The First Of The Losers

teabagyokel

#dejavu
Valued Member
Cider_and_toast's wonderful piece on one-time winners got me thinking about those who never won a World Championship. Now since that is roughly everyone who ever entered, I narrowed it down to those that finished second. I will consider this whilst attempting to ape cat's style in the aforementioned article, though clearly without as much style.

I have also excluded Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel, although not Rubens Barrichello.

Like cat, I have several categories. The first is the category I will call "The Team Mate"

  • Bruce McLaren - 1960. Bruce won the opening race of the 1960 season for Cooper, but was left behind when team-mate Jack Brabham won 5 on the spin, with McLaren second twice. A cursory glance shows that he only won 4 races in Formula One, and came 3rd in the Championship twice, in 1962 and 1969. However, McLaren's legacy has outstripped his personal contribution, and I don't think a WDC was ever on for him.
  • Wolfgang Von Trips - 1961. Despite a couple of podiums for Taffy in the late 1950s, he did nothing until Ferrari picked up on the British firms lack of an engine in 1961 to dominate alongside team-mate Phil Hill in 1961. He was leading the Championship after two wins, going into the fateful weekend he lost his life at Monza tangling with Jim Clark. With Ferrari's poor form for much of the rest of the decade, I doubt von Trips would have ever won the title in any other year, but I think 1961 could have been possible had he survived.
  • Ronnie Peterson - 1978. We'll be revisiting Ronnie later, so it is just prevalent to say in 1978 he was certainly a clear #2 to Andretti in the American-Italian's title winning year, before his fatality at Monza.
  • Gilles Villeneuve - 1979. Gilles can be described as the best non-World Champion, father of the worst World Champion, if you are feeling generous and cruel respectively! He won a couple of races in 1979 but was a #2 to title winning Jody Scheckter. Other than 1979 Gilles never came close to the World title, he only really broke through in 1978 and 1980/81 would be years where the #27 Ferrari were not good enough, although his legend revolves around winning two races in 1981. (Although he actually only raced #27 for 1 and a bit seasons!) However, with an excellent Ferrari in 1982, I would claim that his death that year may have been the only thing that prevented him taking the title.
  • Riccardo Patrese - 1992. Patrese had been team-mate to a World Champion before, in 1983, as Nelson Piquet took the title. Patrese was 9th in the Drivers' Championship in the same car. He did improve his showing in his twilight years, he was 3rd in the Championship as Williams' top driver ahead of Thierry Boutsen in 1989 and was 3rd behind Mansell in 1991. However, in 1992 Patrese was nowhere near the Englishman in the same car as Mansell won the title with ease. He finished a full 52 points behind Mansell in a dominant car, and only 3 points ahead of a young Michael Schumacher in a Benetton. Simply, he is lucky to be even on the list.
  • Rubens Barrichello - 2002, 2004. I am assuming Barrichello will not win the WDC, which may be quite reasonable. In 2002 and 2004, he was in a car that was unashamedly dominant over the rest of the field. Unfortuanately, he was one of the clearest #2s in any team in Formula One history. In Austria in 2002, he found himself pulling over to allow Schumacher to win. He was given the worst of all tactics and team decisions. Pretty much every retirement Ferrari had was on his car, too! Although it is clear that Ayrton Senna would not have won the title in his position in 2002 and 2004, 2009 shows as the most damning indictment of Rubens' title chances. The Brawn that dominated the opening of the season was that of Jenson Button, not contractually the #1, and not an all-time great like Schumacher. When Brawn (and Jenson) lost form, Barrichello was to pick up a couple of victories but could not hold off Vettel for second place. I doubt it was ever on for Rubens!

