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Greatest F1 Champion Poll - The Results

Discussion in 'Formula 1' started by Paul Jeffrey, Jan 15, 2017.

  1. Paul Jeffrey

    Paul Jeffrey
    RaceDepartment Editor-in-Chief Staff Premium

    The results are in from our recent poll to ascertain who the RaceDepartment readers consider their greatest ever World Champion, with some surprising results...

    We had a tremendous response from our request to find out who you consider to be the greatest ever World Champion, with no fewer that 787 of you casting your votes across the full list of FIA Formula One World Champions crowned since the World Championship began in 1950.

    With Seven World Championships and a number of records to his name, it is perhaps no surprise to see that legendary German driver Michael Schumacher has won top spot in our poll, taking an impressive 43.3% of the votes cast (270 total), following some distance behind is Brazilian hero and three time Champion Ayrton Senna with 25.3%, or 199 total votes. As if to prove the depth of knowledge across our reader base, drivers from yesteryear have not been forgotten with both Juan Manuel Fangio representing the 1950's in third place (8.6% of the votes ,68 total) and the great Jim Clark representing the swinging 60's in fourth position with 6.3% and 50 votes in total. The only currently active driver to make our top five is Fernando Alonso of McLaren, earning 36 votes and 4.6% of the total in deference to his two World Championship successes and numerous impressive drives behind the wheel of occasionally less than top class machinery.

    The top five results can be seen below:
    1. Michael Schumacher - 270 - 43.3%
    2. Ayrton Senna - 199 - 25.3%
    3. Juan Manuel Fangio - 68 - 8.6%
    4. Jim Clark - 50 - 6.3%
    5. Fernando Alonso - 36 - 4.6%

    Rather surprisingly some of the more dramatic results from our poll come in the form of drivers that received no votes at all, despite having scaled the peak of their careers and having won at least one World Championship. Big name drivers such as the first ever World Champion Giuseppe Farina, Australian legend and Williams great Alan Jones and American World Champion Phil Hill failed to score on the leaderboard, joining other illustrious drivers such as Alberto Ascari, the UK's Mike Hawthorn and Ferrari's first World Champion in over 21 years Jody Scheckter with no votes at the close of our mini poll.

    Regarding the active drivers currently competing in Formula One, it is interesting to see Ferrari teammates Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastien Vettel scored fairly closely, with Räikkönen coming out in front of his four time World Champion teammate by virtue of his 13 votes compared to just 7 for the German driver.

    Other notable scores from the poll include a measly 27 votes (3.4%) for Frenchman Alain Prost, who secured four World Championship titles in a career that spanned thirteen years and saw the Frenchman often paired with teammates of the highest calibre, all in an era of Formula One many consider the greatest in the history of the sport. With Prost having raced with, and beaten, such talents as John Watson, Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Keke Rosberg and Niki Lauda as well as running his own Formula One team with some success, it is surprising the see the mercurial Frenchman so low down the list of votes.

    One of the biggest surprises for me however, is the relative disinterest of modern fans towards the recent successes of 2008, '14 and '15 World Champion Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton scored just 1.3% of the overall votes with just 10 people selecting the controversial Englishman. Although Hamilton has an impressive record in Formula One, it is perhaps not lost on our readers that much of the success achieved by Hamilton has come at the wheel of easily the best car on the grid, perhaps affecting the opinion of Hamilton's overall worth when compared to his fellow World Champion winning drivers from the history of our sport.

    With Schumacher having come in at first place once again, lets have a look at each of the champions record seven World Championship successes dating all the way back to 1994 at the wheel of a Benetton Ford V8, finishing with his dominant 2004 season at the wheel of the legendary prancing horse of Ferrari.

