Which F1 driver has the most race starts? Alonso, Hamilton and more
Fernando Alonso holds the record for the most world championship Formula 1 starts ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton became the third most experienced driver in Formula 1 history after completing his 323rd race start at the 2023 Dutch Grand Prix.
It came just 13 months after the seven-time world champion started his 300th race, which in turn made him the second driver on the current F1 grid to reach such a landmark. Fernando Alonso is the other, having driven his 300th race in 2018.
But, it is becoming more and more of a trend for modern day F1 drivers to complete a higher number of race starts than those from the championship’s early days. 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 nine drivers who have surpassed that number. So, here are the 10 drivers with the most race starts in F1 history.
1. Fernando Alonso
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin F1 Team
Years: 2001, 2003-18, 2021-present
Fastest laps: 24
Titles: 2 (2005-06)
Fernando Alonso takes the title for most race starts, having taken the crown from Kimi Raikkonen at the 2022 Singapore Grand Prix.
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 seventh 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. His return with the French team netted a single podium - third place in the 2021 Qatar Grand Prix - which wasn't enough to keep him for 2023 as he made a shock move to Aston Martin. Although he is yet to be rewarded with a victory at the Silverstone-based team, the move has so far proved to be a success after eight podiums in his first season.
Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo Racing C41
Photo by: Alfa Romeo
Years: 2001-09, 2012-21
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.
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
3. Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, 1st position, takes victory to the delight of his team on the pit wall
Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images
Fastest laps: 65
Titles: 7 (2008, 2014-15, 2017-20)
Seven world titles, 103 wins and 104 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 proved flawed and George Russell’s arrival in the other car brought added pressure, but Hamilton’s pole position at the 2023 Hungarian GP proves he still has something in his locker when opportunities arise.
Top 10: Hamilton’s F1 wins ranked
4. Rubens Barrichello
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
Fastest laps: 17
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.
=5. Michael Schumacher
Michael Schumacher, Ferrari F1-2000, crosses the line for victory in the race and the drivers' world championship
Photo by: Motorsport Images
Years: 1991-2006, 2010-12
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
=5. Jenson Button
Jenson Button, Brawn Grand Prix celebrates winning the World Championship
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
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.
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.
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.
7. Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing, salutes his car
Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images
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 seemed to help the likeable and outspoken German, who comfortably led the line over team-mate Lance Stroll. He retired from Formula 1 at the end of the 2022 season, just race shy of 300.
Top 10: Vettel’s F1 wins ranked
8. Felipe Massa
Podium: Felipe Massa, Ferrari
Photo by: Motorsport Images
Years: 2002, 2004-17
Fastest laps: 15
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 Stroll before retiring from F1 for good.
9. Sergio Perez
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, lifts his trophy
Fastest laps: 11
Perez became the first Mexican F1 driver in 30 years after finishing second to Pastor Maldonado in the 2010 GP2 championship. Perez’s debut came with Sauber, but his first race ended in disqualification due to a technical infringement on the car.
It came as a big disappointment for Perez, as he initially finished seventh. But it proved to not be his only shot at points, as Perez would later finish inside the top 10 on five occasions that season. He stepped it up for his second campaign, scoring three podiums and beating team-mate Kamui Kobayashi in the championship.
That earned him a move to McLaren for 2013 to replace Hamilton, but that proved difficult. The MP4-28 was not as competitive as hoped and team-mate Button comfortably beat Perez in the championship. Perez was replaced by Kevin Magnussen for 2014.
Yet it proved to be the making of Perez. He joined Force India, where he firmly established himself as an F1 driver with his seven years there. Perez scored seven podiums and prevented Force India from being liquidating in 2018 as he helped place the team in administration.
They were later bought by Lawrence Stroll, who renamed Force India as Racing Point. However, Perez was not part of Stroll’s long-term vision as the team owner signed Vettel for the 2021 season to partner his son Lance.
Perez’s final season with Racing Point was arguably his best, though, as he eventually became a race winner at the 2020 Sakhir GP. It was a mighty drive from him as he started fifth but ended up last on the opening lap after a spin, yet Perez recovered brilliantly to win on his 190th grand prix start, which also set the record for the most races before a victory.
Perez finishing fourth in the 2020 standings – seven places above Stroll – might not have been enough for Racing Point but it was for Red Bull, who signed Perez for the following season.
His first victory with Red Bull came after six grands prix, at the Azerbaijan GP, before he finished fourth again in the standings while team-mate Verstappen won a maiden championship. Perez then achieved a career-high of third in the 2022 F1 standings after two victories that year. He won two more races the following campaign, but 2023 was largely disappointing for Perez with Verstappen over 200 points ahead in the standings.
10. Riccardo Patrese
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
Riccardo Patrese drives the Brabham BT52
Fastest laps: 13
Patrese enjoyed a long and successful career in the series, which led to him temporarily holding the F1 race starts record. However, when he scored just one point in his debut season with Shadow Patrese’s F1 career did not get the best of starts.
He later moved to Arrows for the next four years and big unreliability problems stopped things from drastically improving, as Patrese suffered more DNFs than point finishes in that time. But, there were times where he was able to shine, as shown by four podium finishes and coming ninth in the 1980 standings.
Patrese later joined Brabham and in 1982, his first year with the team, the Italian finally became a race winner. It came in surprising circumstances as Patrese took the race lead with just three laps remaining when Alain Prost crashed into the barriers at Monaco – and after he had apparently spun away his chances.
He won again the following year, this time in South Africa, while team-mate Nelson Piquet clinched the drivers’ title. Patrese moved to Alfa Romeo for 1984, but his two years with the team proved disappointing. The highest he achieved was 13th in the championship after retiring in 22 of his 32 races with them, although Patrese did stand on the podium at Monza.
Patrese then returned to have another two years at Brabham before joining Williams for 1988 to continue a seasoned F1 career. The next five years proved to be his best, as Patrese finished third in the championship twice and second in 1992 with the dominant FW14B.
Top 10: Williams F1 drivers ranked
Top 10: Williams F1 cars ranked
Having won four GPs for Williams, Patrese joined Benetton for his final campaign but was outperformed by his younger team-mate Schumacher. Patrese finished fifth in the standings, with his 256th and final race start coming at the 1993 Australian GP.
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