    My second category is one that I call "Heavy Defeat", where a driver came second but was not nearly close to the title.
  • Jose-Frolian Gonzalez - 1954. Gonzalez did well in 1954, winning the British Grand Prix. However, in a year with much fewer points on offer than today, a 16.86 point defeat was a lot. The Argentine Ferrari driver, much like the rest of the field, was unable to get anywhere near legend Juan-Manuel Fangio in 1954. He also had finished third in 1951, a lot closer to his countryman on that occasion, but with Alberto Ascari taking points off Fangio! Both his race wins came at Silverstone.
  • Richie Ginther - 1963. I'm not even sure Ginther strictly came second, having tied with Graham Hill, but since he dropped points (unlike Hill) I'm going to go for it. Unlike Hill, Ginther did not win any races in 1963 in his BRM, but Jim Clark's 7 wins (out of 10) made that a difficult challenge. Clark hit maximum points at the penultimate Mexican Grand Prix, and was forced to drop the points from his win in South Africa. Clark was way ahead of anyone else that year. Ginther's one win in Formula One came in a Honda two years later; there is no other time he came near the limelight.
  • Jacky Ickx - 1969, 1970. Ickx was clear of the rest of the field in 1969 with Jackie Stewart an absolute mile up the road in a Matra. Ickx won a couple of races in 1969. Ickx's five-point defeat in 1970 does not seem to fall into this category on the surface, but it is important to consider that after Jochen Rindt retired from the Austrian GP (which Ickx won) he was 20 points ahead of Jack Brabham in second place, and a further six points clear of Ickx. Rindt died before the start of the next round, so he was obviously in no position to add to his points tally. Simply, had Rindt not missed the last 4 races dead, Ickx would not have got close, although he did well to finish second. There were a couple of other fourth places, but if Ickx was to win the title, 1970 was to be the year.
  • Ronnie Peterson - 1971. In each of his three title years, Jackie Stewart finished a mile ahead of his nearest challenger, which in 1971 was Swedish sensation Ronnie Peterson. There were no wins for Ronnie in 1971, which included losing to Peter Gethin at Monza by a fractional amount. Despite his 10 wins in Formula One, Peterson, however, never really got close to the Championship. He was not given a chance to challenge Andretti in 1978, and he died at 34. With the loss of form of Lotus thereafter, I believe it is unlikely that he would ever have won the title had he survived.
  • Michele Alboreto - 1985. Alain Prost finally won the title in 1985 after a series of near-misses. The unfortunate man 20 points behind Prost was Ferrari's Milanese missile Michele Alboreto. 5 wins and 2 pole positions in F1 history is not the record of a man who fought for the title in the modern era, although a slow start from the Frenchman saw Alboreto lead the Championship race up till halfway. However, Alboreto faded Webber-like, failing to score in the last 5 races. It was the only time he could really even dream of it!
  • David Coulthard - 2001. Whilst Schumacher's sequence included two Championship fights with Finns in McLarens in 2000 and 2003, 2001 is the forgotten domination. It was not quite as easy as 2002 or 2004, since Ferrari/Schumacher were not quite as good. 2001 is the year no-one challenged them. Key amongst this was Hakkinen showing his class twice amongst a poor season, and Ralf winning three. When Schumi dropped points, they never fell into the same hands. Coulthard was the man who managed to pick up the pieces and drag together the most consistent season, with two race wins thrown in. Schumacher only nearly got double Coulthard's points...! He came third in the Championship on four occasions, but only in 1997 did he beat his team-mate. And 1997 was a special case...

    My third category is a special one to deal with two special cases in the late 90s. I call it "Exit Schumacher"
  • Heinz-Harald Frentzen - 1997. HHF had a pretty torrid time in 1997, despite winning the San Marino Grand Prix, he didn't really live up to Williams' expectations. He was nowhere near team-mate Villeneuve, and he was only classified as 2nd in the Championship because Schumacher was disqualified. Frentzen is a driver who had one good season, but it came instead in the less pressurised atmosphere at Jordan, where he won two races. He finished third in the Championship, and had it not been for a car failure at the chaotic European GP, he may have actually fought at the top. As it was, his career never recovered as Jordan itself descended from the top and Frentzen became the harbinger of doom for Arrows and Prost.
  • Eddie Irvine - 1999. Eddie Irvine was not nearly good enough to challenge for the title in normal circumstances. Amidst the chaos in 1999, he was able to win 4 races and challenge Hakkinen for the title with Irvine in a better car. 2 of Irvine's race wins, however, were gifts from Salo in Germany and Schumacher (and the stewards!) in Malaysia. His continued fight for the Championship was more aided by Hakkinen's failures to capitalise than any excellence from Irvine. This is a man, who in the best car, had the challenge of beating his team-mate removed! There was no other way Irvine could win.

    Next, I move on to the people who didn't come far away from winning that title...
  • Tony Brooks - 1959. Brooks only scored points in 4 of 8 races in 1959, winning two of them. Brabham also won two races, but scored more minor points. With every problem dismantling a championship so much back then, Brooks could not deal with having to retire from some good positions and Ferrari not entering the British GP and forcing him to seek out a Vanwall! He could have done it, you know...
  • Clay Regazzoni - 1974. Regazzoni went into the final race of 1974 level on points with Emerson Fittipaldi, but was struck with car problems allowing Emmo to win the title by 3 points. His career shows only one other result of that magnitude, a third place in 1970 despite missing races. An oil leak in the 1974 Italian Grand Prix retired him from the lead, which meant the dice could have rolled in his favour, rather than Fittipaldi's.
  • Carlos Reutemann - 1981. Reutemann lost the title by a single point. Obviously, any misfortune would lead to this, but a couple of lap-down finishes towards the end of the season did not help! There were retirements from promising positions. He had a few other third places in the championship, notably best-of-the-rest in 1978. He had the talent, he didn't have the luck. And then he bailed!