    Schumacher 1994.jpg
    Races: 16
    Wins: 8
    Podiums: 10
    Points: 92
    1994 was a breakthrough year for the then 25-year-old German driver. Having set the Formula One scene alight following his remarkable debut at the wheel of the unfancied Jordan Ford at Spa just three years earlier, Schumacher worked tirelessly to build a reputation as a no nonsense unforgiving young driver at the wheel of the often underwhelming Benetton team. With singular wins coming the German's way in both 1992 and 1993, Schumacher had already seen off the careers of Formula One veteran teammates Nelson Piquet and Riccardo Patrese as the 1994 season approached.

    With Benetton due to benefit from the latest Ford V8 engines and Mild Seven colour scheme replacing the traditional Benetton Camel yellow, 1994 promised to be an interesting year for both team and driver. With the tragic loss of Williams driver Ayrton Senna at the San Marino Grand Prix in May leaving a championship challenge very much on the cards, Schumacher made the most of his opportunity to capitalise on his early season victories as team and driver continued to fight for the 1994 title against British rival Damon Hill in the other Williams Renault, a theme that would remain for much of the German driver's early career.

    1994 saw Schumacher tot up an impressive eight victories over the course of the 16 race season, coming home on the podium no less than 10 times and utterly destroying his Benetton teammates Jos Verstappen, JJ Lehto and Johnny Herbert in the merry-go-round that was the sister Benetton Ford B194.

    1994 was not without its own controversy however, as a dark side to Michael Schumacher became apparent not for the last time in the controversial drivers' career in the sport. With persistent rumours that the Benetton team had been running some computer software deemed less than in the spirt of the regulations, Schumacher also found himself in hot water for several on track incidents during the season, not least of which would lead to a two race ban following a black flag infringement at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in July. Schumacher finished the race in second place behind Williams Damon Hill, but subsequently found himself disqualified from the results having failed to serve a stop go penalty in time, issued to the German for having overtaken pole sitter Hill twice during the formation lap. Benetton would later appeal the decision however the FIA would maintain the disqualification and enforce a two race ban for Schumacher meaning the German driver would miss the Italian and Portuguese Grand Prix that season.

    Despite this setback, Schumacher would still retain a one point lead heading into the final race of the year at Adelaide, where controversy again followed the German as contact with the Williams of Damon Hill would lead to both drivers retiring from the race, and Schumacher picking up his first World Championship trophy.

    Schumacher 1995.jpg
    Races: 17
    Wins: 9
    Points: 102
    Schumacher remained at Benetton for 1995 and now found himself powered by the class leading Renault V10 as utilised for the past few seasons by main rivals Williams Grand Prix Engineering. Riding on a crest of a wave following their 1994 success, Benetton entered the new season with an evolution of their successful 1994 car, a new full-time teammate for Schumacher in the form of Johnny Herbert and the full weight of the Grove based squad behind his Championship challenge.

    With expectations within the team set at an all time high, Schumacher started the new year in slow fashion as both team and driver looked to establish a new working relationship with the French Renault engine manufacturers. Williams started the season in fine form as Hill secured victory in two of the opening three events of 1995, only to find themselves slipping further down the championship standings as Schumacher and the Benetton team finally hit their stride. Schumacher would go on to win a total of nine Grand Prix in a season dominated by the Williams and Benetton squads, ending the campaign with a 33 point margin over Hill at the end of the year.

    Unfortunately despite the obvious talent and speed of the German, 1995 would once again be marred by controversy and on track adventures as Schumacher looked to prove his no compromise on track abilities. Further speculation as to the legality of Schumacher's Benetton remained throughout the season and several on track incidents with his main rival Damon Hill did little to endear the driver to the imagination of the general Formula One public. At the end of the 1995 season Schumacher announced he would be moving to the legendary Ferrari team for 1996, taking with him many of the main engineering talents such as Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne to build a championship winning team in Italy. It would be several years before Schumacher was finally able to add to his first two World Championship titles...

