello to take two wins and third in the standings as Button took the title.

After two years at Williams in the midfield, Barrichello retired from F1 at the end of 2011 having made a then-record 322 starts.

=4. Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari F1-2000, crosses the line for victory in the race and the drivers' world championship

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari F1-2000, crosses the line for victory in the race and the drivers’ world championship

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Starts: 306
Years: 1991-2006, 2010-12
Wins: 91
Poles: 68
Fastest laps: 77
Titles: 7 (1994-95, 2000-04)

One of motorsport’s legends, Schumacher famously made his F1 debut for Jordan at the 1991 Belgian GP. He was immediately signed by Benetton, took his first F1 win at Spa in 1992 and led the team as it became a championship contender from 1994.

Rarely far from on-track controversy, Schumacher took the 1994 crown thanks to a dubious clash with rival Damon Hill in Adelaide as F1 recovered from the death of Ayrton Senna. Schumacher underlined his status as the new benchmark with a brilliant campaign to defend his title in 1995.

Schumacher moved to Ferrari for 1996, then in a period of rebuilding following one of its fallow periods. The German scored some of his best wins over the next three years but it wasn’t until 2000 – and after missing some of the 1999 season due to injuries sustained in a Silverstone crash – that he took his third championship success, Ferrari’s first drivers’ title since 1979.

Thereafter the floodgates opened and Schumacher reeled off another four crowns, 2002 and 2004 being among the most dominant seasons in F1 history. A rule change and the rise of Alonso at Renault finally ended the run in 2005, but Schumacher bounced back to narrowly lose the 2006 title to the Spaniard before retiring.

After three years away from the sport (and a motorbike accident), Schumacher returned with Mercedes in 2010. There were flashes of his old self, most notably topping qualifying for the 2012 Monaco GP, but he was no longer the force he had been and Schumacher retired for good after three seasons having not added to his then-record 91 GP victories.

Race of my life: Michael Schumacher on the 2000 Japanese GP

=4. Jenson Button

Jenson Button,  Brawn Grand Prix celebrates winning the World Championship

Jenson Button, Brawn Grand Prix celebrates winning the World Championship

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Starts: 306
Years: 2000-17
Wins: 15
Poles: 8
Fastest laps: 8
Titles: 1 (2009)

Button arrived in F1 with Williams following just two successful seasons on the single-seater ladder. He impressed in 2000 but lost his seat to Indycar star Juan Pablo Montoya and joined Benetton.

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The inexperienced Button struggled alongside Giancarlo Fisichella in 2001 but improved in 2002 and then joined BAR. He comfortably saw off team-mate and 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve in 2003 before starring the following year.

Button was one of the standouts of the season on his way to third in the points, but Ferrari domination meant a first F1 win remained elusive.

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Button’s maiden success finally came in the 2006 Hungarian GP thanks to a brilliant drive in tricky conditions from 14th on the grid. But Honda’s competitiveness fell back after that and Button’s F1 career looked over when Honda withdrew at the end of 2008.

Ross Brawn helped save the team and the double-diffuser BGP 001 design was the car to have early in 2009. Button used it to win six of the first seven races and held on to take the title.

Button then joined Hamilton at McLaren, taking eight victories between 2010 and 2012. He also scored more points than Hamilton during the same period, largely thanks to arguably Button’s finest F1 campaign in 2011 that yielded second in the championship.

Button led McLaren after Hamilton’s move to Mercedes, but the team was on a downward path and there would be no more wins. He beat team-mate Alonso in the points in 2015 but the Spaniard normally had the upper hand the following year and Button made his final F1 start – subbing for an Indianapolis 500-bound Alonso – at the 2017 Monaco GP.

PLUS: Button’s 10 greatest F1 races

6. Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, 1st position, takes victory to the delight of his team on the pit wall

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, 1st position, takes victory to the delight of his team on the pit wall

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Starts: 304
Years: 2007-present
Wins: 103
Poles: 103
Fastest laps: 61
Titles: 7 (2008, 2014-15, 2017-20)

Seven world titles, 103 wins and 103 poles. The starts and fastest laps records are two of the few F1 benchmarks Hamilton hasn’t matched or beaten in a remarkable career.

Hamilton arrived in F1 in 2007 with a string of junior category titles to his name and immediately gave double world champion McLaren team-mate Alonso some headaches. There were errors, notably in the Chinese GP pitlane, but his speed was never in doubt.

Having narrowly missed out on the title in his rookie year, Hamilton pipped Ferrari’s Massa in 2008. McLaren’s car for the 2009 rule changes was not a good one, but team and driver worked to make it a winner before the end of the season.

Hamilton and McLaren were sporadically quick across 2010-12 but weren’t able to topple the Vettel-Red Bull combination and the Briton left the team after some frustrating unreliability in 2012 and an approach from Mercedes.

