Title Defences


Valued Member
Winning the World Title is a great achievement. Defending is a lot more difficult. With the talk of the decline of Sebastian Vettel, it is an apt time to look at how the World Champions have fared the year after their title victory.

1951 - Guiseppe Farina
Farina was 1950 champion off the back of Juan Manuel Fangio's greater record of unreliability, which was not carried forward into 1951. Farina's only victory came as Fangio hit problems, finishing 4 laps down in 9th place. Alfa Romeo were challenged in 1951 by Ferrari too, with Ascari and Gonzalez eclipsing Farina's total to leave the Italian fourth in the final standings.

1952 - Juan Manuel Fangio
Although Fangio's chances in 1952 would have been minimal in anything but a Ferrari, as it was he was injured and competed in no Championship events.

1953 - Alberto Ascari
Victorious in all of his races in 1952, Ferrari's dominance of the F2 formula used for the World Championship was maintained. Ascari won the first three races with the exception of Indianapolis, which this year he did not attempt. He would be beaten by team-mate Hawthorn and both Maseratis in the French Grand Prix, but wins in his two remaining finishes at Silverstone and Bremgarten were more than enough to yet again secure the title by a massive margin.

1954 - Alberto Ascari
Ascari left Ferrari for Lancia as the F2 era concluded, but with the D50 not ready, Ascari was only able to compete in a couple of races on loan to Maserati and Ferrari, in which he was one of seven drivers to share fastest lap in Britain. The D50 did sit on pole at Pedralbes, but a retirement meant no victory on its only outing.

1955 - Juan Manuel Fangio
With Lancia, the most obvious challenger, scarcely putting up a fight before the marque collapsed, Mercedes' Fangio was still shielded from external challengers in 1955. Aside from the Maestro's failure to finish in Monaco, the only time he failed to win was when team-mate Moss won at Aintree, a result shrouded in the suspicions that Fangio had defered to a home victory. The Le Mans disaster (an incident in which the Argentinian was involved) spelt the end of Mercedes' spell as an F1 constructor for half a century and left Fangio seeking new employment.

1956 - Juan Manuel Fangio
Fangio moved to Ferrari. With Mercedes out of the sport, the car to have was the Lancia D50, which was cynically brought by Enzo's team. Fangio took a shared win at home in Argentina with Luigi Musso, and trailed team-mate Peter Collins after a brace of victories in Belgium and France. But Fangio roared back, winning at Silverstone and the Nurburgring, meaning Collins oft-talked about gesture of handing over his car to the Argentinian at Monza was a somewhat hollow one given that Collins had scarcely any chance of catching Moss for the win he required.

1957 - Juan Manuel Fangio
Fangio went again in search of the best car, concluding that the Maserati 250F would be suitable. Four wins from his first four finishes were ample evidence that he was yet again correct, including a frankly ridiculous win at Nurburgring where he made up 40 seconds on the Ferraris of Hawthorn and Collins after a botched pit-stop. It fittingly was his final win as he won his first title. He trailed Moss home in the two Italian rounds at Pescara and Monza.

1958 - Juan Manuel Fangio
Fangio's 1958 consisted of only 3 races, a podium at home and a fourth place in his last race at Reims. Hawthorn refused to lap him at the line to allow him to complete the full distance of his final Grand Prix.

1959 - Mike Hawthorn
Mike Hawthorn died in a road accident in January 1959, having retired from motor-racing. He was 29.

1960 - Jack Brabham
Cooper were the first of the garagistes to challenge, and topple, the big Italian constructors for the F1 title. This domination was maintained into 1960, although champion Jack Brabham retired from the first two races. Brabham simply won the next 5 races, taking the title in Oporto, rendering the British boycott at Monza and Moss' victory at Riverside irrelevant.

1961 - Jack Brabham
A change in formula for 1961 allowed Ferrari to use their considerable resources to get a "jump" on the smaller British constructors for 1961. Thus the title was fought out between Wolfgang Von Trips and Phil Hill. Cooper were left behind by a considerable margin, with Brabham only managing 4 points, and trailing team-mate McLaren in the championship table. Jack scored only 4 points.

