Formula 1 is widely seen as the pinnacle of motorsport, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have the very best racing drivers in the world.
The rise of Formula E and the incredible skills of the top rally drivers in the World Rally Championship mean the debate about which motorsport series has the best drivers is not simple.
Of course, comparing different championships is difficult because F1, Formula E and WRC require completely different skill sets.
But, the principles of driving a car as quick as possible is the same, so which series has the best drivers?
F1 vs Formula E
In the first few seasons of Formula E, the all-electric championship undoubtedly had a weaker grid compared to F1.
The quality of the Formula E field has risen significantly since the start of the Gen2 era in 2018.
In an exclusive intetview with Total-Motorsport.com, Oliver Rowland suggested the average driver level in Formula E is higher than F1.
“I didn’t think you could put any F1 driver in Formula E where they would win easily,” explained Rowland.
“I think Max [Verstappen] is the standout in F1 at the moment in terms of pace, talent and just natural ability.
“I rate the others highly, especially the younger guys like Charles [Leclerc] and George [Russell].
“But they wouldn’t come here and dominate. I know that, I’ve raced against them and I know their level.
“I would say the average here [in Formula E] is better [than F1]. I would welcome them here any time.”
To perform well in Formula E, you need to have top notch racecraft and a smart head. The cars often run nose to tail, so having the skills to defend and attack on the limit of what is allowed is key to success in Formula E.
Compared to F1, where DRS boosts a driver’s chance of overtaking, Formula E has the strategy of attack mode, which has the same amount of usage for everyone, so is more fair in that sense.
Most tracks in Formula E are street circuits, so the margin of error is tiny and there is no need for talk about track limits.
Mistakes are punished and if you’re not happy with the balance of the car, you will easily find yourself out of contention for a top five, and maybe even the points altogether.
Looking back at junior series, there are several examples of Formula E drivers beating current F1 drivers.
For instance, the 2015 Formula 3 European Championship saw Felix Rosenqvist comfortably win the title from Antonio Giovinazzi.
Jake Dennis was third, Charles Leclerc fourth with Lance Stroll, George Russell, Alex Albon and Maximilian Gunther completing the top eight.
In general though, the best drivers do make it to F1 but there are definitely some cases where some haven’t been given the same chance to reach what is seen as the top of motorsport.
Does WRC have the best drivers?
Then there is the rally driver factor. The ability for a human being to drive a car as fast as they can on tight roads, in all conditions, on different surfaces whilst listening to pace notes from their co-driver.
Prior to the sensational Kalle Rovanpera, the youngest WRC world champion was Colin McRae at 25 years old, underlining the need for experience and how difficult it is to be quick and consistent straight away.
Rally events span three or four days and whilst they are not as long as they used to be in terms of distance, trying to nail every stage and make the right decisions is more difficult than circuit racing.
Think about this. Put a single-seating racing driver, be it from F1 or Formula E, in a rally car and they would be over a minute off the pace over a standard rally stage.
Put a rally driver in a single-seater car and they will almost certainly find it easier. In that sense, rallying is more pure and requires more skill. You will find it difficult to make an argument that other racing drivers have the same completeness when it comes to driving.