    Schumacher 2000.jpg
    : 17
    Wins: 9
    Podiums: 12
    Points: 108
    The 2000 season would mark the first Ferrari Drivers World Championship for 21 years, as five years of hard work finally came together to deliver Michael Schumacher his third World Championship and the first wearing the colours of Italy's national team. 2000 saw Schumacher yet again deliver nine Grand Prix wins on his way to securing the championship ahead of McLaren drivers Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard, as finally the prancing horse married up their undoubted speed with consistency and reliability missing from previous seasons with Schumacher behind the wheel.

    2000 was one of Schumacher's best seasons in Formula One, as the German driver often overcame the demonstratively quicker McLaren Mercedes cars throughout the season, putting in particularly stand out performances in a number of qualifying sessions and generally outperforming his Ferrari car.

    With a strong start to the year maximising the German's advantage following reliability issues for the McLaren team, Hakkinen and McLaren would come back strongly during the season to bring the championship fight down to penultimate race of the season at Suzuka in Japan. Schumacher would overcome a bad start to secure Ferrari's first World Championship together after a 21 year gap since Jody Scheckter took the chequered flag in 1979. It would be the beginning of a golden period for Schumacher and Ferrari.

    Schumacher 2001.jpg
    Races: 17
    Wins: 9
    Podiums: 14
    Points: 123
    For the 2001 racing season Ferrari introduced the F2001, a new car that represented a substantial update from the previous Ferrari design philosophy employed in recent campaigns. With a distinct nod to previous McLaren designs, the F2001 would lead Ferrari to a second consecutive drivers and constructors championship as well as being put to use for the first couple of races of the following season, before being replaced by the updated F2002. With a brand new design and several under the hood innovations behind the scenes, plus a diligent Rubens Barrichello playing a supporting role to the reigning World Champion, 2001 was an exceptionally successful year for Schumacher as he amassed a then record 123 points, ending the season as World Champion with a massive 58 points advantage over nearest rival and McLaren driver David Coulthard.

    2001 would again prove Schumacher's enviable ability to lead from the front and produce an almost mechanical ability to lap within fractions of a second of his ultimate pace during a race, firmly marking the German as one of the all time great drivers of the current era.

    The 2001 season would also be noteworthy for the German ace as he secured his 52nd career victory, breaking the previous record held by Frenchman Alain Prost.

    Schumacher 2002.jpg
    Races: 17
    Wins: 11
    Podiums: 17
    Points: 144
    Michael Schumacher's third Ferrari title was perhaps his most dominant of his career, with the German becoming the first driver to stand on the podium at every single Grand Prix that season, taking home an incredible 144 points and 11 race wins during the course of the year. With the championship already a forgone conclusion pretty much after the first couple of rounds of the season, 2002 was not without its own controversies. Austria that year marked the infamous incident where Rubens Barrichello conceded victory to Schumacher under team orders leading to mass booing of the fans come race end, a situation only made worse by Schumacher's insistence on Barrichello standing atop of the podium, plus the controversial Indianapolis Grand Prix where Schumacher allowed Barrichello to take victory in sight of the chequered flag, claiming afterwards that he intended to orchestrate a photo finish between the two Ferrari drivers but misjudged the pace before crossing the finish line.

    2002 was a season of record breaking results for Michael Schumacher, with the German beating his own record of most wins in a single season (11), most podiums in a single season (17), largest margin of victory over second place (67 points), winning a title at the earliest point of a season and winning a fifth World Championship, matching the great Juan Manuel Fangio.

    schumacher 2003.jpg
    Races: 16
    Wins: 6
    Podiums: 8
    Points: 93
    2003 was a year where Michael Schumacher silenced many of those critics who doubted if the German champion could maintain his motivation to continue fighting at the front of the Formula One field following several years of domination in the sport. The 2003 season proved to be one of the most competitive Grand Prix seasons in recent years, with both the McLaren Mercedes and Williams BMW teams mixing it up at the front of the grid alongside Ferrari, sharing the wins amongst themselves as Schumacher's victory tally reduced down to just six first place finishes, still enough to secure the championship in front of McLaren's Finnish star Kimi Räikkönen by a mere two points.

