Top 10 drivers in Formula One history: Positions 6-4

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The run up to the United States release of “Rush” is on, and to mark the occasion, the NBC Sports team has assembled a countdown of the Top 10 drivers in the history of Formula One.

We’ll be revealing our picks for this very special list over the next couple of weeks here on MotorSportsTalk. We focused on positions 10 through 7 in the first post, and here’s the next batch of three, numbers 6 to 4…

No. 6 – Fernando Alonso

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Fernando Alonso – Getty Images

The first active driver on our countdown, Alonso emerged at the head of F1’s new breed of young talent in the early-to-mid-2000s. He debuted as a teenager with Minardi in 2001, and his first of 32 career victories, the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix, earned him the distinction of youngest Grand Prix winner. He achieved a similar accolade – youngest World Champion – at age 24 in 2005, his first of two consecutive titles. But that mark has been eclipsed twice since as Alonso’s bounced around from Renault, where he won both his titles, to a tumultuous single season at McLaren, back to Renault, and then to his current seat at Ferrari. In the last five or six years, Alonso frequently has had to outperform his machinery to remain in title contention, and is still widely regarded as the most complete driver on the grid today.

No. 5 – Jim Clark

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Jim Clark – Getty Images

The Scot won the 1963 and 1965 World Championships and in the latter year, he also won the Indianapolis 500. Clark’s versatility, poise, confidence, pace and ability behind the wheel were his trademarks, and during the 1960s he and Colin Chapman’s Team Lotus set the benchmark for success in F1. His Grand Prix career included what were records at the time of 25 victories and 33 pole positions, although those have since been eclipsed.  Tragically, the talented driver was killed in a Formula Two race at the Hockenheimring in 1968. Clark’s legacy lives on for those who were fortunate enough to see him race. Clark’s impact was profound on Dario Franchitti, three-time Indianapolis 500 and four-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion, as he considers Clark his racing hero.

No. 4 – Sebastian Vettel

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Sebastian Vettel – Getty Images

Vettel was destined for stardom from the moment he entered F1, and over the last five years, he’s performed a nearly unrivaled assault on the record books. Like Alonso he debuted as a teenager, and scored a point on his debut for BMW Sauber in the 2007 U.S. Grand Prix. He became the youngest race winner a year later with Scuderia Toro Rosso, formerly Minardi, at Monza in 2008. He won Red Bull’s first race in 2009 and in 2010, made it to the top of the mountain where he has established residency as F1’s youngest World Champion at age 23. Three consecutive titles, 32 victories, 40 pole positions later and with a current lead of more than 50 points in the 2013 campaign, there’s no telling when Vettel and Red Bull-Renault’s run of success will stop.

We will reveal the remaining drivers in our Top 10 after the Singapore Grand Prix on Sept. 22.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.