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Top five Formula One drivers with the most pole positions in history

Formula One is a sport in which races are not just a one-day affair. Each race is played out over the course of three days: Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Friday usually constitutes two free practice sessions, followed another practice session and qualifying on Saturday, and the main race is held on Sunday. There are many factors that decide who wins a race, the skill of a driver, the level of operation of the car, incidents during the race and a lot more. One of the most important factors in deciding the outcome of a race is a driver’s starting position and that all comes down to the qualifying session.

Qualifying is what determines the starting position of a driver in the main race. It is common sense that the higher the starting position on the grid, the better are the chances for victory. Of course, there are some circuits where starting P2 is considered to be more of an advantage than P1, but if one is able to start from pole position, they usually have a huge advantage over the rest of the field. Earning a pole position in Formula One is a tough feat for any driver. The level of skill and concentration required during a timed lap is immense as the driver has to become completely one with their car, and it really is a testament to just how good a driver is. With that in mind, here is a look at the top five drivers with the most pole positions in Formula One history.

Lewis Hamilton

The seven-time world champion and the most successful Formula One driver in history is in an unsurprising P1 on this list. Hamilton has taken part in a total of 313 races so far in his career and has been on pole 103 times. He is the only driver in the history of the sport to have ever crossed triple figures in that statistic, and is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest. His first pole position came at the 2007 Canadian GP and his latest was at the 2021 Saudi Arabian GP.

Years activeEntriesPolesWinsTeams
2007-present313103103McLaren, Mercedes

Michael Schumacher

Another seven-time world champion, Michael Schumacher, is considered to be the greatest Formula One driver of all time and with good reason. Schumacher was the one who led Ferrari’s most dominant F1 era in the early 2000s which saw them win five constructor’s and driver’s championships straight. Schumacher entered 308 races in his career and bagged 68 pole positions. His first pole came at the 1994 Monaco GP and his last was at the 2006 Chinese GP.

Years activeEntriesPolesWinsTeams
1991-2006, 2010-20123086891Jordan, Benetton, Ferrari, Mercedes

Ayrton Senna

One of Schumacher’s biggest rivals and Hamilton’s idol Ayrton Senna completes the podium on this list. Senna, a Brazilian hero, is a three-time Formula One world champion, whose career and life ended after a tragic crash at the 1994 San Marino GP. He competed in 162 races in his career and earned 65 pole positions. His last pole position proved to be the last time he ever raced, at the infamous 1994 San Marino GP.

Years activeEntriesPolesWinsTeams
1984=19941626541Toleman, Lotus, McLaren, Williams

Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel was the star of the early 2010s era in Formula One, which saw him rack up four world championship titles from 2010 to 2013 with Red Bull Racing. The German superstar announced his retirement in 2022 but his legacy will live on forever as one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time. Vettel competed in 300 races and earned 57 pole positions. His final pole came at the 2019 Japanese GP with Scuderia Ferrari.

Years activeEntriesPolesWinsTeams
2007-20223005753Sauber, Toro Rosso, Red Bull, Ferrari, Aston Martin

Alain Prost

Along with Senna, Alain Prost was one of the Formula One superstars of the 80s and 90s. The Frenchman has won four world championship titles in his career and is the greatest French F1 driver of all time. A Ferrari and McLaren legend, Prost participated in 202 races and earned 33 pole positions. His first and last poles came at the 1981 German GP and the 1991 Japanese GP respectively. (Jim Clark also has 33 pole positions but we have taken Prost at P5 as he had to face tougher competition during his time.)

Years activeEntriesPolesWinsTeams
1980-1991, 19932023351McLaren, Renault, Ferrari, Williams

Top 10 drivers with the most pole positions in F1

DriverRace entriesPoles
Lewis Hamilton313*103
Michael Schumacher30868
Ayrton Senna16265
Sebastian Vettel30057
Alain Prost, Jim Clark202 (Prost), 73 (Clark)33
Nigel Mansell19132
Nico Rosberg20630
Juan Manuel Fangio5229
Mika Hakkinen16526
Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet177 (Lauda), 207 (Piquet)24
* – currently active