    The year wasn't without its controversial moments, with a mid season change of regulations forcing Michelin runners Williams and McLaren into a competitive disadvantage just as the points race closed up at the top of the standings. With many fans calling foul as the Bridgestone shod Ferrari seemingly gained an unreasonable advantage allowing team Shumi to wrack up wins in the following two Grand Prix. With the rule change and other issues befalling Williams driver Montoya, it was left to Schumacher and Räikkönen to once again duel for the championship honours, a result that would once again fall in the German's favour at seasons end.

    Schumacher 2004.jpg
    Races: 18
    Wins: 13
    Podiums: 15
    Points: 148
    The end of the 2004 racing season would mark the final World Championship success in the career of one of Formula One's all time greatest drivers. Ending his championship winning streak in fine style, Schumacher would end 2004 with an incredible 13 Grand Prix victories to his name, as the German went on to cement his reputation as the finest Grand Prix driver of his generation.

    The 2004 season featured many memorable Schumacher esque moments as the Ferrari number one proved time and again why he's rated as one of the finest drivers of his time, putting in fastest laps, pole positions and race wins relentlessly despite his enviable success record from previous years. The 2004 season would be a fitting way for the World Champion to sign of his championship winning credentials in the Ferrari team.

    So our readers have voted and Schumacher has been crowned the greatest champion of all time. With an incredible racing record, dozens of stand out performances and a new level of humanity shown by the hard nosed German during his second stint in the sport with Mercedes, it is hard to argue against awarding Schumacher the ultimate Champion of Champions crown. Following his tragic skiing accident in 2013, many fans around the world continue to hold Schumacher close to their hearts as we wish for the Formula One legend a swift and full recovery from his injuries.


    Formula One and RaceDepartment, has a nice ring to it doesn't it? Well if you love the sport and want to find out the latest happenings you've picked the right place! Head over to our Formula One sub forum where you can hang out and discuss Grand Prix racing with your fellow motorsport fans. Only 63 days until the season starts...

    Do you agree with the results from our readers polls? Who would you rank as your top 5? Which driver do you think deserved more credit than the RaceDepartment community gave in out poll? Let us know in the comments section below!
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2017
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  2. kedy89


    nice read :thumbsup:

    btw, that's the F2005 you got for 2000 ;)
    • Like Like x 1
  3. theravenousbeast


    It's funny how in the original thread people were arguing for all the other ones and only a few were arguing for MS. That's because one look at the stats and facts will tell you the answer. None of the bullshit "passion" and "emotion" people like to throw around in some desperate subjective attempts at arguing about anyone else.
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  4. Kaiserkoenig


    Nice article, but the Ferrari on the 2000 Picture isn't the F1-2000 :p
    • Like Like x 1
  5. Tim.E


    Very nice to read, well written. :thumbsup:
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Paul Jeffrey

    Paul Jeffrey
    RaceDepartment Editor-in-Chief Staff Premium

    Oooops :redface:

    Updated! Should've spotted that one for myself! Can't see the wood for the trees springs to mind :)
    • Like Like x 1
  7. ears


    Oh I wouldn't say that winning championships when you have the best car put RD readers off voting in any way, shape or form.

    After all - just look who came first.

    Polls canvas opinion. If you'd asked 'who's your favourite world champion of all time?' would the result have been much different?
    • Agree Agree x 3
  8. Gui Cramer

    Gui Cramer

    56.7% will disagree :p, but taste and opinion varies. Also whatever metric chosen also varies, as for example on absolute numbers alone you can't beat Schumi. But then there are relative numbers and %'s, after all, these days in 1 season you can fit 2 seasons of historic F1. There is also how many seasons a driver had in a good or competitive car. And there's attitude, character, natural talent, setting up a car, feedback, etc, etc, etc. Often times the best driver, or one of the best, in the best car gets overlooked.