1962 - Phil Hill
The British companies had worked out the new formula by the start of 1962. Hill started his defence with 3 podiums in the first 3 races; none of them were wins as his namesake Graham, Bruce McLaren and Jim Clark took the spoils. That 3rd place in Monaco would be followed by a severe drop off in both pace and reliability; for the rest of the season there would be only one finish, and it would be significantly outside the points. They also did not qualify in the top 10.

1963 - Graham Hill
Hill started 1963 in fine form, winning the opening race in Monaco after an accident by leader Jim Clark. It was Hill, though that suffered from unreliability, with two podiums (one of which he was not awarded points for) amidst a spate of non-finishes, while Clark won all but the German GP, which stands as the only 2nd place of the Scot's illustrious career. For Hill, a win at Watkins Glen and solid points in Mexico and South Africa saw him take 2nd place in the championship from Richie Ginther on countback.

1964 - Jim Clark
Clark had a sesason of unreliability in 1964, as per Colin Chapman's design philosophy of winning or falling apart. It started so well, fourth place in Monaco was followed by three wins from the next four - at Zandvoort, Spa and Brands Hatch. Despite retiring from the next four races, he still had a chance in the championship finalé in Mexico, leading the penultimate lap in title winning position. However, the gremlins struck Lotus again, his oil line failing and his car stopping as Gurney took the victory and Surtees took the title.

1965 - John Surtees
Surtees started 1965 as the runner-up to Clark on New Years Day in East London. This time though, it was the former motorcycle World Champion who scarcely finished; racking up two podiums but making his final finish of the season in July at Silverstone. Clark, meanwhile, achieved 6 finishes in the season, and also took 6 victories, only pausing to win the Indianapolis 500...
Surtees missed the final two races of the season through injury.

1966 - Jim Clark
Lotus yet again failed to provide Clark machinery reliable enough to consistently finish Grands Prix. The Scot's first finish was at the British Grand Prix, where he finished 4th, and was followed by a podium at Zandvoort. Such was Clark's class that even in a severely underperforming Lotus-BRM combination, he was able to lap the field at the United States Grand Prix, but he was not to take the title he had been aiming for.

1967 - Jack Brabham
It is to Brabham's eternal credit that he was not even the undisputed number 1 driver in a team where it was his name on the door! Team Brabham had built a car able to survive more races than not, taking a point in a bizarre Kyalami race, before Denny Hulme took the win in Monaco. Black Jack himself took his first podium as runner-up to Clark in Zandvoort, then won at the excorable Bugatti circuit at Le Mans. There followed a run of consistent point scoring, with Brabham taking his second win at Mosport, but Hulme had scored better and took the title from the boss.

1968 - Denny Hulme
Lotus speed of 1967 was founded on the revolutionary Ford Cosworth DFV, which was liberalised for the 1968 season. Hulme moved from Brabham's team to Bruce McLaren's outfit, which somewhat outperformed Brabham with their new DFVs in tow. Hulme scored McLaren's first ever podium in second behind Graham Hill at Jarama, although it was fittingly Bruce that took his constructor's first win at Spa. There was a pair of consecutive wins that season for Hulme, a wingless win at Monza followed by a one-two with the wings attached at Mont-Tremblant. Hulme was 3rd in the championship.

1969 - Graham Hill
Lotus were unable in 1969 to match the brilliance of Matra, Ken Tyrrell and Jackie Stewart. Stewart won 5 of the first 6, but he was to retire at Monaco, and typically Hill took advantage to win yet another Monaco Grand Prix, which stands as his final win in Formula One. Lotus' lack of pace saw Hill around the edges of the points positions before a horrible crash at Watkins Glen which ended his season and from which he scarcely recovered.

1970 - Jackie Stewart
Matra asked Tyrrell to use a Matra V12 rather than the DFV for 1970. This left Tyrell to buy a March chassis, whilst developing the Tyrrell 001 behind closed doors. As such, there would be only 5 finishes for Stewart all year, with a win at Jarama the best, three podiums and a 9th place. The Tyrrell 001 was used towards the end of the season, ready for Stewart to start to plan for 1971...

1971 - Jochen Rindt
Jochen Rindt died chasing the title in practice at the 1970 Italian Grand Prix. He was 28.

