Who is Formula 1’s most popular champion?
Formula 1 is the most popular car sport in Europe, and one of the biggest on the planet.
433 million people watched F1 in 2020 to see Lewis Hamilton take a historic step in his Formula 1 World Championship career, winning a record-equalling seventh Championship that ties him with the legendary Michael Schumacher.
Hamilton is the most successful champion still behind the wheel and if he’s crowned the 2021 Formula 1 World Champion for Mercedes, he’ll have the F1 racing record to himself. But is he the most popular Formula 1 Champion in the world?
Here at iCompario, a leading fuel cards comparison site, we wanted to find the answer.
Using a Google search tool (Ahrefs), we analysed data for the 33 drivers who have won an F1 title. We looked at search volume for the entire globe and for each of the 14 nations to have produced a Formula 1 Champion to discover:
- The champion with the most searches
- The questions people ask most about the three most popular champions
- The most popular champion in each country with a title-winning driver
- The fans who care the most about F1 — countries with the most searches
- How the most popular F1 champion compares to other popular athletes
Here’s what we found.
Most popular F1 champion by total searches
It’s official: Lewis Hamilton is the most popular Formula 1 Champion in the world, based on Google searches.
There have been 33 Formula 1 Champions since the first winner (Giuseppe Farina) was crowned in 1950. We’ve used Google search tools to find out how many searches are made every year for each champion and listed all of them in order of popularity.
Our research shows Hamilton is well out in front of his 32 fellow F1 champions, with Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso the second and third most searched champions.
Lewis Hamilton is searched for more than 19,000,0000 times a year — that’s over 7.6 million more searches than Michael Schumacher gets. But Hamilton’s enormous popularity isn’t the only thing our results reveal.
Niki Lauda is more popular than Ayrton Senna
Lauda and Senna are both terrific drivers and it’s no surprise so many people search for them. What’s surprising is that Lauda gets more searches than Senna, who has long been perceived as one of Formula 1’s most popular champions, with his success, charisma, and tragic death connecting with a huge number of F1 fans.
Fernando Alonso is more popular than Sebastian Vettel
Alonso is a two-time F1 champion for Renault. Vettel has four titles to his name for Red Bull. You might expect the more successful champion would be the more popular one, but Alonso is comfortably ahead in our results, with over 430,000 more searches than Vettel every year.
James Hunt is comfortably the second most popular Brit
James Hunt is one of Formula 1’s great characters. Charismatic, daring, and rarely far from controversy, his successful battle against Niki Lauda for the 1976 F1 Championship is the stuff of legend. People search for him more than 2.6 million times a year, making him easily the second-most popular British champion.
Sons are more popular than fathers
Sport is full of great dynasties and Formula 1 is no exception. There are two father-son Championship-winning dynasties in F1, the Hill’s and the Rosbergs, and the sons are more popular than the fathers. Nico Rosberg gets 2.2 million searches a year to his father Keke Rosberg’s 540,000, while Damon Hill receives 552,000 searches a year compared to his father Graham Hill’s 276,000.
Rising Stars: Five Most Successful F1 drivers Aged 25 & Under
Lewis Hamilton is the most popular F1 champion on the planet and the joint-record holder for the number of titles won. But he has strong competition from a talented group of drivers aged 25 or under who are in his rear-view mirror.
We established which five drivers pose the greatest threat to Hamilton. We did so by looking at search volume and F1 performance data to find the five most successful and popular drivers aged 25 and under.
Our research shows that Red Bull whizz-kid Max Verstappen is the most significant threat to Hamilton’s domination of F1.
Verstappen is more popular than Schumacher and Alonso
Max Verstappen is comfortably the most popular rising star in F1. His 13.2 million annual searches are more than twice that of his nearest rival, Lando Norris. Indeed, Verstappen is so popular with F1 fans across the globe that he gets more yearly searches than both Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso.
