Smooth V Fizzy (A historical debate)

cider_and_toast

Exulted Lord High Moderator of the Apex
Staff Member
Premium Contributor
The original Fizzy v smooth debate was originally about the team dynamic between the two Mclaren drivers however it's expanded beyond that. FB posted a comparison of driver styles between team mates and who came out on top.

To continue to debate it in the original thread would have got confusing so we've put it in a new one to expand the discussion.

FB's original post:

Just to pick up on a point made earlier on other drivers "perceived" as smooth:

Alain Prost (smooth) - beaten by Aytron Senna (fizzy)
Damon Hil (smooth) - beaten by Michael Schumacher (fizzy)

and to add a few of my own:

Carlos Reutemann (smooth) - beaten by Alan Jones (fizzy)
Fernando Alonso (smooth (as well as being as dull as ditch water)) - beaten by Lewis Hamilton
Gerhard Berger (smooth) - beaten by Ayrton Senna (fizzy)
Jacques Laffite (smooth) - beaten by Keke Rosberg & Didier Pironi (fizzy)
Graham Hill (smooth) - beaten by Jim Clark (fizzy? Q mark added as I'm not sure if that's a fair description of Clark but he was certainly a driver who could adapt his style to suit the car, conditions & what was needed in the race)
Jody Scheckter - would have been beaten by Gilles Villeneuve (fizzy) if Villeneuve hadn't been such a great team man.
Nelson Piquet (smooth) - beaten in all ways by Nigel Mansell (fizzy) apart from in the WDC

The only exception to this I can think of is Prost vs Rosberg snr but Keke had such appaling reliability during his time at Mclaren it's not really fair to draw a comparison.

From my perspective there appears to be a bit of a pattern emerging.
 

slickskid

Points Scorer
Supporter
I'm having a real hard time getting my head around Alonso's style as being smooth but he sure wasn't beaten by Hamilton in 2007, it was a draw.
 

siffert_fan

Too old to watch the Asian races live.
Contributor
You overlook that Prost beat Senna as often as the reverse.

Also, on which side of the equation do Stirling Moss and Jackie Stewart fall? Stewart routinely beat Rindt (undoubtedly fizzy), and I would argue that Jackie fell into the "smooth" category.
 

FB

Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
I take your point Siffert_fan, I was using a little "poetic license" to justify an argument. If you look at the head to head between Senna Prost at Mclaren (the only fair comparison) the stats break down like this:

Senna: 13 wins, 18 podiums, 26 poles, 150 points, 1 championship
Prost : 11 wins, 25 podiums, 4 poles, 163 points, 1 championship

Prost was probably the more consistent driver but, in my opnion at least, Senna was the quicker. I think it's fair to say Senna always went for the win where as Prost played the percentages which worked for him in their 2nd season together. I certainly wasn't suggesting Prost wasn't a great driver but Senna was by far the more exciting of the two to watch.

On Moss and Stewart this is really outside of my era. Moss vs Fangio? Who would be Fizzy and who smooth? I was a bit nervous about comparing Hill and Clark as I never saw them race, hence the caveat in my posting as, from what I have read, Clark was simply a complete driver.
 

siffert_fan

Too old to watch the Asian races live.
Contributor
I think that the undeniable fact is that the "fizzy" drivers are the more entertaining to watch as they ply their craft. They exhibit car control that makes it obvious to all why they are racers and we are not.

I think that Prost is one of the most under-rated drivers ever. Despite his record, and he could have easily had two more WDCs to his credit, he is rarely on people's "all-time greats" lists. I believe that this is because while he was extremely fast, he was so smooth that he never appeared to be pushing, so people discount his efforts.
 

cider_and_toast

Exulted Lord High Moderator of the Apex
Staff Member
Premium Contributor
With Prost it was always one of those Beatles V Stones type arguments. You could support one or the other but not both, at least that's the way it was in our household. Of course I was always a Senna fan because of him driving a Lotus at the time.