1972 - Jackie Stewart
Stewart started 1972 with a victory in Argentina, but it was soon clear that Emerson Fittipaldi's Lotus was more reliable and quicker. The pressure of his full racing calendar forced him to miss the Belgian Grand Prix at Nivelles through illness, though he was back with a bang at Clermont. Fittipaldi had taken the title at Monza by the time Stewart took victories at the final push through North America.

1973 - Emerson Fittipaldi
Fittipaldi started 1973 in some style, winning three of the first four races, including a first Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos. However, by the end of Monaco, it was 3 victories each for Stewart and Fittipaldi. Although Stewart's results were not impeccable, one point from six races killed off Fittipaldi's chances even before team-mate Peterson failed to cede a victory to Fittipaldi, which lead Emmo to leave Lotus. A second place spot to Revson in Canada saw Fittipaldi secure second place in the championship.

1974 - Jackie Stewart
Stewart elected to retire after 1973, after competing in his 100th Grand Prix at Watkins Glen, although the death of Francois Cevert meant he never started that centenial race.

1975 - Emerson Fittipaldi
The Champion's 1975 started in the best possible style with victory in Buenos Aires, which was followed by his second place behind Carlos Pace at Interlagos. But no points at Kyalami was followed by his withdrawal over lack of safety standards at Montjuic Park. It was at this point that Niki Lauda, on only 5 points after 4 events, pulled away from the field with four out of five wins. Emmo only scored twice in this run, before winning at Silverstone, but two more non-finishes meant the title was decided even when Fittipaldi finished 2nd at Monza, which he then backed up at Watkins Glen in his last McLaren race.

1976 - Niki Lauda
Lauda's title defence started in extraordinarily relentless form. He won at Interlagos, Kyalami, Zolder and Monaco and took two second places. After James Hunt's disqualification at Brands Hatch, Lauda was 31 points clear of Jody Scheckter and an almost cert for the title. An horrific crash at the Nurburgring in which Lauda suffered serious burns kept him out for a remarkably short two races, such that his lead was reduced to 14 points over Hunt by his return at Monza. He finished 4th, but two wins for Hunt in North America where Lauda only scored one podium left the Austrian only 3 points clear heading for the first time to Fuji. Lauda famously withdrew (along with Carlos Pace, Larry Perkins and Emerson Fittipaldi) citing the lack of safety, Hunt just about finished 3rd and took the title.

1977 - James Hunt
McLaren produced a far less reliable car for 1977. 9 points would be the sum result of Hunt's efforts until a podium at Dijon and a victory at Silverstone. After that, there would only be two further finishes, although they would both be wins, at Watkins Glen and Fuji. This lack of points scores left Hunt unable to compete with those whose cars continued to roll, and he finished 5th in the Championship.

1978 - Niki Lauda
Lauda had fallen out with Ferrari at the end of 1977 and moved to Brabham for 1978. There would be two podiums in their first two races together, but there was massive unreliability. Although every finish begat a podium for Lauda, that meant only 7 results, including two wins, for the remarkable fan car at Anderstorp, withdrawn by Bernie Ecclestone's impeccable sense of the political wind, and a win at Monza after Villeneuve and Andretti were punished for egregious jump starts.

1979 - Mario Andretti
The magic of the Lotus 79 could not be continued indefinitely, and although the 80 was barely raced, the pressure of trying to keep up with the much quicker Ferraris, Ligiers and Williamses meant Lotus lost reliability for 1979. The highlight for Andretti was his only podium at Jarama, but this preceded a run of 7 non-finishes which meant 12th in the championship was the best he could achieve.

1980 - Jody Scheckter
Since Ferrari elected to follow up their 1979 success by equipping Scheckter and Villeneuve with a red-painted table with Michelin tyres. Scheckter's only points were at Long Beach, where he was a lap down on winner Nelson Piquet. An average finishing position of 9.89 was unworthy of such a team and a champion, and Schekter decided then to retire from Formula One.

