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The United States of America has produced some very iconic drivers in the history of the sport, including Mario Andretti, Phil Hill, Dan Gurney, and Michael Andretti, just to name a few. However, when it comes to the current crop of F1 drivers, there hasn’t been much representation from the US until recently. There have been 21 drivers who have raced under the Stars and Stripes in F1, a few of whom only took part in the Indy 500, which back in the day was classified as an F1 championship race too.
The American F1 Pioneers
The first American driver to make it to F1 was Harry Schell; he entered his first F1 race in 1950, the same year as the inaugural championship. He raced for a total of five seasons, with a best finish of second place in the 1958 Dutch Grand Prix. He also made his sole appearance for Scuderia Ferrari in the 1955 Monaco Grand Prix. Unfortunately, Schell was killed in a crash during testing in 1960, which was a devastating blow to American motorsport.
Phill Hill was the first American F1 World Champion, with the Prancing Horses no less. He debuted in 1958 and was admired for his smooth driving style. He is the most successful American to drive for Scuderia Ferrari; he finished second in the championship in 1960 and won it in 1961. He bowed out of the sport in 1964 but continues to be involved as a journalist.
The next American driver to make an impact in F1 was Dan Gurney. He had a relatively long career in F1, from 1959 to 1970, and he took four Grand Prix during his career, out of which three of them were for three different constructors. The numbers here don’t do justice to his career. Dan was one of the frontrunners of his time and would probably be a world champion if he had access to better machinery. Gurney was also the first driver to win races in Formula 1, IndyCar, and NASCAR. He later went on to start his own team, the “All American Racers’ , and his legacy in the sport is still felt to this day. He is known as the man who started the tradition of spraying champagne on the podium.
Richie Ginther is America’s forgotten F1 winner. Richie is one of five American drivers to win a grand prix, yet in most American F1 discussions, he is forgotten. He competed in F1 from 1960–67, during which he finished on the podium 14 times, including two 2nd place finishes at Monaco, another two at Monza, and a win at the 1965 Mexican Grand Prix, giving a young Honda team their first ever win in F1. His best ever season was 1963, when he finished third in the driver’s championship.
The Italian Born American World Champion to Race For Ferrari
Mario Andretti’s F1 debut was nothing short of magic; the American put his Lotus on pole in the 1968 US Grand Prix. Mario is perhaps the most famous American driver to ever compete in Formula 1. He competed part-time from 1968–1972 and 1974–1975 before finally joining as a full-time driver from 1975–1981.
He drove for Lotus, Parnelli, and Scuderia Ferrari at that time and came back to take part in a few one-off races for Williams and Ferrari for the 1982 season. He won the 1978 F1 World Championship with Team Lotus and scored 12 Grand Prix victories during his career. Andretti is also one of only two drivers to win races in F1, IndyCar, NASCAR, and sports cars, cementing his place as one of the all-time greats in motorsport. Andretti’s success in F1 helped raise the profile of American drivers in the sport and inspired a new generation of talent.
The Most Capped American in F1
The next American driver to make an impact in F1 was Eddie Cheever. He competed in Formula 1 from 1978 to 1989, with a best finish of second place in the 1982 Detroit Grand Prix and the 1983 Canadian Grand Prix. His most successful season came in 1983 with Renault, where he finished 7th in the world championship with four podium finishes to his name. Cheever has started the most grand prix as an American, but in those 132 starts over 12 years, he failed to take a pole, win, or fastest lap.
A Legacy to Uphold
Michael Andretti, son of Mario, had a brief stint in F1 with Mclaren in 1993 but failed to score a point. Michael is a legend in the Indy series, where he runs Andretti Autosport after winning all of what was on offer as a driver. There have been rumours that Andretti Autosport is evaluating options to join the F1 grid in 2026, when the new F1 regulations are in place.
The Latest Americans on the Grid
The last American driver to compete in Formula 1, prior to Logan Sargeant joining in 2023, was Alexander Rossi. He made his F1 debut with Manor Racing in 2015 and competed in five races that season. Rossi’s brief stint in F1 saw him win no points in a car that, in all honesty, wasn’t fit to compete with the midfield for point-scoring finishes. Like most American drivers, he went on to compete in IndyCar, where he achieved considerably more success.
Logan Sargeant is the latest American to join the Formula One grid. He joined the Willams F1 team after being their reserve driver for the 2022 season. Logan hasn’t had as much success in the junior formula series as other drivers but had a respectable debut F2 season despite having to spend three seasons in F3. Logan Sargeant became the first American driver to taste the winner’s champagne in Formula 2 after winning the feature race at the 2022 British Grand Prix.
While the USA has produced a handful of drivers who have left a mark in Formula 1, this article only covers a few of them. The likes of Danny Sullivan, Scott Speed, and Peter Revson, among others, have had to be left out. A lot of the drivers to race under the American flag weren’t born in the USA; Mario Andretti lived in Italy till he was 15.
The last American F1 winner was Mario Andretti, with his win in the 1978 Dutch Grand Prix. It has been 45 years since then, and no American has come close since. Logan Sargeant doesn’t seem to have what it might take to be a Grand Prix winner just yet, so it seems that the USA might have to wait a bit longer before they can boast of another race winner.
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