    Only one driver reaches the "Lost By Default" category
  • Didier Pironi - 1982. Lost the title from a good position when he lost his legs, and was absent from 5 races, where he lost the title to Keke Rosberg by 5 points. Although Pironi only won one race everyone else didn't boycott... this was 1982! In the best car, Pironi would surely have taken the title from 9 points up after his last race at the French GP (he was 16 points up from Rosberg!) He never raced again and had never gone close before. At least maybe Gilles was smiling...

    And then there is the King
  • Stirling Moss - 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958. Moss fits into many of my categories. He was the unfortuanate Mercedes team-mate of Juan Manuel Fangio in 1955. He was within three points of the legend in 1956; three points he would have added if he didn't have to leave his car in Belgium (from 2nd) and get less points for jumping in Cesare Perdisa's car - setting fastest lap (for a point!). 1957 puts him in the heavy defeat category, with Fangio kicking everyone's backside and Stirling turning up in second. Moss's absence from the French GP cannot have helped. In 1958, he spoke on behalf of Mike Hawthorn to the stewards, ensuring a non-disqualification for his rival. Stirling lost the title to him by one point. That puts him in a category all on his own. Moss then finished third for the next three years, often outdriving unreliable machinery. He was 33 when he retired in 1962. Christ, the question was could they have been Champions had a fair wind blown? A lucky Stirling Moss could have had three or four!
 

cider_and_toast

Exulted Lord High Moderator of the Apex
Staff Member
Premium Contributor
Great post TBY.

They used to say that no one will ever remember who came second but there are some real legends of F1 in that list.

I've often wondered about Gilles Villeneuve and weather he could have won a title. I believe I read somewhere that Scheckter was de-facto number one in 1979 and that Villeneuve was told to assist Scheckter in his title bid. If you look at the results from that season, Villeneuve won two of the first four races while Scheckter was second so that point of view doesn't seem to hold true.

I think personally that a myth has grown up around Villeneuve in the wake of the San Marino GP which goes along the lines of "Well Gilles was man enough to not try and break an agreement with Scheckter / Ferrari in 1979 so how could Pironi do it in 1982?". I'd like to be proven wrong but I don't think looking at the results that an agreement in 79 ever existed. If it did I'd like to see some evidence for it.
 

teabagyokel

#dejavu
Valued Member
cider_and_toast said:
I think personally that a myth has grown up around Villeneuve in the wake of the San Marino GP which goes along the lines of "Well Gilles was man enough to not try and break an agreement with Scheckter / Ferrari in 1979 so how could Pironi do it in 1982?
That is a myth that grew up because Gilles never had a chance to calm down; he died two weeks later still seething from righteous indignation. Even Senna and Prost buried the hatchet eventually.
 

cider_and_toast

Exulted Lord High Moderator of the Apex
Staff Member
Premium Contributor
teabagyokel said:
That is a myth that grew up because Gilles never had a chance to calm down; he died two weeks later still seething from righteous indignation. Even Senna and Prost buried the hatchet eventually.
Yeah I agree. The tragic circumstances of his death have been well documented but when it is then left to others to write his legacy I think issues can get distorted. How many times for example have we read "my last interview with Senna" where journalists have waffled on about "a haunted look" "a man with the world on his shoulders". It may sell papers but it's easy to obtain a first class degree in hindsight.

I also agree with what you've written about Ronnie P and it's much the same story with his racing career.
 

Brogan

🦶 Leg end
Staff Member
A superb read TBY :thumbsup:

When I have more time I'll sit down with a cup of coffee and go through it again.

To get this written in such a short space of time after c_a_t's thread is nothing short of miraculous.
 

teabagyokel

#dejavu
Valued Member
cider_and_toast said:
How many times for example have we read "my last interview with Senna" where journalists have waffled on about "a haunted look" "a man with the world on his shoulders". It may sell papers but it's easy to obtain a first class degree in hindsight.
Although on the morning of 1 May 1994 there was clearly a lot on Senna's mind, what with the Austrian flag in his cockpit and so on, half the stuff written is dripping with what is called in the business "journalistic licence" and will henceforth be referred to as "artistic lies".