1981 - Alan Jones
Carlos Reutemann did not recognise the number 1 on the front of Jones' car. The Australian lead a Williams one-two at Long Beach, but trailed his Argentinian team-mate at Jacarepagua. Jones only then picked up 9 more points by mid-August, although neither Piquet or Reutemann had picked up significant points either. Podiums at Zandvoort and Monza were too late to affect his title chances, before he book-ended his season with a win at Las Vegas, as Piquet took the title from Reutemann.

1982 - Nelson Piquet
Remarkably, the first 7 races for Nelson Piquet in 1982 saw only 2 points, including 3 retirements, a disqualification (for the World Champion having won his home Grand Prix!) and even a non-qualification at Long Beach. With a BMW turbo now ready at Montreal, they followed a dnq with a race victory, and then was runner-up in Zandvoort. However, the rest of the season saw another speight of non-finishes, with 4th place in Dijon the only respite for the champion.

1983 - Keke Rosberg
Rosberg had been disqualified at Jacarapagua in 1982 along with Piquet, so a repeat dsq from another 2nd place was no precursour to a lack of success! However, his first podium would be his victory at Monte-Carlo, one of only two podiums that year with a 2nd place at Long Beach for the street circuit specialist. Williams' pace dropped off after Canada with a string of outside-points finishes, and 5th in the championship was secured by 2 points at Kyalami.

1984 - Nelson Piquet
It seemed easy for Piquet's Brabham team to pick up pole positions in 1984, but finishing races was more of a challenge. The season started with 6 dnfs for the Brazilian. When he actually finished, he was deadly, winning on his first two finishes at Montreal and Detroit. There would only be four more finishes after this point, two of which on the podium. For a driver with 6 finishes, 5th in the championship was an excellent effort!

1985 - Niki Lauda
1985 was a step too far for Niki Lauda. Again, it was non-finishes that punished the Austrian, as only two finishes in the first 10 saw him slip way behind title-chasing team-mate Alain Prost. More failures to finish meant that his last points were scored in his last finish at Zandvoort, which fittingly saw one of the all-time greats sign off with a final win. He was 10th in the championship from 3 finishes!

1986 - Alain Prost
Prost yet again showed his ability to consistently keep a McLaren TAG-Porsche on the track with a second consecutive title. The Frenchman won at Imola and Monaco, but the Williams' of Piquet and Mansell's fight was the story of the season. Ably but unwittingly helped by the talented Ayrton Senna in an unreliable Lotus, Prost took lots of points off Williams cars, even when beaten by one or the other of them. A win at the Oesterreichring supported this endeavour, which meant he was hanging in the title race heading into Adelaide's decider. Mansell's retirement and Piquet's subsequent caution meant the Frenchman was left as the winner of both the race, and the championship.

1987 - Alain Prost
Prost took McLaren to another victory at Jacarepagua to start 1987, and also took a win at Spa to win two of the first three. However, on this occasion McLaren were not fast enough to take advantage of the scarcer mistakes made by Williams. Prost would take a record 28th victory at Estoril, but a finish was no guarantee of points across this season, and it took a creditable spate of podiums for Prost to finish 4th in the Championship, overhauled by Senna and by both Williams.

1988 - Nelson Piquet
Honda and Piquet both left Williams, with the Brazilian pitching up at Honda's continuing team of Lotus. However, Lotus-Honda could not compete with McLaren-Honda. Third in the first two races was as good as it got for Piquet, who suffered with a car that was not reliable, and not overly competitive. He would have to wait for Adelaide for another podium, as he took 6th place in the Championship. At least, however, he'd not stayed at Williams...

1989 - Ayrton Senna
A lack of reliability hurt Senna's 1989. McLaren came into the season with an equally quick car to the previous year's dominance, but not with equal reliability. In particular, it was Senna who suffered. The Brazilian won races 2,3 and 4 in Imola, Monaco and Mexico, but would then record 4 failures to finish to match three Prost victories. Two wins and a second to Mansell were next, but there was only one more finish in Spain in the last 5. This, of course, excludes Senna's disqualification at the Japanese Grand Prix after a push-start after a tangle with Prost. A lack of comparitive ability to finish had cost Senna versus his great rival.

