The Top Five American F1 Drivers

Chapman Andretti Lotus 1978 Dutch Grand Prix

Ahead of the United States Grand Prix, we’re taking a look at the country’s most successful F1 protagonists.

They may not have had a front-running driver in some time now, but America has produced a number of world-class racing talents over the years. Here are our pick of the bunch.

5 - Eddie Cheever

No American has started more grands prix than Eddie Cheever. The Phoenix-born driver began early, making his F1 debut for Hesketh at the 1978 South African Grand Prix aged 20.

However it was not until 1982 that his career kicked off. Switching to Ligier, he recorded seven podiums between ‘82 and ‘83, including a runner-up finish at Detroit.

However that was the peak of his F1 career. Over the next few years he bounced between Benetton, Haas, and then Arrows, where he made a home between 1987 and ‘89. Cheever was impressive again at the British squad, scoring a podium a piece in ‘88 and ‘89 before departing to compete on home turf.

Away from F1, Cheever went on to win the 1998 Indy 500 and ran his own IndyCar team until 2006. He currently works as a TV commentator for the series.

4 - Richie Ginther

Ginther first appeared in F1 driving a Ferrari, scoring a podium at Monza behind fellow countryman Phil Hill. He went full-time at the Scuderia in ’61, then moved to BRM for ’62, helping the team to score that year’s constructors title. In 1963 he finished third in the standings, then switched to the fledgling Honda squad for 1965.

It was here that he finally broke his F1 win duck by triumphing at the Mexican Grand Prix. He had notched up 13 podiums before finally recording his first F1 win, and also earned the distinction of taking Honda’s maiden triumph in Formula 1.

However Ginther’s career fizzled out thereafter. He started just five more grands prix, then quit racing in 1967 after a fiery accident in qualifying for the Indy 500, though he is also said to have tired of F1’s political nature. He later went into business, but died of died of a heart attack in 1989 aged 59.

3 - Dan Gurney

Like Ginther, Dan Gurney made his F1 debut for Ferrari, but it was at Brabham that he enjoyed most success.

The New York native drove for BRM in 1960, then joined Porsche in ’61. He was a podium regular and scored the marquee’s first F1 win in ’62, only for the project to be canned due to concerns over the cost. Gurney then moved to Brabham and would also record their first victory, triumphing at the French and Mexican Grands Prix in ’64.

Perhaps inspired by owner-driver Jack Brabham, Gurney then went on to found Anglo-American Racers alongside Carroll Shelby. He spent three seasons at the team, scoring their only victory at the 1967 Belgian Grand Prix, before the money ran out the following year.

But though the F1 arm was dead the team continued. Gurney scored three Indy 500 podiums, won races in NASCAR, and later helped guide his son Alex’s racing career. What’s more, he is credited with creating the champagne-spraying tradition after drenching A.J Foyt on the podium at Le Mans in 1967.

2 - Phil Hill

America’s first world champion, and the only one to be born on U.S soil, Phil Hill hailed from Miami, Florida, and debuted at the 1958 French Grand Prix aboard a Maserati 250F fielded by Jo Bonnier. Later that year he joined Ferrari and earned a full-time drive with the Scuderia by scoring back-to-back podiums in Italy and Morocco.

Hill continued to impress over the following two seasons, scoring a number of podiums and finally taking his first victory at the tail end of the 1960 campaign. He picked a perfect place to do so, triumphing in Ferrari’s back yard at the Italian Grand Prix.

Unfortunately his title-winning year was tinged with tragedy. With two rounds to run Hill sat a close second to team-mate Wolfgang von Trips, but the German was killed at Monza in a dreadful accident that also claimed the lives of 15 spectators. Hill went on to win the race and the world title.

It would be his last F1 win. Hill split with Ferrari in late ’62 and never returned to the podium, contesting three fruitless seasons with ATS, Cooper and Gurney's AAR team before leaving the sport.

He was also a highly successful endurance racer, claiming three wins at both the Le Mans 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours.

In retirement Hill became closely involved with the classic car world and also worked in TV. He died in 2008 aged 81.

1 - Mario Andretti

Born in Italy, Andretti moved to America as a teenager, later becoming a U.S citizen and racing under the Stars and Stripes. He first made a name for himself in the States, winning both the Indy 500 and the Daytona 500 during the sixtes, before seeking his fortune in F1.

He won his first race for Ferrari in 1971, but it was not until he landed a full-time Lotus seat in 1976 that Andretti’s grand prix career really took off. After finishing third in the standings in 1977 he became world champion the following year thanks to six race wins.

Lotus faded thereafter and Andretti did not win again in F1, his final podium coming for Ferrari at Monza during their tragic 1982 campaign.

Now in his forties, you'd have expected Mario to hang up his helmet. No chance. He returned to IndyCar with great success, winning the 1984 title and plenty more races besides. Take a bow, Mario: not many can claim to be a racing legend in both Italy and America.

Today, the Andretti name remains a by-word for speed in the States, while Mario is rightly regarded as worldwide racing royalty.