There is more to the Prost / Senna debate than just driving skill of course. It was also about the flamboyant Brazilian with the fiery temper who drove on the very edge of the limit and showed it, versus the calculating French driver who very rarely showed any emotion but could drive with the greatest of precision so that as you say S_F he made it look almost too easy.
 

snowy

Champion Elect
Jenson Button is a joy to watch, he is often so serene and I have no difficulty appreciating the effortless way he displays his talents. Genius' often make extremely complex and difficult things look effortless, it is what Tiger Woods and Roger Federer do (That's not right is it? Tiger is quite fizzy... but his swing is effortless). It is what Fangio, Clark and Stewart did, there was no drama, no tearing the car back from the edge, just serene, supreme knowledge of where the edge is and the confidence to approach but not exceed it.

That kind of skill is never boring, ones own ability to appreciate it is the limiting factor.
 

teabagyokel

#dejavu
Valued Member
snowy said:
Genius' often make extremely complex and difficult things look effortless, it is what Tiger Woods and Roger Federer do (That's not right is it? Tiger is quite fizzy... but his swing is effortless).

You do have a point on one thing, though. The best example anywhere in sport in the last decade would probably be smooth Federer and fizzy Nadal. But you do see it everywhere in sport:

Hamilton vs Button (as we mentioned)
Brazil vs Argentina (football)
England vs France (rugby union, in the tie's heyday and SA vs NZ as well)
Arsenal vs Chelsea
Borg vs McEnroe
...

I think Prost vs Senna is far from settled, but Alain Prost's reputation seems to be getting a massive hit in this, he won 4 championships and lost another by half a point. He won more races than anyone bar Schumacher. He was runner-up in the WDC on 4 occasions (including the half-point loss) and won one WDC in a non-WCC car.

Also important to remember, is that Prost scored more points than Senna in Senna's WDC year with Prost as a team-mate. Prost would have won that Championship after 1991! I suspect "Senna is better than Prost" is amplified somewhat by Senna's tragic passing. Prost was every bit his equal if not better.
 

Galahad

Not a Moderator
Valued Member
I wonder if there's a correlation between dominant cars and 'fizzy' drivers coming out on top?

1988: McLaren dominant, Senna beats Prost (ish).
1989: McLaren come under pressure from Ferrari and occasionally Williams; Prost beats Senna.

1991: Williams fighting with McLaren; Patrese matches Mansell up to mid-season
1992: Williams dominant; Mansell dominates Patrese.

If we accept that DC was basically smooth, and Mika was the fizzier one, perhaps there's an even stronger correlation there? Iffy McLarens - evenly matched; dominant McLarens - Mika ahead.

Do we get more peaks and troughs with 'fizzy' drivers? Is that why? If you have a bad race in a dominant car you still get a good result; if you have one in a poor car you may end up nowhere (or in the gravel). But then, of course, there have been fizzy drivers who've been bloody good everywhere!
 

teabagyokel

#dejavu
Valued Member
Galahad said:
I wonder if there's a correlation between dominant cars and 'fizzy' drivers coming out on top?

1988: McLaren dominant, Senna beats Prost (ish).
1989: McLaren come under pressure from Ferrari and occasionally Williams; Prost beats Senna.

1991: Williams fighting with McLaren; Patrese matches Mansell up to mid-season
1992: Williams dominant; Mansell dominates Patrese.

If we accept that DC was basically smooth, and Mika was the fizzier one, perhaps there's an even stronger correlation there? Iffy McLarens - evenly matched; dominant McLarens - Mika ahead.

Do we get more peaks and troughs with 'fizzy' drivers? Is that why? If you have a bad race in a dominant car you still get a good result; if you have one in a poor car you may end up nowhere (or in the gravel). But then, of course, there have been fizzy drivers who've been bloody good everywhere!

Then again

2008: Honda's a turd: Barrichello beats Button
2009: Brawn's a monster: Button beats Barrichello...
 
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