1990 - Alain Prost
After completely losing relations with both Senna and Ron Dennis in 1989, Prost took #1 to Ferrari for 1990. Yet another win in Brazil opened his account, before a mid-season three-in-a-row gave him the title lead. Senna though got back on top, this time having a Prost-like run of finishes thus that Prost's win at Jerez scarcely gave him a chance of winning the title. At Suzuka, Prost jumped Senna off the line, and with rows over Balestre, pole positions rumbling on, there was little doubt that both of them would be flying into the tyres.

1991 - Ayrton Senna
Senna started 1991 with four wins in a row, including his first home win at Interlagos. This lead was sustained as Williams started to overhaul McLaren in terms of competitiveness, with Mansell winning three-in-a-row mid-season. Wins at the Hungaroring and Spa were vital for Senna and gave him the cushion needed to hold off Mansell's charge comfortably, taking the title as he handed team-mate Berger the win at Suzuka, before adding some gloss to the result with a very short win at Adelaide.

1992 - Ayrton Senna
By the start of 1992, Williams had not only overhauled McLaren, but were miles clear with the greatest array of driver aids Formula One had ever seen. Senna had 8 points to Mansell's 50 after 5 races, and he somewhat fluked yet another victory at Monaco ahead of an Englishman almost dancing on his rear wing. There would be two more wins for Senna - at the Hungaroring and Monza, but a range of non-finishes meant he would finish 4th in the championship, overhauled by both Williams and the next big thing, Michael Schumacher.

1993 - Nigel Mansell
The red 5 went to Newman/Haas Racing in the CART World Series to join Mario Andretti as a team-mate, securing 5 victories and beating Indy500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi to the title.

1994 - Alain Prost
Prost went on to be a pundit with TF1 in France. Having retired, he was a pall bearer at Ayrton Senna's funeral and has refused to drive an F1 car since.

1995 - Michael Schumacher
Though 1994 had been controversial, Schumacher extinguished doubts in 1995. Victory at Interlagos was followed by a podium at Buenos Aires. Schumacher overhauled rival Damon Hill for the lead in Spain before winning in Monaco. Wins at Magny-Cours, Hockenheim and Spa maintained the gap to Hill, with the title won at the Pacific Grand Prix at Aida. A 33 point margin underlined his excellence.

1996 - Michael Schumacher
Schumacher decided to take on the mission to return Ferrari to the top, with the Scuderia without the drivers title since 1979. Schumacher was often the best non-Williams on days when he finished; which included victories at Spa, Monza but most impressively in the wet at Montmelo. 59 points was enough to take 3rd in the drivers title, and dwarfed team-mate Irvine's total of 11.

1997 - Damon Hill
Williams sacked Hill at the end of the 1996 season, with the Englishman too late to secure another top drive. He was thus forced to seek refuge at Arrows. There would be only four starts in the top six all season, with Hill picking up only one point when he left Hockenheim. He showed his worth at the Hungaroring though, leading for 62 laps before a problem forced him to slow and lose the place on the penultimate lap to Jacques Villeneuve. He also showed his talent by qualifying just 0.058s down on pole at the European GP at Jerez, thus 4th behind the equal front three.

1998 - Jacques Villeneuve
With a raft of rule changes for 1998 and Adrian Newey departed from Williams to McLaren as part of a protest on the treatment of Hill, McLaren showed they were the most ready for 1998 by lapping the field in Melbourne. Villeneuve was the second Williams on the road at that event, as team-mate Frentzen ascended to the podium. Villeneuve spent most of the season in the zone between 10th and the podium, although he did pick up two podiums at Hockenheim and Budapest to finish a creditable 5th in the championship before leaving for BAR.

1999 - Mika Hakkinen
McLaren's dominance was not repeated at Melbourne in 1999 as both cars failed from the front. Hakkinen won in Brazil, Spain and Canada, overcooked it at Mirabeau and made an error of utter stupidity at Imola. Michael Schumacher's injury at Silverstone coincided with a mid-season dip for Hakkinen, as Eddie Irvine took up the challenge. Hakkinen then won at Hungaroring, was beaten by team-mate Coulthard at Spa and threw it away spectacularly at Monza. Points in the crazy European GP was better than Irvine, before a humbling defeat to the questionably legal Ferraris at Sepang gave Irvine the lead. Hakkinen yet again took the title with victory at Suzuka.

