Formula 1 drivers are the best of the best, so when trying to figure out exactly who might even top that list is a bit of a challenge. Nevertheless, here are five drivers who have absolutely excelled at the sport, and redefined what it means to be an F1 driver.

5. Fernando Alonso

A two-time World Champion of Formula 1, this young driver has enjoyed 32 wins in his budding career, becoming the youngest driver to win the Grand Prix in 2003. He also has the record for the highest number of championship points in his career.

4. Jenson Button                  

Another young buck, Jenson Button  is a British driver who has made a huge impression in recent seasons, winning the World Drivers’ Championship at the Brazilian Grand Prix, among others.

3. James Hunt

Known primarily for his well-publicized rivalry with Niki Lauda, James Hunt was a hotshot driver in his own right. Enjoying ten wins over the course of his career, he was a gregarious, confident driver who always knew how to make an impression.

2. Niki Lauda

Nicknamed “The Rat” for his bucktoothed appearance, this German F1 driver has one of the more dramatic comeback stories in the sport. After crashing and suffering horrific burns over much of his head and face during the 1976 German Grand Prix, he came back again to race a month and a half later in Italy, defying the odds and his own pain to maintain a standing in the rankings.

1. Ayrton Senna

Perhaps one of the biggest names in Formula 1, Ayrton Senna was a three-time winner of the Formula One world championships, quickly cementing his status as one of the best drivers in the world. His 1994 death during the San Marino Grand Prix remains one of the most tragic accidents in modern sport.

When it comes to racing, nothing beats Formula 1 for sheer kineticism, performance, speed and drama. Sure, you can have your NASCARs, your drag racing, or your local go-kart tournament, but for me, Formula 1 is perfection on wheels.

One of the things I love most about Formula 1 are the cars themselves. Formula 1 cars are faster than anything else in the world, especially in a circuit; their unique designs allow for F1 drivers to take hairpin turns down treacherous corners, getting up to 220 miles per hour.

They’ve got a very unique style, looking like a cross between a rocketship and the Batmobile – you can’t drive one of these to the supermarket. This makes F1 racing special, since you get the feeling that these wild, powerful beasts couldn’t exist anywhere but on these tracks and with these racers.

There’s an international element to F1 that I also adore; given its European roots, there exists a traditionalism and a sense of history that pervades the sport. The drivers seem like pure sportsman, and the involvement of the crew behind each driver is appropriately celebrated and encouraged. When a Formula 1 car goes out onto the track, it feels more like the collective effort of many different people than just the work of a single celebrity driver.

All in all, there are many reasons I love Formula 1 as a sport. There’s an old-school European classiness I love, the cars and races are exciting and different, and the sheer amount of effort and engineering that goes into the creation of each and every event is something I can’t help but admire. Because of these things and more, I always wait for the next Grand Prix with bated breath, hoping to catch my next race.

pit stops

Since I was a child I was fascinated by the crew that works the pit stop — specifically how the team could repair, replace tires, make mechanical adjustments, and refuel all in a timely manner. Looking back it seems like an extraordinary stressful occupation to hold, not to mention the well-being of the driver is in the hands of your team. I imagine all of the pit crew must sync their watches together (which is why they are all the same brand), and know exactly how long each task should take, to optimize speed and quality of each performance. It still fascinates me.

One underrated pit crew I enjoyed was the Penske Racing pit crew. Led by crew chief Paul Wolfe, the team is one of the most effective in the business. Despite making a few mistakes in a season that Brad Keselowski not only took five races, Keselowski also claimed the first Sprint Cup championship for himself and Roger Pnske, the team owner. Newman’s pit crew won the Sprint Pit Crew Challenge in 2007.

Another admirable team is the Hendrick Motorsports pit crew. Crew chief Chad Knaus is a pro in building an exceptional team – the current team won the most recent seasons Sprint Pit Crew Challenge. A master of his art, and truly innovative, Chad Knaus became frustrated with his team at the end of the 2010 Chase, and replaced several members of his own crew with members of his teammate’s, Jeff Gordon. Because of this split-second decision, Jimmie Johnson went on to win the championship. To boast his leadership, Knaus can say he was the foundation to Jimmie Johnson winning five consecutive Sprint Cup championships from 2006 through 2010.

An infamous team, Michael Waltrip Racing, is another example of an excellent brand that performs exceptionally thanks to its crew. Driver Clint Bowyer and crew chief Brian Pattie were celebrates in 2012. The team was a bit of an anomaly in the sense of how well the team worked together, almost as an autonomous unit. An interesting point to think of when considering this team is that both Bower and Pattie were castoffs from other teams –  Bowyer was let go from Richard Childress Racing due to a lack of sponsorship, and Pattie was released from Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, where he previously served as the crew chief for Juan Pablo Montoya. Everything worked out for the best with Bowyer taking second the most recent season; it will be exciting to see how the brand grows and continues to perform effortlessly.

Something to consider when getting to know the names of the crew, crew-leaders, and the drivers they support, is that these people all work to the second. They have to practice relentlessly, watch in hand, to be sure that an entire plethora of tasks can be completed fully and without the slightest doubt of error. And when the race is on, there certainly can not be room for mistake. These teams all work with the highest respect of the sport and absolute love of the vehicles they adjust, fix, manipulate, and innovate. When you find yourself getting caught up in the race, the drivers, the teams, take a moment to thank the crew – they are the true, silent geniuses of the racing world.