The same goes for Villeneuve in some respects, his legend comes from winning a couple of races in a rubbish car in 1981, but it has to be said that guarantees nothing of his temperament when in sight of the line. Although I have concluded that his death may have prevented his title in 1982, that year was craaazy! I have to say the only driver I profiled here that I feel sure would have won a World Title had fate not intervened was Pironi - because he had such a great lead. All the rest is opinion and conjecture.

We've seen recently that winning in a rubbish car doesn't guarantee you'll be great when you get to the top of the mountain. Take Sebastian Vettel, who won in a Toro Rosso, but is making heavy weather of beating a journeyman Australian veteran who's never really looked Championship material, with heavy favouritism in his favour and both McLarens ahead. I'm not saying Vettel won't win the WDC some day or even this year (I expect he will). But the 2008 Italian GP would suggest he'd be 50 points clear by now!

By the way, if you're wondering, Massa is likely to be the poster child for "the people who didn't come far away from winning that title..." and Vettel is currently in "Heavy Defeat" with expectation that a WDC may come with a bit more circumspection when he's older.
 

cider_and_toast

Exulted Lord High Moderator of the Apex
Staff Member
Premium Contributor
teabagyokel said:
Although I have concluded that his death may have prevented his title in 1982, that year was craaazy!
The same sort of conclusion I had to apply to Jochen Rindt in the one hit wonders post. To be honest, while he was a good driver, there wasn't a great deal in his career up until 1969 to suggest that he would have been a World Champion however once he'd won it, another two years at Lotus would have surely seen him win it again??

I agree with you about Massa.
 

teabagyokel

#dejavu
Valued Member
cider_and_toast said:
I agree with you about Massa.
If he wasn't still racing, I think he'd have formed a new category with Regazzoni and probably Alboreto as a One Season Wonder.

In your case, of course, I think Button is likely to go into "Cometh the car" and if Lewis remains a one-time WDC I think he's likely to go in with Nige!


cider_and_toast said:
To be honest, while he was a good driver, there wasn't a great deal in his career up until 1969 to suggest that he would have been a World Champion however once he'd won it, another two years at Lotus would have surely seen him win it again??
... if he could beat or keep out Fittipaldi, of course. Then again in 1972, Dave Walker scored a grand total of 0 so its difficult to believe Rindt wouldn't have taken his slot.

No way Rindt would have won in 1971, Stewart was way clear.
 

cider_and_toast

Exulted Lord High Moderator of the Apex
Staff Member
Premium Contributor
Your right about Rindt in 71, the 72 was having some development issues and Stewart was supreme that year.

If he was still around in 72 then I think he would have had a pretty good chance. As for keeping Emmo out of the team, I think it's a pretty good bet that Emmo wouldn't have had a drive in 70 but for Rindts death however, given his performances in F2 and F3 he wouldn't have been out of the team for long. Given the succession of less than awesome number 2 drivers at Lotus in that period (John Miles, Dave Walker, Eppie Wietzes, Reine Wessel) it would have only been a matter of time until he was promoted to a full race seat. That would have been an interesting team, Rindt and Fittipaldi.
 

MajorDanby

Motorsports' answer to Eric the Eel
Contributor
Whey, a good hour spent on and off reading this and CaTs post TBY. Really interesting stuff mate. Thanks! :D
 

Boyle

Race Winner
Contributor
Chad Stewarthill said:
Why have you excluded Massa? Do you really think he will ever become WDC, even once?
I think he showed enough in 2007,where he gifted a couple of wins that would have been his to Kimi, and 2008 as well as the first few races of last season before his injury to merit the tag of 'title material'. It remains to be seen whether he will ever be the same following that horror injury though
 

siffert_fan

Too old to watch the Asian races live.
Contributor
Unfortunately, Tony Brooks was (even) before my time (!), but I have read that he was one of the great talents of his day, and that, given the right team (even back then) could easily have been a WDC.

Peterson was not a slam-dunk for beating Andretti, designated #2 or not. He wasn't able to thrash Emmo in equal cars, and Mario could beat Emmo like a drum. Also, Ronnie was of no particular use in developing a car; a trait which Mario had in spades!!

Regga was one of my favorites, but I always felt he was too wild to be a WDC and his 2nd place finish was a fluke.
 

Galahad

Not a Moderator
Valued Member
Thanks TBY, more excellent stuff in there.