2000 - Mika Hakkinen
Hakkinen's retirements from the first two races left him 20-0 down on Schumacher, and his position as runner-up to the German at Imola did nothing to level the scores. He was runner-up to Coulthard at Silverstone before winning at Barcelona. Coulthard won two of the next three, but as Schumacher failed to make turn 1 twice consecutively, Hakkinen reasserted himself with a win in Speilberg and a second place in a bonkers wet event at Hockenheim. Hakkinen then beat Schumacher at Budapest before pulling off the most remarkable overtake to circumnavigate Schumacher and the lapped Riccardo Zonta to win at Spa. His new found Championship lead was eroded by defeat at Monza, before a retirement at Indianapolis rendered him vulnerable. Schumacher's win at Suzuka sealed the deal and gave Hakkinen second place.

2001 - Michael Schumacher
Having won the last four in 2000, Schumacher then won the first two of 2001. Coulthard beat him in the wet at Silverstone, while his brother Ralf took the honours as Michael retired at Imola. Schumacher beat Ralf's team-mate Montoya in Spain, then was beaten by Coulthard at Spielberg before a one-two at Monaco. Neither Williams or McLaren could provide a challenger to match Schumacher's consistency, so despite the fact Ralf, Montoya and Hakkinen all got the better of him on occasion, his wins in Nurburg, Magny-Cours, Budapest, Spa and Suzuka allowed him to win the championship at a canter, with Coulthard in 2nd.

2002 - Michael Schumacher
Schumacher dominated to an even greater extent in 2002. That Ferrari were utterly dominant, and prepared to invoke team-orders for the win as early as Round 6, meant that Schumacher was left without any plausible challenge to his superiority. Ferrari won every race bar Sepang (Ralf) and Monaco (Coulthard), with Barrichello's four wins dwarfed by Schumacher's eleven. Such was Schumacher's destruction of the field that he won the title at Magny-Cours.

2003 - Michael Schumacher
The all-dominant F2002 returned to open the 2003 season, but was found to have suddenly been eclipsed by McLaren. The Woking boys won two of the first three and lost the third to Giancarlo Fisichella's Jordan and an appeal! Schumacher roared back, winning four of the next five, but it became clear that Williams had the better package towards the middle of the season, Ralf and Montoya trading wins before Ferrari were humiliated by Michelin at the Hungaroring, finishing 8th. Amidst rumours of collusion with the FIA, Ferrari found a lot of pace to win the next time out in Monza, and then again at Indianapolis, to eliminate Montoya as a contender then Barrichello's win at Suzuka prevented Raikkonen's accumulation of second places winning McLaren's new Finn the title.

2004 - Michael Schumacher
Schumacher's crash into Montoya behind the Safety Car in the Monaco tunnel caused a retirement in the middle of a run where Schumacher won in Melbourne, Sepang, Sakhir, Imola, Barcelona, Nurburg, Montreal, Indianapolis, Magny-Cours, Silverstone, Hockenheim and Budapest. He won the title as runner up to Raikkonen at Spa, and took the Japanese GP for good measure. Ferrari's outrageously superior car/one car team tactic had delivered for Schumacher in the grandest style possible.

2005 - Michael Schumacher
A change in tyre laws to force teams onto one set of tyres for the whole race moved the goal posts for Ferrari, with Michelin providing by far the superior set. Added to this, the previously bulletproof Ferrari was suddenly retiring from races. Schumacher's pressuring of Fernando Alonso in a fruitless charge for the win was the highlight, and he would also be runner-up to Raikkonen at Montreal and Budapest. Michelin were not perfect however, and their providing of unsafe tyres to their teams for the United States Grand Prix lead to a farcical six-car grid of which Ferrari were the fastest by some margin. Schumacher was not to blame for the situation and took the 10 points from Barrichello, whcih was his only win of the season and rather unfairly meant he jumped Montoya and Fisichella for 3rd in the championship.

