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F1 world champions to have never driven for Ferrari

Many Formula 1 drivers grew up dreaming of moving to Ferrari, yet some legends of the series never made that jump – so who are they and why did it never happen?

Jackie Stewart with Agnes Carlier

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Lewis Hamilton shocked the F1 world by announcing a switch from Mercedes to Ferrari for the 2025 season before the 2024 campaign had even begun.   

It means the seven-time world champion will add to the long list of F1 legends to have driven in the iconic Ferrari red as part of one of the biggest driver transfers in the history of the series.  

Hamilton said he has fulfilled a childhood dream of driving for Ferrari and to some there would have been something missing from the 39-year-old’s CV if he had never made that switch.  

Driving for Ferrari is a dream almost all drivers have and some, like Michael Schumacher, have left world championship machinery to make it happen. Hamilton’s move also means that, at the time of writing, every driver with four or more F1 championships will have driven for Ferrari at some point in their career.  

However, there are still some world champions to have never competed for the Scuderia – so who are the five most successful drivers to have not made the switch?  

Most successful F1 world champions to have never driven for Ferrari  

Max Verstappen

Race starts  

185  

F1 world championships  

3 (2021-23)   

World championship grand prix wins 

54  

Pole positions  

32  

Podiums  

98  

At the age of 26, Verstappen still possibly has a long career ahead, which leaves the potential for him to move to Ferrari, but currently he has no reason to leave Red Bull.  

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Red Bull signed a 16-year-old Verstappen as a junior driver in 2014 before giving him his F1 debut with Toro Rosso in 2015. In doing so, he became F1’s youngest ever driver (17y166d) and the following year Verstappen also became its youngest winner (18y228d) when he won on his Red Bull debut at the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix.    

Since then, Verstappen has become one of F1’s all-time greats, clinching three world championships and setting many records along the way, including most victories in a season (19 in 2023) and highest points tally in a year (575 in 2023).   

Verstappen has never really come close to joining Ferrari so far. The Scuderia did not approach him during his junior days, while Max’s father, Jos, once revealed that Ferrari showed initial interest after his rookie season but talks never happened.  

It also seems unlikely to happen in the future. Verstappen is currently contracted until at least the end of 2028, yet the world champion has publicly revealed that he may leave F1 once his deal expires. Should he stay in F1 beyond 2028, then Ferrari could be a possibility as Verstappen recently revealed he would “never say never” to the potential move, but added “for me now, it’s not even in my head”.  

PLUS: Verstappen picks his greatest wins 

Ayrton Senna

Race starts  

161  

F1 world championships  

3 (1988, 1990-91)  

World championship grand prix wins 

41  

Pole positions  

65  

Podiums  

80  

The one thing missing from Senna’s career was a stint with Ferrari, yet it wasn’t for a lack of trying! Senna drove his rookie season with Toleman in 1984 before spending three years at Lotus ahead of a mega move to McLaren for the 1988 season.   

Senna won the world championship in his first year at McLaren, which also saw him ignite a legendary rivalry with team-mate Alain Prost as the two went head-to-head for the 1988 and 1989 titles. Prost moved to Ferrari for 1990 while Senna stayed put, yet the Brazilian got the better deal, winning the 1990 and 1991 championships with McLaren.  

He stayed at McLaren for another two years, but during his time with the British marque there was much flirtation between Senna and Ferrari – however, no deal could be reached. The most significant talks came in a long meeting between Senna and Ferrari’s then sporting director Jean Todt at the 1993 Italian GP.  

Ayrton Senna, McLaren MP4-5 Honda, leads Alain Prost, McLaren MP4-5 Honda

Ayrton Senna, McLaren MP4-5 Honda, leads Alain Prost, McLaren MP4-5 Honda

Photo by: Ercole Colombo

Senna was said to be desperate for that Ferrari move, yet Todt told him it already had Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger under contract for 1994. Senna joined Williams but talks between him and Ferrari continued.  

Just four days before the 1994 San Marino GP both parties talked and it looked likely that an agreement for 1995 could be reached, but Imola unfortunately proved fatal for Senna as he died following a crash at Tamburello.   

