2021 Hall of Fame: F1 nominees

Hall of Fame

Which modern world champion deserves their place in the Motor Sport Hall of Fame? Our 2021 shortlist contains three drivers with a single title each. You choose the greatest

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Three world champions from the past 15 years with one title each. Which one deserves their place amongst the Hall of Fame great?

This year’s Formula 1 category is perhaps the most contentious of them all: we’re asking readers to decide whether Nico Rosberg, Jenson Button or Kimi Räikkönen is most deserving of the motor racing legend tag.

All three arrived in the grand prix paddock as youngsters, serving their time in the midfield pack before their career high: that came back in 2007 for Räikkönen — by a solitary point; he was followed two years later by Button in the fairytale Brawn season. Then came Rosberg’s chance to shine in 2016; the sheer effort of overcoming Lewis Hamilton prompted him to retire immediately.

You get to choose which F1 champion makes the cut. Click below to vote straight away and be in with a chance of winning highly-prized Goodwood, Silverstone Classic and Race Retro tickets, or take some more time to make up your mind and scroll down as we make the case for each contender.

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Jenson Button

Jenson Button celebrates becoming F1 World champion at the 2009 Brazilian GP

The eyes say it all: Button becomes 2009 world champion in Brazil

Crispin Thruston/DPPI

The 2009 world champion had endured a difficult career of near-misses and almost-moments up until the ’09 season but Jenson Button was one of the rising stars during the early 2000s. He made his home at BAR Honda from 2004 and after near misses, finally bagged his maiden Formula 1 victory at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix from 14th on the grid. Honda’s F1 involvement waned in the decade’s latter years but like a phoenix from the ashes, Button’s moment arrived in 2009.

From the archive

Brawn GP’s first and only effort as a constructor was special, building a car that took advantage of the double-diffuser concept that catapulted a team that was on the verge of liquidation to championship outfit. Button secured six victories in the first half of the season on the way to his first F1 title.

A switch to McLaren followed for 2010 and he saw out the remainder of his Formula 1 career with the team, finishing second in the 2011 season and adding a further six wins to his previous seven. He outscored Lewis Hamilton over their three seasons at the team and is one of the most successful British drivers in history — although some way behind his former team-mate.

 


Kimi Räikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen celebrates becoming world champion at Brazil in 2007

2007 F1 champion by a single point

Gilles Levent/DPPI

It was a rapid rise to Formula 1 for the next flying Finn. Kimi Räikkönen’s junior formula results convinced Peter Sauber to give him a test in 2000 where he impressed to such an extent he was hired for the 2001 season despite having just 23 single-seater races to his name. Points on debut impressed many, though reportedly the Finn was asleep 30 minutes prior to lights out, the first sign of a uniquely laid-back approach that has won him fans the world over.

From the archive

He was signed to McLaren in 2002 and came close to a world title in subsequent years. He likely would have won the 2005 title had his McLaren had reliability to match his speed but it was at Ferrari where he finally claimed a world title. Up against reigning champion Fernando Alonso and incredible rookie talent in Lewis Hamilton, Räikkönen and Ferrari made the most of McLaren’s internal strife to steal the title from their grasp, taking the title by a single point in Brazil at the last race of the season.

Kimi’s disdain for media commitments earned him a reputation of an old-school racer from generations gone by and plenty of fans along with it. A brief break and WRC interlude led to his F1 return with Lotus in 2012 and later he rejoined the Scuderia for 2014. He took a hugely popular victory at the 2018 US Grand Prix having gone winless for four seasons and will hang up his helmet at the conclusion of the 2021 season as the most experienced F1 driver of all-time.

 


Nico Rosberg

Nico Rosberg held up by mechanics as he celebrates becoming F1 world champion

It was a bitter battle, and Rosberg triumphed over Hamilton in 2016

DPPI

Nico Rosberg’s 2016 world championship made the Rosberg family only the second in F1 history to have a father-son champion and he had to earn it against one of the greatest drivers of his generation. Rosberg began his F1 career with Williams where inexperience and inconsistency meant impressive results were hard to come by. He scored his maiden podium in 2008 at the Australian Grand Prix but had to wait a further four years before he’d stand on the top step.

From the archive

Rosberg’s switch to Mercedes in 2010 led to more consistent points finishes but his breakthrough came at the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix, where his victory was the team’s first in F1 since 1955. Plenty more success would follow with the Silver Arrows. The team’s focus on the 2014 regulations made it comfortably the quickest team on the grid in the dawn of the turbo hybrid era, something Rosberg and former foe turned team-mate Lewis Hamilton would make great use of.

The duo had been rivals since karting but at the peak of motor sport, their friendship turned sour quickly as the only two seriously contending for the championship year after year. Following a near miss in 2014 and disappointing second effort in 2015, Rosberg dedicated himself entirely to beating Hamilton and with a methodical approach to 2016, finally secured his world title. Mission accomplished, he walked away from racing just a week later at the top of his game and on top of the F1 world.