2006 - Fernando Alonso
Alonso and Renault started the season in the face of a renewed challenge from Schumacher and Ferrari, with the laurels going to the Spaniard in race 1. He was runner-up to team-mate Fisichella in Sepang and winner in Melbourne, before twice following Schumacher home. An emotional win in Montmelo was followed by three more in Monaco, Silverstone and Montreal. It was now Schumi's turn to win three, but Ferrari's awesome pace at Hungary came to little as Jenson Button won in the wet, and Alonso took two points off Schumi at Istanbul as runner up to the other Ferrari of Felipe Massa. Alonso's chances seemed to have gone as his engine failed in Monza, but Schumacher suffered a similar problem in Suzuka, meaning all Alonso needed to do at Interlagos was score. Schumacher, in his theoretical last race, was forced by a mechanical issue to charge through the field, but that would not have prevented the Spaniard taking the title.

2007 - Fernando Alonso
Alonso left for McLaren where he would be joined by rookie Lewis Hamilton. The Spaniard started well, second to Ferrari's Raikkonen in Melbourne, and beat Hamilton in Speang. However, two Massa wins with Hamilton second gave the rookie the lead despite Alonso's victory in Monaco, and Alonso lost all composure when Hamilton took his first win in Montreal with Alonso 7th, and again as the back of the 1-2 in Indianapolis. Alonso beat Hamilton again at Silverstone, and took a win to close the gap at the Nurburgring. In Hungary, McLaren were well clear. Hamilton ignored a team-order in the fuel burn phase of Q3, so Alonso blocked Hamilton in the pit-lane, and when confronted by team boss Dennis, Alonso threatened to reveal McLaren had used illegally obtained Ferrari data. Hamilton won from Raikkonen, before Alonso beat Hamilton at Monza, and forced the Englishman to relent at Eau Rouge as Ferrari took a one-two at Spa. Alonso crashed at Fuji to give Hamilton match-point, but the Englishman squandered it twice with a tactical nightmare at Shanghai and a momentary loss of drive at Interlagos, while Raikkonen's wins saw him take the title from both McLaren drivers by one point. Alonso, unsurprisingly, then left McLaren.

2008 - Kimi Raikkonen
Two wins out of the first four in 2008 seemed to augur well for a title defence for Raikkonen, but things conspired against him. A collision with Adrian Sutil at Monaco, a collision with Lewis Hamilton at Montreal that was entirely Hamilton's fault and a fuel issue at Magny-Cours gifted team-mate Massa the team's number one status. The Finn did not challenge Hamilton at Silverstone or Hockenheim, but retirements at Valencia, when on for the win at Spa, a non-point finish at wet Monza and a crash at Singapore gave him no chance to catch up. A trio of 3rd places rounded off the season and meant he could beat BMW's Robert Kubica for 3rd place in the Championship.

2009 - Lewis Hamilton
McLaren's continued fight through 2008 and their decision to focus on the infantile KERS technology for 2009 meant that Honda, who had been planning throughout 2008 were way ahead of the game, even after a management buy-out of a team folding due to lack of recent success. Hamilton's 2009 started OK on the track, with a fourth place in Australia only scrubbed out due to testimony to the stewards devoid of veracity. There were points in the next three, but on return to Europe there was no point and no points. McLaren kept developing though, and a good qualifying at the Nurburgring saw the KERS-shod Hamilton through to the lead, but he picked up an immediate puncture. The promise was met by a win at the Hungaroring just two races after losing a fight for 15th at Silverstone! Hamilton took second at Valencia, and lost third at Monza with a last lap crash before a win at Singapore. Podiums at Suzuka and Interlagos before a mechanical issue cost him an easy victory at Abu Dhabi meant Hamilton recovered to a surprise 5th in the championship.

2010 - Jenson Button
Button made the move to McLaren for 2010, joining Hamilton. Button struck first, with wins in the wet at both Melbourne and Shanghai giving him an early championship lead, which would not survive 5th in Spain or a ridiculous retirement in Monaco caused by the radiator cover being left in. Button followed Hamilton home in two one-twos and continued to score well. The F-Duct's big day at Monza saw Button narrowly beaten by Alonso, but it was a 12th place at Korea that saw him struggle most for the title; he was eliminated from the reckoning at Interlagos before a podium at the final race in Abu Dhabi.

