From Juan Manuel Fangio to Lewis Hamilton, impossible to point to the greatest in Formula 1

The numbers do not show the values ​​of each season or indicate who is the best in history.

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Classic Engines

By Wagner Gonzalez

Last Sunday the English Lewis Hamilton he won Eifel Grand Prix en Nurburgring and equaled the german Michael Schumacher as the biggest winner in the history of the F1: from now on the two add 91 wins. In the same race, the Finn Kimi Räikkönen He participated in the 323rd chance in an official competition and became the pilot with the highest number of participations in the category. If there are many who praise such achievements, there are also those who regard this information as cold and calculating numbers.

Kimi Raikkonen
Kimi Räikkönen: None played more Grand Prix than the 2007 champion. Photo: Alfa Romeo Press.

Radicalism was never a healthy practice for a gregarious and social race like humans. That said, I make it clear that the achievements of English, German and Finnish are far-reaching, but insufficient to eliminate a classic discussion: Who is the greatest of all time?

The F.1 scenario in every decade since 1950 is at best similar, but never the same, and its extremes show it: in the 50s the average number of races per year was seven, including races. 500 Miles Indianapolis (which was part of the World Championship until 1960), 16 drivers participated regularly in the season (discounting the 33 who started in the American race) and 21 scored points each season. In the 2010s the calendar had an average of 20 races, 24 runners enrolled each year and of these 18 scored. A worthwhile curiosity: in 2018 alone all the pilots (20) participating in the 21-stage championship scored points.

Juan Manuel Fangio in one of his most celebrated victories: the 1957 German GP.

The analysis of these numbers reveals very interesting data, such as those of the 1950s, when the Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio he won five out of ten championships driving cars from four different manufacturers. Memorable achievement. But what about Stirling Moss, the first driver to be called a champion without a title, courtesy of four runners-up (55/56/57/58) and a third place (59)? Other champions of the time were the Italians Nino Farina (1950) y Alberto Ascari (1952/1953), English Mike hawthorn (1958) and the Australian Jack Brabham (1959).

Jim Clark, one of the greats of the '60s with Jack Brabham and Graham Hill.

In the decade that followed, no pilot reached Fangio's achievement: Brabham (1960/1966), the English Graham hill (1962/1968) and the Scotsman Jim Clark (1963/1965) were the only ones to win two titles in that period in which versatility was a transcendent brand. Clark and Hill even won the Indianapolis 500, a bastion hitherto practically banned from foreigners. The Scotsman was able to beat a Fangio record: he won 25 times, one more than the Argentine.

The diversity of those times became even more apparent when we noticed the other champions: the American Phil Hill (1961), English John Surtees (1964), the only one in history who has been a world champion in motorcycling; New Zealander Denny Hulme (1967) and the Scotsman Jackie stewart (1969). Those were years in which the seasons averaged 10 races, 19 regular drivers, and 20 scored each year. The American Dan Gurney, who won just four times in 86 starts, was Clark's only feared opponent and was noted for his technical ability and creating and developing solutions.

Jackie Stewart and Emerson Fittipaldi
Jackie Stewart and Emerson Fittipaldi, references in the '70s.

In the following decade, tournaments grew 14,4 times on average, 21 drivers scored points each year and 30 drivers attended the subscriber lists. Stewart 1971/1973), the Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi (1972/1974) and the Austrian Niki Lauda (1975/1977) were the most outstanding with two titles in a period that faced seven different champions. The others were the Austrian Jochen Rindt (1970), English James Hunt (1976), the American Mario Andretti (1978) and the South African Jody scheckter (1979). It is impossible to ignore the Swede Ronnie Peterson (123 GPS, 10 victories).

The freedom of regulation and the affordable price to buy engines Ford cosworth, Hewland gearboxes and brake kits from various suppliers facilitated some trivialization of the category: each year, on average, 15 teams were entered to compete between 17 and 18 races and for every 38 drivers whose names appeared annually, about half (19,5) scored. The spree was such that in 1989 54 different names were painted on the cabs of 20 teams' cars, a historic record.