PLUS: Senna’s greatest F1 drives 

Jackie Stewart

Race starts  

99  

F1 world championships  

3 (1969, 1971, 1973)  

World championship grand prix wins  

27  

Pole positions  

17  

Podiums  

43  

Stewart made his F1 debut in 1965 with BRM, where he claimed a couple of race wins in his first two seasons. However, a disastrous 1967 campaign where Stewart retired from nine of 11 grands prix led to a meeting between him and Ferrari for 1968.  

But, unlike Senna and many other F1 greats, the lure of Ferrari was not so strong for Stewart. While he was impressed by the facilities, Stewart was shocked to learn that Jacky Ickx had also been approached, which instantly made the Scot think that Ferrari was not the right move.  

However, Stewart was never sold on the Scuderia to begin with, saying “I was already frightened about Ferrari, I knew of their reputation and history with drivers”. Instead, Stewart joined forces with Ken Tyrrell whom he raced under for six seasons until retiring at the end of 1973.  

It proved to be the correct move for Stewart as well. Stewart and Tyrrell won three world championships and 25 grands prix together (in Matra, March and Tyrrell chassis), while during that time Ferrari claimed just eight race wins – six of which went to Ickx.   

PLUS: Stewart’s greatest F1 races 

Nelson Piquet

Race starts  

204  

F1 world championships  

3 (1981, 1983, 1987)  

World championship grand prix wins 

23  

Pole positions  

24  

Podiums  

60  

It’s not quite known if Piquet was ever close to joining Ferrari, but it would have been hard to sign him given his strong links to Brabham. Piquet won two championships over a seven-year spell with the team and it required Williams to offer a contract approximately three times the worth of his Brabham one to prize Piquet away.  

Nelson Piquet, Brabham BT49C Ford, Bernie Ecclestone and Gordon Murray

Nelson Piquet, Brabham BT49C Ford, Bernie Ecclestone and Gordon Murray

Photo by: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch / Motorsport Images

Podcast: Ranking the top 10 Brabham F1 drivers 

Piquet spent two years at Williams and won the 1987 championship but, midway through that year, he announced that he was set to join Lotus for 1988.  

SPECIAL FEATURE: Top 10 Williams F1 drivers 

It’s unlikely that Ferrari would have attempted to beat Lotus to his signature because it retained its driver line-up of Berger and Michele Alboreto from 1987, while 1988 also saw Piquet criticise the Scuderia saying it might perform better if team founder Enzo Ferrari, then 90, was much younger.  

The triple world champion failed to score a victory in his two years at Lotus, which tarnished Piquet’s reputation, but he then scored three wins for Benetton across 1990-91 before retiring. 

PLUS: Top 10 Benetton F1 drivers 

Jack Brabham

Race starts  

126  

F1 world championships  

3 (1959-60, 1966)  

World championship grand prix wins 

14  

Pole positions  

13  

Podiums  

31  

Ferrari was never really a possibility for Jack Brabham, who made his debut at the 1955 British GP with Cooper. It was the same team that Brabham clinched his maiden world championship with in 1959 before going back-to-back in 1960.  

However, 1960 was also the year Ferrari tried to start negotiations with Brabham but it failed miserably.   

Brabham told F1 Racing magazine: “I loved beating Ferrari, just loved it. It was the greatest satisfaction. In 1960 they invited me to come to Italy and meet Enzo and talk about driving for him, and I never went. I wasn’t interested. I was only interested in beating them, not joining them. It’s one of those things.”  

Podcast: Jack Brabham Race of My Life 

Brabham still followed in the footsteps of Enzo, though, by creating an F1 constructor in his own name. The Brabham team made its debut in 1962 and it was the outfit Jack clinched his third championship with in 1966, where he finished ahead of John Surtees, who started the year at Ferrari before going to Cooper.  

Jack Brabham, Brabham

Jack Brabham, Brabham

Photo by: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch / Motorsport Images

PLUS: Jack Brabham’s greatest drives 

The Australian retired at the end of 1970, while his team continued until 1992, having won three additional drivers’ championships in 1967, 1981 and 1983.  