2011 - Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel's title defence was aided by the wonderful RB7. He took the first two races from different McLaren drivers in 2nd, before being beaten by Hamilton in Shanghai. He continued to head different people in each win - Webber in Turkey, Hamilton again in Barcelona and Alonso in a red-flag aided victory at Monaco. A mistake with half-a-lap to go cost him in Montreal, but he then won from Alonso at Valencia before losing to the Spaniard in Silverstone as the FIA's "flexible" approach to the rules was shown. A poor race in Germany saw him in 4th, before a second place to Button in the wet of Budapest. Three non-wins heading into Red Bull's traditional worst two tracks did not augur well, but a one-two in Spa before defeats of Button in Monza then Singapore left him one point off the title, which he achieved in 3rd at Suzuka. He then won at Yeongam and New Delhi, retired from his traditional blistering start in Abu Dhabi, then a possibly spurious gearbox problem cost him the win to Webber at Interlagos.

2012 - Sebastian Vettel
The next season did not start as well. Second to Button in Melbourne was followed by a retirement and a collision with HRT "cucumber" Narain Karthikeyan in Sepang. He would win in Bahrain, but only score two more podiums - at Silverstone and Spa - before the end of a European season marked by a retirement at Monza. Back in Asis, though, he came alive, leading every lap from Lewis Hamilton's retirement at Singapore through to the end of the Indian Grand Prix, four races later. He then charged through the field at Abu Dhabi after being thrown out of qualifying, was beaten in a duel at Austin by Hamilton before a dramatic Brazilian Grand Prix. Spun around and nearly retired by Bruno Senna on lap one, Alonso's fourth place guaranteed the German the title. Nico Hulkenburg's crash with Hamilton gave Alonso second place, though, and Vettel needed his successful drive to 6th to get him that title again!

2013 - Sebastian Vettel
The start of 2013 was dominated by tyres. Pirelli's inconsistent rubber had lead in the first half of the season Vettel to alternate wins with Lotus and Ferrari who were able to consistently achieve better race pace, while Mercedes planted their cars consistently on pole as the best one lap users of the rubber, winning Monaco (of course). As it looked like a challenge could come from Mercedes' Hamilton at Silverstone, the Pirelli exploded on the Englishman's car, followed by issues at Ferrari and Toro Rosso. Vettel retired from the lead, giving Mercedes' Nico Rosberg another victory, but this lead to the more consistent tyres of 2012 being reintroduced. Vettel duly won next time out at Nurburg, and although he was beaten by Hamilton (and Raikkonen) in Budapest, he then went on to win the title at a canter, winning a ludicrous nine in a row up to the end of the season.

2014 - Sebastian Vettel

The story of Vettel's 2014 has not been auspicious thus far, but many great champions have found themselves stymied by a lack of reliability or pace in the next year. Whether he'll recover, or how great he is, is anyone's question but he won't have the worst defence and he won't be the last to fall from great heights.
Great thread teabagyokel A few names stand out though.

Schumacher. Senna, Prost, Lauda, Piquet, Fittipaldi, Stewart, Brabham, G.Hill, Clark & Fangio.

Not just multiple WDC winners but drivers who also went on to win the title in non-consecutive years, most of them having done so with different machinery than the one used for their original title.

If Vettel wants to add himself to that illustrious list then he needs to show that he's not just simply a one trick pony who was lucky enough to be driving the most dominating car for four seasons running. If he wins it again it will be in different machinery but as next years Red Bull could be the last ever Newey designed F1 car then I don't ever see him being able to add himself to that list of all time greats.
Generally speaking, presuming no significant change in regs, isn't it easier to defend your championship in the same car than have a gap? I say that on the presumption that if your car is competitive one year - highly so if you win the championship - that level of competitiveness doesn't drop off on its own unless something out of the ordinary occurs (or did to allow you to win in the first place).
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Extremely thorough tby, good job!

F1 really is a sport like no other. History likes to repeat itself, although from time to time the script gets torn up and tossed to the wind. Part of the reason I find it so endlessly fascinating.
Great overview! I never realized how difficult it is to defend a title - there is quite some persistence in the performance of teams, but apparently not too much for teams or drivers to dominate the sport for a (very) long time.
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