Grasping the moment


Exulted Lord High Moderator of the Apex
Staff Member
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Given the ongoing debate surrounding Hamiltons debut with McLaren I thought it would be interesting to look at other drivers who have made their debuts in what would be described as good cars. Realising that this would be a pretty long list I then thought I would narrow it down to just those who have won a world title. The criteria is then seperated down further to those that made their debuts in winning cars and then went on to win a title with that team, those who made their debut in winning cars but went on to take a title with another team, those who made their debut in a non winning car but went on to take a world title with that team and finally those who made their debut in a non winning car but went on to take a world title with another team.

Winning Car, Won title with that team

Giuseppe Farina - Alfa Romeo
Juan Manuel Fangio - Alfa Romeo
Jim Clark - Lotus
Emerson Fittipaldi - Lotus
Mario Andretti - Lotus
Jacques Villeneuve - Williams
Lewis Hamilton - Mclaren

Winning Car, Won title with another team

John Surtees - Lotus / Ferrari
Jackie Stewart - BRM / Matra
Jody Scheckter - McLaren / Ferrari

Non winning car, won title with that team

Jack Brabham - Cooper
Denny Hulme - Brabham
Alain Prost - Mclaren

Non winning car, won title with another team

Mike Hawthorn - Cooper / Ferrari
Phil Hill - Maserati / Ferrari
Graham Hill - Lotus / BRM
Jochen Rindt - Rob Walker Racing (Brabham-BRM) / Lotus
Niki Lauda - March / Ferrari
James Hunt - Hesketh / McLaren
Alan Jones - Hesketh / Williams
Nelson Piquet - Ensign / Brabham
Keke Rosberg - Theodore / Williams
Ayrton Senna - Toleman / McLaren
Nigel Mansell - Lotus / Williams
Michael Schumacher - Jordan / Benetton
Damon Hill - Brabham / Williams
Mika Hakkinen - Lotus / McLaren
Fernando Alonso - Minardi / Renault
Kimi Raikkonen - Sauber / Ferrari
Jenson Button - Williams / Brawn
Sebastian Vettel - BMW Sauber / Red Bull

There are a couple of ones on this list that are hard to place because for example, in the case of Jim Clark, the works Lotus team did not take a race victory in 1960 however the Lotus 18 he was driving won twice in the hands of Stirling Moss that season so the car was more than good enough. The same also applies to Alan Jones who was entered in a private Hesketh in the same season that James Hunt took the works Hesketh to victory.

As you can also see, 11 world champions made their debuts in cars that took a win in their first season (note it may not have been them behind the wheel at the time)

EDIT: Jones moved from Winning Car, Title with another to Non-Winning Car, Title with another
Jones had a few entries in the Hesketh before Hunt won the dutch Grand Prix, these were Spain, Monaco, Belgium and Sweden. In the dutch GP he entried with a Hill, and also with a Hill in France, England and Germany. So when he drove the Hesketh, it wasn't a race winning car yet.

I see you mention Phill Hill starting in a Maserati. That was the 250F, with which Fangio in the previous year was WDC. It didn't win in 1958, but it was a race winning car, because it won races the previous year.
Interesting point about Phil Hill however my criteria was that the car had to win in the same season as the driver made his debut. I don't think driving a season old car would count as having the best equipment. As for Jones, Hunt may have won after Jones had moved on to Hill but the car was a winner that season. What does every one else think?
Striking how few drivers there are in category one, particularly since Fangio and Farina are only partial members. Loyalty doesn't seem to have changed much over the years - though of course through various periods of F1 there haven't been many teams to choose from, and even fewer competitive ones.
In the races Jones drove with the Hesketh, Hunt scored 0 points. Before the dutch GP Hunt only scored 7 points with the Hesketh (6 points in the first race, and 1 point in the second race). Anyway: if you call the Hesketh a race winning car for Jones, it's also a race winning car for Hunt, because it won a race that season, so Hunt did start his career with a race winning car. After all the car did win a race that season.

BTW you could argue that the March that Lauda did his first race with in 1971 (Austria) was a much better car than the Hesketh in 1975. Upto Austria Peterson scored 17 points with it. Which is more than Hunt scored in the same number of races in 1975. In 1971 Peterson scored 33 points in 11 races. In 1975 Hunt scored the same amount of points in 14 races. But then again: Lauda only did the one race in 1971. So it's hard to judge him by that. Still: although the car wasn't a racewinner, it was a very good car.

Andretti drove a race winning car in 1968. but he only entered one race. So that's as hard to judge as Lauda. Andretti took the pole in that race though, so that is something.

In the race (Reims) where Phil Hill drove the Maserati, a Maserati (Fangio) scored 3 points, he himself finished 6th, with Maseratis also finishing 8th, 9th and 10th.In earlier races several people had scored points with the Maserati 250F, including a fastest lap by Fangio in the first race.
Phil Hills' next entry was with a Ferrari Dino 156, but his third with a Ferrari Dino 246, which had won two races that year. So anyway by any means in his first racing season (not a full one though), he drove a race winning car.

My point: it's hard to compare them like you did. There's people who started their career in a good car and kept that car for one or several seasons. There's people who started in a good car, but returned later in a not so good one (Lauda got his first full season in a March in 1972, but then it was not nearly as good a car as in 1971). There's people who started in a good car, but only did a few races, only to return later in a not so good car. There's people who started in a not so good car, but then quickly got a chance in a good (racewinning) one (Phil Hill, Schumacher). There's people who started in a rubbish car and kept in a rubbish car for years until they finaly got a good one.

Also you criterium that a driver went on to win a title with the team is a bit ambiguous. Not everyone one in the list stayed with the team until the won a title. I already mentioned Andretti, but Prost is another.
Wombcat, you have made some very good points and as a result I have moved Alan Jones down to the Non-Winning Car catagory. The reason that Hunt was there already was because he didn't win a race in his first season with Hesketh in 1974 and therefore made his debut in a non-winning car.

Yes, I agree with you it is hard to compare in the minute detail the type of car that a driver debut's in and where he ends up but what I think the list does show is a broad over view. Obviously prior to the early 70's when teams could field as many drivers as they like then it was far easier for a driver to debut in a winning car. Take BRM in 1972 where they fielded 5 drivers and won one race.

I also accept that there are one or two issues such as Prost making his debut in a very poor McLaren before moving to a stronger Renault team and then back to an even stronger McLaren again. The fact remains though that he did start in what remains one of the poorest McLarens ever made and won his title with the team 4 years later. There was no other catagory he could have slotted in to.
Hill was only driving the Maserati as a "fish or cut bait" goad to Ferrari. He was already driving their sports cars and Enzo kept dropping hints that Phil would be given an F1 ride, but then never came through.

Just a side note: I believe that Phil still holds the record for the fastest ever land speed in an MG--254.9mph in a streamliner at Bonneville in 1959
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