Most successful F1 world champions to have driven for Ferrari  

Although some world champions have never driven for Ferrari, there is still a long list of F1 greats that have. However, some listed below made the jump already as world champion and it backfired, which is something Hamilton will be keen to avoid.   

Michael Schumacher

  

Career  

Before Ferrari  

At Ferrari  

Race starts  

306  

69  

179  

F1 world championships  

7 (1994-95, 2000-04)  

2 (1994-95)  

5 (2000-04)  

World championship grand prix wins 

91  

19  

72  

Pole positions  

68  

10  

58  

Podiums  

155  

38  

116  

Schumacher left world champion Benetton for a struggling Ferrari team that had won just two grands prix in five seasons amid a 13-year championship drought. But, it was the romance of Ferrari and the challenge of returning it to its past glory that enticed Schumacher.  

Sure, he could have gone elsewhere: Williams would have offered instant titles, Mercedes, who he drove for as a junior, was developing a winning partnership with McLaren, but Ferrari was the chance to build an iconic legacy.  

However, it was clearly something that would take time: Schumacher finished 38 points behind 1996 champion Damon Hill in his first Ferrari season before missing out in 1997, 1998 and 1999.  

During that time though, Schumacher and Todt were laying the foundations for something special with the engineering masterminds of Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne, so come 2000 Ferrari was finally a clinical machine that won over and over again.   

Schumacher claimed five consecutive championships from 2000 to 2004, meaning the risky move on his behalf paid off.  

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari F2004, celebrates victory as he crosses the finish line and takes the chequered flag, to the delight of the team who wave Italian flags.

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari F2004, celebrates victory as he crosses the finish line and takes the chequered flag, to the delight of the team who wave Italian flags.

Photo by: Motorsport Images

No Ferrari driver has yet been able to replicate Schumacher’s achievements at the Scuderia.    

Juan Manuel Fangio

  

Career  

Before Ferrari  

At Ferrari  

Race starts  

51  

35  

7  

F1 world championships  

5 (1951, 1954-57)  

3 (1951, 1954-55)  

1 (1956)  

World championship grand prix wins 

24  

17  

3  

Pole positions  

29  

18  

6  

Podiums  

35  

24  

5  

In the first five years of F1, Juan Manuel Fangio made a habit of being Ferrari’s biggest rival as he won three world championships at Alfa Romeo, Maserati and then Mercedes. But, come the end of 1955, Alfa Romeo and Mercedes had both withdrawn from F1, while Maserati was no longer so competitive meaning Fangio and Ferrari begrudgingly teamed up for 1956.  

It was simple: the best driver needed the best car, which Ferrari now had thanks to inheriting Lancia’s remarkable D50, and vice-versa, despite the cold relationship that had developed between Fangio and Ferrari over years of competing against each other.   

The relationship remained complicated during their time together: Fangio expected to be the team’s number one driver, but that would have broken Ferrari tradition of how it is always about the team – plus, from the beginning Enzo was never happy about Fangio’s monetary demands.   

In spite of this, Fangio beat Maserati’s Stirling Moss to the 1956 championship on the final day to make his partnership with Ferrari a successful one. But, it only lasted one year because Ferrari was not willing to pay for Fangio again, so the Argentinian returned to Maserati for 1957 where he won his fifth and final title.

Sebastian Vettel

  

Career  

Before Ferrari  

At Ferrari  

Race starts  

299  

139  

118  

F1 world championships  

4 (2010-13)  

4 (2010-13)  

0  

World championship grand prix wins 

53  

39  

14  

Pole positions  

57  

45  

12  

Podiums  

122  

66  

55  

Vettel grew up idolising Schumacher, which is why, even during his championship-winning years at Red Bull, the lure of Ferrari was often at the back of the German's mind.   

But, it was about making the move at the right time. That came at the end of 2014 following a winless campaign for Vettel, whose championship-winning streak was ended by Hamilton in the first year of turbo-hybrid regulations.   