Medics are the most important part of an F1 team, but their expertise can only go so far without the resources to implement it. In the ebb and flow of an F1 race, all manner of things can happen – cars going that fast are bound to crash sooner or later. When that happens, medics have to be on hand with everything the driver needs to survive and recover from an injury. To that end, blood reserves are possibly the most important part of a F1 medic’s arsenal.

The 200+ mph speeds that Formula 1 racers tend to reach mean that, when an accident occurs, there is a much greater chance of injury and loss of blood. Often, transfusions are needed immediately to recover blood supply and keep drivers alive in dire circumstances.

It is for that reason that F1 medics must always keep a large supply of blood reserves as part of their equipment; when transfusions become needed, medics can begin the process within a minute. Time is always of the essence in these kinds of situations, and so ensuring that medics have the blood reserves they need is crucial to make sure F2 drivers have the best chance of survival and recovery as possible.

While it is always hoped that they are not needed, the presence of a medic, armed with appropriate blood reserves, is an imperative in the high-stakes world of Formula 1.

Blood reserves are an indispensible resource for medics, as they need to work as fast as possible to keep drivers alive in the event of a catastrophic emergency such as a high-speed crash. If you need any other reason to donate, just think about a pint of your blood saving Dennis Villeneuve’s life one day.

Before I go, a quick public service announcement: go give blood. If you don’t like giving blood, go volunteer. You don’t have to have training as a phlebotomist to help out around the clinic. It’s important!

When one thinks of the people involved in Formula 1 racing, their mind usually turns to the drivers, then maybe to the pit crew, the color commentators, and so on. Certainly, these are important roles in the logistics of actually starting and finishing a race. However, what most people don’t realize is that the most important person on a Formula 1 team is the one you hope you never need – the medic.

When I go to an event, I always keep an eye on the medics. It’s probably more interesting to me than most, since I have been in the medical/coding/billing industry for years — I know, it’s surprising I can afford to go to events on a billing specialist’s salary!  Kidding, kidding…

Formula 1 is a fast and dangerous sport, with many F1 cars reaching over 200 mph over the course of a race. Even though manufacturers and engineers do their best to protect the drivers and prevent life-threatening accidents as much as possible, it’s impossible to make a race 100% safe. When something happens, it’s the job of the medic to do everything they can to make sure the drivers are safe and sound.

Medics are on hand at every second of the race, with a bevy of high-tech medical equipment intended to get the driver out of a car, perform necessary first aid and treat injuries as best they can until more medical help can arrive.

There is a medical chase car at the end of this pit lane at every race, which can ferry the medic to a car in need at any moment and at any place on the track. Paramedics and emergency doctors are trained and motivated to be on the scene of an accident within 30 seconds to extricate the driver from an emergency situation and begin treatment right away.

Because of the high-stakes nature of Formula 1 racing, and the life-threatening conditions drivers put themselves in, no one is more important to a racecar driver than their medic. Their expertise can mean the difference between life and death.

I’ll never forget the first time I camped out to get to the 2013 British Grand Prix in Silverstone; I had flown there from America specifically to go to that race. I’d been a fan of Formula 1 all my life, and I resolved that I would finally see a Grand Prix race in person. I prepared accordingly – passport, tent, supplies – and made my way across the pond to England in June.

The day of, I was so nervous; my palms were sweating, just as much from nerves as from the humid conditions that day. Like any Formula 1 Grand Prix event, the crowd was huge, so I made sure to camp out early. Bringing my fancy backpacking tent and the binoculars my grandpa gave me, I set it up, laid out my dinner, and just sat around and enjoyed the day. I had books, I had streaming sports coverage on my iPad – I was set.

One of the best parts of my little Grand Prix camping trip, however, was the people; dozens of other families and groups of friends were camping out as well, so we would all wander from tent to tent, getting to know each other. I made quite a few new friends that day, some of whom made the rounds every year. It being the first time I’d ever visited Britain, the cultural barrier was high – it took me forever to figure out that chips were fries – but we all had a good laugh, and everyone made me feel so welcome.

It was here that I really understood what made Formula 1 so special – it brings so many different kinds of people together for the love of the sport. By the time we were able to enter the racetrack to see the Grand Prix, I almost didn’t want to leave my tent.

There’s a surprising overlap between Formula 1 racing ability and musical talent; some of the best racers on the track can crank out some rockin’ tunes once they’re out of the driver’s seat. Of course, I’m a bit biased here. I grew up playing an old Williams Allegro piano, and I now play digital piano in a band. But hear me out.

If you look hard enough, you can see drivers like Sebastian Vettel or Michael Schumacher on some very surprising viral videos, and Jacques Villeneuve has actually released albums. So what makes for this odd confluence of skill sets?

It’s pretty obvious that sheer talent and stage presence is a huge factor in both music and driving; in order to succeed on the track and behind the mic, you have to have something innate, something basic within you that has the ability to perform.

It doesn’t hurt that F1 drivers must learn to be pretty comfortable in public, as their public lives in the race mean that millions of eyes are watching them. When you are exposed to that much pressure on a regular basis, the thought of getting up and singing a little ditty is probably easy by comparison.

In many ways, both music and racing call for a singular sense of timing, rhythm and composition. You have to time a turn just as precisely as you need to hit the right note at the correct beat when playing an instrument – these drivers certainly know how to do both those things, and the skills can strongly correlate to each other.

Another reason musicians make the best race car drivers, honestly, is that music provides a wonderful stress reliever and outlet for the drivers’ frustrations – having something to redirect that energy can keep them focused for the next race.