The Silver Arrows became the dominant force as the turbo-hybrid rules arrived in 2014, Hamilton taking the 2014 and 2015 titles. He normally had an edge over team-mate Nico Rosberg but a combination of poor starts and car troubles for Hamilton helped the German snatch the 2016 crown.

Following Rosberg’s retirement and the arrival of Valtteri Bottas, Hamilton arguably reached his peak across 2017-18, taking two more titles despite strong Ferrari challenges. The successes continued in brilliant Mercedes machinery and in 2020 Hamilton matched Schumacher’s record of seven world titles.

Rule tweaks hindered Mercedes for 2021 and Red Bull had a slight advantage, but Hamilton still became the first driver to score 100 world championship GP wins in Russia. Despite clashes with main rival Max Verstappen, Hamilton kept himself in title contention and would have taken a surprise crown had it not been for the controversial late safety car and restart calls in the Abu Dhabi finale.

Mercedes’ ground-effects car for 2022 has proved flawed and George Russell’s arrival in the other car has brought added pressure, but his British GP performance shows Hamilton still has something in his locker when opportunities arise.

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Top 10: Hamilton’s F1 wins ranked

7. Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing, salutes his car

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing, salutes his car

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Starts: 293
Years: 2007-present
Wins: 53
Poles: 57
Fastest laps: 38
Titles: 4 (2010-13)

Points on his F1 debut with BMW in 2007 heralded Vettel’s F1 arrival and he was soon starring for Toro Rosso. He took the team’s first F1 victory in the wet 2008 Italian GP and earned a graduation to the ‘senior’ Red Bull team for the following year.

The RB5 was a championship contender in 2009. A few errors and a fine start by Brawn kept the titles out of Red Bull’s reach but Vettel took four wins on his way to the runner-up spot behind Button.

Vettel was part of a four-way title fight in 2010 and wins in the final rounds in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, combined with poor strategy for team-mate Mark Webber and Ferrari rival Alonso, brought him his first F1 crown.

There was no stopping Vettel and Red Bull in 2011 and 2013, but 2012 was closer. Vettel survived a first-lap clash in the Brazilian GP finale to pip Alonso to the title by four points.

Vettel didn’t like the first Red Bull of the turbo-hybrid era and struggled alongside new team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. He was only fifth in the standings and scored no wins before heading to Ferrari.

The switch rejuvenated Vettel and he took three victories on his way to best-of-the-rest in the championship behind Hamilton and Rosberg. The following year’s car was less competitive but the switch to wider, faster cars helped Ferrari challenge Mercedes.

Vettel battled for the title in 2017 and 2018 but made mistakes and usually lost out in wheel-to-wheel fights with Hamilton. Vettel was twice runner-up but thereafter the balance of power at Ferrari shifted as rising star Charles Leclerc replaced Raikkonen for 2019.

Leclerc soon stamped his authority in the team and, following a disappointing 2020, Vettel headed to Aston Martin. Once again, the change seems to have helped the likeable and outspoken German, who has comfortably led the line over team-mate Stroll.

Top 10: Vettel’s F1 wins ranked

8. Felipe Massa

Podium: Felipe Massa, Ferrari

Podium: Felipe Massa, Ferrari

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Starts: 269
Years: 2002, 2004-17
Wins: 11
Poles: 16
Fastest laps: 15
Titles: 0

Either side of a year as a Ferrari test driver, the sometimes erratic Massa showed potential at Sauber in 2002 and 2004-05. He really started to mature alongside Schumacher at Ferrari in 2006, when he scored his first two F1 wins, in Turkey and his native Brazil.

He helped team-mate Raikkonen to the 2007 crown after misfortune curtailed his own aspirations, but Massa hit top form the following year to lead Ferrari’s attack. Thanks to a Singapore GP pitstop problem and Hamilton only taking the fifth place he needed in the closing yards of the Brazilian GP finale, Massa could count himself unfortunate not to have been the 2008 world champion.

Massa still had the upper hand over Raikkonen when his 2009 Hungarian GP qualifying crash ended his season. He returned for 2010 but was rarely a match for Alonso, and was asked to move aside for his new team-mate during the 2010 German GP.

Massa moved to Williams for 2014, just as the famous team got a boost with Mercedes turbo-hybrid power. Team-mate Bottas was marginally the quicker, but it was Massa who took pole for the Austrian GP and came within 2.6 seconds of winning the Abu Dhabi GP.

After retiring from F1 at the end of 2016, Massa was called back by Williams to replace Mercedes-bound Bottas following Rosberg’s shock retirement. Williams had slipped back a little, but Massa outscored rookie team-mate Lance Stroll before retiring from F1 for good.

Race winner Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes-Benz F1 W08  celebrates in parc ferme alongside Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-Benz F1 W08  and Felipe Massa, Williams FW40

Race winner Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes-Benz F1 W08 celebrates in parc ferme alongside Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-Benz F1 W08 and Felipe Massa, Williams FW40

Photo by: Sutton Images

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