Inaki Rueda, Ferrari Race Strategist, Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari and Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari celebrate on the podium with the trophies

Inaki Rueda, Ferrari Race Strategist, Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari and Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari celebrate on the podium with the trophies

Photo by: Sutton Images

So, Vettel was in red for 2015 and there were also some similarities between his and Schumacher’s move to the Scuderia: a multiple world champion going to Ferrari, who was in the midst of a difficult run knowing it’ll take several years to return to the front.  

That’s also how it kind of played out for Vettel’s Ferrari career because Mercedes was far too dominant in the first two seasons, but a title challenge was on for 2017. Vettel started the year strongly and led the championship after halfway, but Mercedes bounced back winning six of the final 10 grands prix to clinch both championships.   

A similar situation happened in 2018, but this time Vettel was the architect of his own downfall by crashing into the barrier while leading a wet German GP. It proved to be Vettel’s final opportunity to win Ferrari a championship, as it regressed in 2019 while new signing Charles Leclerc emerged as the team’s future, causing Vettel to leave at the end of 2020.  

SPECIAL FEATURE: Ranking Vettel’s top 10 wins 

Alain Prost

  

Career  

Before Ferrari  

At Ferrari  

Race starts  

199  

153  

30  

F1 world championships  

4 (1985-86, 1989, 1993)  

3 (1985-86, 1989)  

0  

World championship grand prix wins 

51  

39  

5  

Pole positions  

33  

20  

0  

Podiums  

106  

80  

14  

Prost was another world champion who just couldn’t quite make it work with Ferrari. He joined for the 1990 season as it had all gone toxic with Senna at McLaren. His move to Ferrari meant that Prost became the first driver signed by the Prancing Horse since Enzo’s death in 1988.  

However, at Ferrari Prost experienced another fractious relationship with a team-mate, this time Nigel Mansell. Prost played on the fact that he was the reigning world champion to assert authority within the team and at the 1990 British GP, for example, he secretly ordered Ferrari mechanics to swap his and Mansell’s car after the Briton had secured pole position.   

The relationship with Prost was one of the factors that led to Mansell leaving Ferrari at the end of 1990. Meanwhile, the Frenchman’s title defence ended controversially as he was hit by Senna at Turn 1 at Suzuka, which caused both cars to retire and gave the McLaren driver his second world championship.  

Prost then didn’t even finish 1991 with Ferrari. Ferrari had built a pretty uncompetitive car and Prost was regularly over a second off pole, while early on it became clear that Senna was a triple world champion in waiting.   

Race winner Alain Prost, Ferrari 641/2

Race winner Alain Prost, Ferrari 641/2

Photo by: Sutton Images

It caused Prost to publicly criticise Ferrari, stating its car “was like a horrible truck to drive,” which resulted in him being sacked with a race to spare.   

Podcast: Alain Prost Race of My Life 

Niki Lauda

  

Career  

Before Ferrari  

At Ferrari  

Race starts  

171  

27  

57  

F1 world championships  

3 (1975, 1977, 1984)  

0  

2 (1975, 1977)  

World championship grand prix wins 

25  

0  

15  

Pole positions  

24  

0  

23  

Podiums  

54  

0  

32  

Lauda is arguably Ferrari’s most successful driver after Schumacher as he won two world championships with the Scuderia. But unlike the names above, Lauda joined Ferrari as a fresh face in F1 with just one points finish in his two-year career so far.   

But, what helped him is that Ferrari was going through a rebuild at the time following a disappointing 1973 season where it finished sixth in the championship. So, it first signed Clay Regazzoni but then he spoke very highly of his ex-BRM team-mate, causing Ferrari to snap up Lauda for 1974 as well.  

And it was a risk that paid off. Lauda instantly became a frontrunner by winning two grands prix in his first season with Ferrari before clinching two of the following three championships. He would almost certainly have won a third had it not been for his horrific 1976 crash at the Nurburgring that almost killed him. 

The Austrian wasn’t best pleased with the way Ferrari handled his comeback but still showed his class by taking the 1977 title before heading to Brabham. 

SPECIAL FEATURE: Lauda’s greatest drives 

To see how Autosport ranks Ferrari’s top F1 drivers, take a look here.

Niki Lauda, Ferrari 312T

Niki Lauda, Ferrari 312T

Photo by: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch / Motorsport Images

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