    Only sticking to numbers (which never tell the whole story), you can see that Fangio, Clark, Stewart, and Senna boast some dominating aspects. From amount of pole positions to race wins in GPs participated, it's crazy. Then consider how Fangio won nearly half of his races, how Clark had a car that was usually fighting reliability, or that Senna only had 4 years in a top car and someone against him off the track.
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  9. Lars Hansen

    Lars Hansen
    Buggered if I know..... Premium

    Well, the poll did ask:
    "The question is, in your opinion dear reader, which driver do you think overcame the hurdles of his era in the most impressive way, to be crowned your ultimate champion of champions?"
    The operative phrase being 'in your opinion'.
    And let's face it, opinions have a tendency to be subjective.
    It didn't state 'list the F1 champions in order of most championships won' ;)
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  10. Blkout


    The haters and nay-sayers can deny Hamilton now, but in a few more years, you'll have no choice but to rank him as the second best or the best ever. Schumacher set the bar really high but Hamilton is on pace to surpass him assuming nothing tragic happens to him. Its easy to say he just has the best car on the grid but there's no question he's undeniably talented and driven to win. His competition is also extremely fierce from his former teammate Rosberg, to Red Bull's pair of drivers to Ferrari's pair.
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  11. neuer31


    For me Top 4 (post 1990):
    Schumacher, Hamilton, Senna, Häkinnen

    Guys that had the potential:
    Stefan Bellof, Robert Kubica

    For sure not:
    Max Verstappen
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  12. JGKnight


    First of all It's easyer to get better stats with today's better reliability and more races.But that doesn't make you better than past drivers.Most of today's drivers might not even finish a race in Jim Clark's time.
    In 15 years someone will get better stats than today's drivers .Does that make him the best ever ?
    Second, anybody can win in the best car.And Rosberg is no where near as talented as Vettel or Ricardo just to name 2 of today's drivers.

    Also if Senna would have lived and chose to continue in F1 he would have won the WC 94,95,96,97.
    But let's say that he would have retired in 1990.Does that make him less talented ?
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2017
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  13. PietervE8

    De la Sarthe 08 Premium

    It would be interesting to see the the age composition was of the survey participants.
    If is was predominantly 30 and younger, it would explain why the older drivers did not do well.
    Also these more recent drivers had careers in an era where info technology is well developed.
    If you are in my age bracket, and stayed for example in South Africa, you would have read about the Clarks, Fangio's etc, once a month in a local motoring magazine like CAR.

    Also keep in mind hat there is a lot of emotional sympathy surrounding Michael ( great as he was ). Another important lesson from Michael's era is the magic that is created when highly talented driver, team boss and technical manager gel as a unit.

    What the younger voted would also be unaware of is the often perilous conditions under which the early era drivers had to deal with,
    • Agree Agree x 2
  14. arniesan


    Alain Prost not in the top five, is an insult to the man.
    • Agree Agree x 8
  15. Glaurung


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  16. ThatRacingGuy

    I drove 88 MPH last night... weird stuff happened

    So Gilles Villeneuve won? cool :p
  17. MoerasGrizzly


    I would say no: This poll invariably says more about the voting audience of RaceDepartment and how the poll was conducted then it does of the drivers themselves (as is the purpose of a poll), and there's always a downside to any poll in the sense that you don't give a rank but only have a limited number of votes. If you appreciate the way Alain Prost did things, chances are you also will appreciate how Michael Schumacher did things, and then you have to choose between the two.
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  18. Enpassant


    Ayrton or Michael... So different persons, so different way of practice its carrier... Who are the most significant? In this poll wins Michael - chapeau bas. Providence gave to him to end his F1 driver carrier on his own conditions... To Ayrton it not have been given.
  19. Nox


    @Paul Jeffrey great thread. Now do one for greatest Le Mans winners :D
    • Agree Agree x 2
  20. Paul Jeffrey

    Paul Jeffrey
    RaceDepartment Editor-in-Chief Staff Premium

    Now that aint a bad idea at all! Only 63214 drivers to choose from :roflmao:
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