Verstappen is nearly three times more successful than Charles Leclerc
Max Verstappen is by far the most successful F1 driver aged 25 and under. His 1,344 career points are nearly three times that of the next-best driver in the same age bracket, Charles Leclerc. In fact, Verstappen has so many career points that he’s already made it into the all-time top 10 and ranks higher than British champion Jenson Button.
Verstappen gets 50 podium finishes five years younger than Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton should be fearful of Max Verstappen achieving 50 podium finishes at just 23 years of age — Hamilton was 28 when he reached the same number. It shows that Verstappen is the real deal and a driver who has a huge future ahead of him, one that could see him threaten Hamilton’s records in the future.
Verstappen could deny Hamilton his record-breaking eighth title
Sunday, 12 Dec 2021 is when the final 2021 F1 World Championship race will be held. It’s a date that could see Lewis Hamilton close the season as the greatest F1 champion of all time by becoming the overall title record-holder. But Max Verstappen has his first Championship in his sights and has led the way for much of the 2021 season.
The final day of the season could be the day Hamilton makes history. Or it could be the moment that Verstappen confirms himself as Hamilton’s greatest F1 rival and the man who denies him the chance to land the eighth title he dreams of.
Five most asked questions about the three most popular champions
Our research isn’t just a popularity contest for Formula 1 Champions. It also looks at what fans want to know about them by highlighting the questions people ask Google about the three most searched champions.
What fans want to know about Lewis Hamilton
The question most asked about Hamilton is how much he’s worth — the answer is over £200m. It’s interesting that fans are more concerned with his wealth than his titles, perhaps highlighting that they already know all they need about his driving skills.
What fans want to know about Michael Schumacher
Michael Schumacher is the champion with the most asked questions, with 36,000 searches made every year to find out how he is. Schumacher was involved in a tragic skiing accident in 2013 and these questions show that his fans really care about the wellbeing of their hero.
What fans want to know about Fernando Alonso
What stands out the most about Fernando Alonso’s questions is how few questions are asked every year by his fans in comparison to Hamilton and Schumacher. Indeed, Schumacher’s top question is asked 20 times more each year than Alonso’s top question.
Height and age are big deals for Formula 1 fans
Fans of the three most popular Formula 1 Champions ask a range of different questions about their heroes. But there are two things people want to know more than anything else about all of their favourite champions:
- How tall they are
- How old they are
These questions made it into the top five things people ask Google about Hamilton, Schumacher, and Alonso, so clearly, height and age are a big deal for a lot of F1 fans.
Most popular Formula 1 World Championship winner by country
Formula 1’s 33 champions are from 14 countries and five continents, with representatives all the way from the United States to Australia. You might expect the most popular champion in each country to be one of their national compatriots. However, that’s not what our results reveal. The table below shows the five most searched for champions in each of the 14 countries with an F1 champion.
Hamilton is more popular than Senna in Brazil and Lauda in Austria
Lewis Hamilton is so popular he gets more searches than Ayrton Senna and Niki Lauda in their home countries of Brazil and Austria respectively. Hamilton gets 1,416,000 searches to Senna’s 1,344,000 and 204,000 to Lauda’s 106,800.
Prost isn’t one of the 5 most popular champions in France
Alain Prost has won the F1 Championship four times, placing him joint-third on the all-time winners’ list. But that isn’t enough for him to be one of the five most popular champions in his home country of France. Prost trails Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Ayrton Senna, Niki Lauda, Sebastian Vettel, making him France’s seventh most-loved F1 champion.
Alan Jones is a Formula 1 champion and a former national Rugby coach
We didn’t bat an eyelid when our results showed Alan Jones to be the second most searched champion in his native Australia. But we were surprised to learn that there are two famous Australians named Alan Jones, one is an F1 champion and the other is a former coach of the Australia national rugby union team.
Spain has the most patriotic searchers
You might expect a fairly recent Formula 1 Champion to get the most searches in his home country. That’s exactly what our results show with Fernando Alonso, who is the most searched F1 champion in Spain. What’s shocking is the enormous number of searches Alonso gets. He accounts for nearly three-quarters of the searches made by Spaniards, putting him miles ahead of his rival champions.