Peterson, for what it's worth, had signed to drive for McLaren in 1979, displaying his talent for going to the right team at completely the wrong time. Certainly fair to say he wouldn't have won a title as the team struggled mightily until Dennis/Barnard arrived and the carbon car came on song.

Gilles in an emotive subject for a lot of reasons. Clearly he was an outstandingly talented driver and equally clearly he had his flaws. I don't think there's much doubt that his death has resulted in a change in perceptions, particularly among those journalists who he had been close to.

My understanding has always been that Jody was number one at Ferrari in 1979. At Kyalami he was leading until a late pit stop, which allowed Villeneuve ahead. At Long Beach Gilles led every lap while Scheckter had to fight through and only emerged in second after half-distance, by which time his team-mate was long gone. So my assumption is that Ferrari management weren't crass enough to orchestrate a position change in those circumstances. I've got Gerald Donaldson's Villeneuve biography on order from Amazon so if I learn any more I'll add it in to the mix.

Everything I've ever read about Rindt indicates that he would have retired as champion in 1970. He didn't fully trust Chapman, certainly didn't trust the Type 72, and had lost a close friend, Piers Courage, in the Dutch GP at Zandvoort. Certainly that is what his widow, Nina, believes would have happened.
 

cider_and_toast

Exulted Lord High Moderator of the Apex
Staff Member
Premium Contributor
Galahad said:
Everything I've ever read about Rindt indicates that he would have retired as champion in 1970. He didn't fully trust Chapman, certainly didn't trust the Type 72, and had lost a close friend, Piers Courage, in the Dutch GP at Zandvoort. Certainly that is what his widow, Nina, believes would have happened.
I wasn't aware of that. In that case, on the one hit wonder thread that would move Rindt from potential double world champion into the one time only column. I always thought however, that given his distrust of Chapman and given that his "manager" (surely he was one of the first drivers to have one) was Bernie Ecclestone, Rindt would have signed to Brabham.
 

Galahad

Not a Moderator
Valued Member
cider_and_toast said:
Galahad said:
Everything I've ever read about Rindt indicates that he would have retired as champion in 1970. He didn't fully trust Chapman, certainly didn't trust the Type 72, and had lost a close friend, Piers Courage, in the Dutch GP at Zandvoort. Certainly that is what his widow, Nina, believes would have happened.
I wasn't aware of that. In that case, on the one hit wonder thread that would move Rindt from potential double world champion into the one time only column. I always thought however, that given his distrust of Chapman and given that his "manager" (surely he was one of the first drivers to have one) was Bernie Ecclestone, Rindt would have signed to Brabham.
Of course, we can't know what would have happened. Would Bernie have even bought Brabham in the first place if he was managing the world champion at Lotus at the same time? I understand, though, from Motor Sport magazine's excellent feature on the '70 season this month, that Jochen and Bernie discussed him retiring immediately after the Zandvoort race, and according to Bernie the reason he didn't was that if he quit in the middle of the reason he would lose all self-respect (or words to that effect).
 

teabagyokel

#dejavu
Valued Member
Chad Stewarthill said:
Why have you excluded Massa? Do you really think he will ever become WDC, even once?
No. I don't think Felipe Massa will ever win the World Drivers Championship. However, I think I can safely say that three years ago I would have said the same about Jenson Button.

I don't think I can totally exclude the possibility of Massa ever winning the title. Eddie Irvine came within 3 points of winning it in 1999, and I think, should a similar situation occur, Massa would be able to edge over the line better than Irvine found himself able to.

So, whilst I don't think Massa will ever win the title, I'm not going to make this article look stupid in posterity if he does. Nothing is guaranteed, and he was only one corner away...
 

Chad Stewarthill

Champion Elect
Contributor
teabagyokel said: No. I don't think Felipe Massa will ever win the World Drivers Championship. However, I think I can safely say that three years ago I would have said the same about Jenson Button.
Fair point, I must admit I would have said the same myself. :thumbsup:
 

siffert_fan

Too old to watch the Asian races live.
Contributor
Re: Massa,

I don't believe that he will ever become WDC. To me, he doesn't appear to be the same driver he was pre-accident. Sir Stirling, recognized that, while he was still able to circulate at competitive speeds following his wreck at Goodwood, he wasn't able to do so without much more effort than before (he actually said that he was now having to THINK about what to do where; before it had all been instinct). Therefore he judged that it was best for him to retire. Unfortunately, I believe that Massa is in the same boat now.

By the way, didn't Pironi break his legs, not lose them? I thought he was back in F1 in later years before dying in offshore powerboat racing. :dunno:
 
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