Most successful polesitters in Grand Prix Racing

This list is based on the utter dominance of a formula one driver’s pole percentage record in a single season.

1. Nigel Mansell :

The Brit was a source of inspiration for many young drivers from Britain. It’s more ominous to think that he could’ve won more than a world championship. His most successful season was undoubtably 1992 in his Williams FW 14B, the most sophisticated F1 racer in history. Senna got the better of him once in Canada with his more powerful Mclaren-Honda in a wet saturday session and Patrese snatched the pole by 0.2sec from his own team-mate Mansell. In both situations, his car let him down, once a handling issue and electronic problem on the other.

Percentage : 88%, Season : 1992, GPs : 16, Pole : 14, Missed Poles : Ayrton Senna(Canada) and Riccardo Patrese(Hungary)

2. Ayrton Senna :

The master of qualifying was a threat since his arrival in F1 and got his first pole at Portugal in 1985. 65 poles in his ten-year career was a benchmark. He moved to Mclaren in 1988, sighting as a clear favourite for the crown. The low-line MP4/4 was a ground breaker, the shear speed of his dancing Mclaren helped him roar past the barriers to  a scarcely believable 13 poles in 16 entries. He was denied twice by Alain Prost and by Gerhard Berger’s Ferrari once.

Percentage : 81.25%, Season : 1988, GPs : 16, Pole : 13, Missed Poles : Alain Prost(France and Portugal) and Gerhard Berger(Britain)

Ayrton Senna :

Senna’s brilliant run in 1988 was further continued as he held on to the top spot more often. He set up the fastest times in 13 occasions out of 16 races, replica of 1988. He was again denied by his great rival Alain Prost, champion of the most controversial 1989 season. Williams Veteran Riccardo Patrese also got the privilege of hampering Senna.

Percentage : 81.25%, Season : 1989, GPs : 16, Pole : 13, Missed Poles : Alain Prost(France and Canada), Gerhard Berger(Hungary)

Alain Prost :

Prost was unsettled in Ferrari after leaving Mclaren in 1990. After Mansell left for Indy racing, Prost needed to prove himself the most consistent finisher of all time. He took under the drive of Williams FW 15C and secured 13 poles matching Senna’s record. He’d also won 7 races and went on to be the series champion in his last year of Grand Prix racing.

Percentage : 81.25%, Season : 1993, GPs : 16, Pole : 13, Missed Poles : Damon Hill(France and Portugal) and Ayrton Senna(Australia)

5. Sebastian Vettel :

The tenacious, youngest ever double world champ, had beaten records on his own rights. When he crossed line in the 10 minute pole decider at Brazilian GP, he became the only 15th time pole sitter in Formula One racing. His record was a lot to live up to and set the standard for a new era. Red Bull had it all covered with an exception from Lewis’s Mclaren in Korea. He’d no KERS in Spain and both Bulls compromised on their tyre choices in Korea.

Percentage : 78.9%, Season : 2011, GPs : 19, Pole : 15, Missed Poles : Mark Webber(Spain, Germany and Britain) and Lewis Hamilton(Korea)

6. Juan Manuel Fangio :

The departure of Mercedes from Grand Prix racing in 1955 led Fangio to Ferrari the next year. The limited schedule of 8 races witnessed Fangio start 6 times on pole in his Lancia Ferria D50. He was denied from the full monty by Sir Stirling Moss once, driving Maserati 250F in his home Grand Prix at Silverstone but couldn’t stop him winning that race. He won 3 races that season to become 4 times world champion.

Percentage : 75%, Season : 1956, GPs : 8, Pole : 6, Missed Poles : Pat Flaherty(Indianapolis) and Stirling Moss(Britain)

7. Jim Clark :

Clark and Chapman duo were a lethal combination in the ’60s. The light, ultra powerful Lotus cars left the grid for dead. The highly respected and humorous Brit chased the title with 7 wins to his credit. The “all Brit” season ended on a high for Clark and he continued his dream run throughout his career, winning the title again in 1965.

Percentage : 70%, Season : 1963, GPs : 10, Pole : 7, Missed Poles : Graham Hill(Belgium and United States) and John Surtees(Italy)

8. Mika Hakkinen :

The Finnish driver took five consecutive poles in 1999. Newey made MP4/14 was so quick, 5 race victories for Mika crowned him his maiden drivers title. He was given fierce competition by Eddie Irvine who ended up just 2 points behind Mika at the end of the season. Schumacher was injured during the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, suffering a broken leg in a crash, but returned before the end of the season.

Percentage : 69%, Season : 1999, GPs : 16, Pole : 11, Missed Poles : Michael Schumacher(Canada, Malaysia and Japan), Rubens Barrichello(France) and Heinz-Harald Frentzen(Germany)

9.Jim Clark :

British Golden Boy Jim Clark tamed Lotus 25 Coventry Climax to 6 pole positions in 1962, the year which was won by his fellow countryman Graham Hill. Clark was often tested by the BRM of Graham Hill, the revolutionary Lotus 25 was marched to victory thrice by Jim Clark. Dan Gurney gave Porsche their only grand prix win at Rouen.

Percentage : 67%, Season : 1962, GPs : 9, Pole : 6, Missed Poles : Dan Gurney(Germany), Graham Hill(Belgium) and John Surtees(Dutch)

Alberto Ascari :

The Italian superstar led Ferrari to victory winning 5 out of 9 races in 1953. Ferrari again dominated the championship, taking 7 of the 8 grands prix. Fangio’s challenge in his Maserati took him to second place in the championship and a win at Monza.  Mike Hawthorn broke the sequence by becoming the first ever British winner in the French Grand Prix at Reims after a thrilling battle with Fangio.

Percentage : 67%, Season :1953, GPs : 9, Poles : 6, Missed Poles  : Bill Vukovich(Indianapolis) and Juan Manuel Fangio(Switzerland)


One thought on “Most successful polesitters in Grand Prix Racing

  1. Nice compilation. Interesting to note that despite accumulating 68 poles Schumacher isn’t on that list. And Senna stands out on that list because he had to contend with a great driver using the same machinery, yet he managed to get pole 81.25% of the time.

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