Brits & Finns love Formula 1’s Grand Prix champs the most
Our research isn’t only about showing you who the most popular Formula 1 Champion is. It also shows the country that cares most about the sport. The table below displays the total number of searches for F1 champions and the searches per person in each of the 14 countries we researched.
UK fans search for an F1 champion 18 times every minute.
UK fans search for Formula 1’s 33 championship-winning drivers an enormous 9.5 million times a year — that’s 18 every minute, or one search every three seconds. By contrast, South African fans search for an F1 title winner just once a minute on average.
Finns are the most passionate Formula 1 fans
Finland has three title-winning F1 drivers, Keke Rosberg, Kimi Räikkönen and Mika Häkkinen, and it might just have the most passionate Formula 1 fans on the planet, too. Our research shows that there are more searches per person for an F1 champion in Finland than in any other country with a champion driver — over one in seven Finns search for an F1 title winner.
Brazilians and Italians aren’t as interested in F1 as you’d expect
Brazil and Italy have five F1 champions and 11 titles between them, including one of the sport’s true icons, Aryton Senna (for Brazil), and its first winner, Giuseppe Farina (for Italy). With so much success and history, you’d expect Brazilians and Italians to really love F1. They don’t. They rank 12th and 8th respectively for the number of searches for past champions, with the two countries’ combined searches equalling less than the UK’s on its own.
Most popular F1 champion vs. other athletes
Our study is about finding the most searched Formula 1 champion and the most popular champion from a title-winning country. But this wasn’t enough. We wanted to know if Lewis Hamilton is the most popular athlete on the planet. To do that, we compared Hamilton to the most popular players in football, basketball, American football, golf, and tennis — five of the biggest sports on the planet. Did Hamilton win? See for yourself.
Cristiano Ronaldo is by far the most popular athlete in the world
Cristiano Ronaldo is a living legend. He’s won multiple individual awards and team trophies and might just be the greatest of all time (GOAT) in football — he certainly beats Lionel Messi for yearly searches. Ronaldo smashes his fellow athletes when it comes to searches and crushes Lewis Hamilton, with 46,800,000 annual searches to Hamilton’s 19,200,000.
Hamilton is more popular than Rafa Nadal
Rafael (Rafa) Nadal is one of the finest tennis players in history, with his 20 Grand Slam wins putting him joint-first with Roger Federer on the all-time men’s winner list. But Rafa can’t compete with Hamilton when it comes to popularity, with over 300,000 fewer searches a year.
Basketball is more popular than American football
American football is believed to be the most popular spectator sport in America. Our results show this might not be the case. It certainly isn’t when it comes to player popularity because Tom Brady (the golden boy of American football) gets fewer searches than basketball’s main man, LeBron James. Brady is searched for 28,800,000 times a year, which is over 3 million less than James’ 32,400,000 searches.
To obtain the information used in this resource, we compiled a list of the 33 Championship-winning Formula 1 drivers and the 14 countries they represent.
Next, we analysed Google search volume using Ahrefs for the three most popular F1 champions, gathering the five most asked questions globally for each champion.
We then collected search volume for each of the 14 nations these 33 champions represent, so we could compare the popularity of each champion in these countries. This data was combined with population numbers taken from Worldometer, so we were able to demonstrate the number of searches made per 1,000 people in each of the 14 nations.
Finally, we selected five of the most popular sports on the planet and gathered the search volume for the most renowned athletes for each of these sports. The sports we picked were football, basketball, American football, tennis, and golf, each of which was chosen due to its worldwide popularity. The most renowned athlete from each of these sports was selected using a combination of their search volume numbers and global recognition/celebrity.
Who are we
iCompario is the free online marketplace for business products and services, where managers and owners can research and rapidly compare fuel cards, vehicle tracking systems, insurance, telecoms and other essentials. The team follows up online queries by telephone so every site visitor finds their ideal, future-proof product at the best price possible.