The brazilian Nelson Piquet (1981/1983/1986) and French Alain Prost (1985/1986/1989) stood out against names that ended their careers and others who started, including world champions such as the Australian Alan Jones (1980), the Finnish Keke. Rosberg (1982), Lauda (1984) and the Brazilian Ayrton Senna (1988).

Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet
An anthological image of the '80s: Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet.

A similar scenario marked the following decade, when the seasons lived more restrained days: the average number of registered drivers each year fell to 34,7, the starts fell to 34,7 registered every 16,2 annual races and those who scored decreased to 16.2. The dispute between Senna (champion also in 1990 and 1991), Prost (1993), the impetuous performances of the English Nigel Mansell (1992) and the appearance of German Michael Schumacher (1994/1995) were endless headlines, as well as English titles Damon Hill (1996), first name to repeat the feat of his father Graham; the canadian Jacques Villeneuve (97). Finnish Mika Hakkinen is an example of the Phoenix Bird: after a violent accident in Adelaide in 1995, it recovered to win the double in 1998 and 1999.

Mika Häkkinen and Michael Schumacher
Mika Häkkinen and Michael Schumacher: rivals since F.3, they also fought for titles in F.1.

The first decade of the 20st century marks the expansion of the calendar with the inclusion of new race tracks and an average of 26 races. Vacancies became less rotating (19 each year), as did the number of pilots who scored (2000). Schumacher (2001/2002/2003/2004/XNUMX) and Spanish Fernando Alonso (2005/2006) they became the big names against other champions such as the Finn Kimi Räikkönen (2007) and the British Lewis Hamilton (2008) y Jenson Button (2009). Rubens BarrichelloRunner-up in 2002 and 2004 and third in 2001 and 2009, it deserves mention in the decade marked by the German-dominated period.

The increasingly exacerbated use of technology made the 2010s a most monotonous period: the German Sebastian Vettel was champion for four consecutive years (2010/2011/2012/2013) and Hamilton (2014/2015/2017/2018/2019) and the German Nico Rosberg (2016) in the rest of the seasons. The fact that only teams Red Bull y Mercedes Have mastered consolidate the statement at the beginning of the sentence. Today the hegemony of Hamilton has not ceased despite the efforts of the Finn Valtteri Bottas and the daring dutch Max Verstappen.

Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel dominated in the early 2000s and is in a phase of rebirth. Photo: Paul Gilham / Getty Images.

I am fortunate to have lived with different degrees of closeness with three world champions, Emerson Fittipaldi, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna, and to have interviewed many others, including Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost and Mika Häkkinen. Likewise, the different seasons that I have followed the F.1 GP after GP around the world have allowed me to meet, and even live with, many winners, participants and fans. For all these reasons, I feel safe in saying that it is impossible to point a finger at any of them and rank it the best of all time.


Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso, two-time champion in 2005 and 2006, returns to Formula 1 in 2021.

The reasons for this are the social and economic values ​​of each era, the technological achievements of one or another builder, and the joy that the advantages of these themes are aligned around one or the other pilot. There is no doubt that those who won only one title have capacity and a bigger star than those who did not achieve that much. It is not necessary to try to define why they did not repeat the dose: Rindt is the only posthumous champion in history; Keke Rosberg won just one race in '82 and established himself on the basis of consistency, while his son emulated this achievement, but was runner-up in 2014 and 2015 in direct competition with the same Hamilton who is about to become the biggest GP winner in history.

Lewis Hamilton and Mick Schumacher
Hamilton is also going for Schumacher's record seven titles. Photo: Steve Etherington.

English has started 261 races since 2007, which means 19 races per year. In nine seasons Fangio has lined up in 51 races, a figure that the Englishman reaches every two and a half seasons. It's just two examples, but big enough to highlight both, all the other pilots mentioned above and remember that many others, including some who haven't even had a chance to drive an F.1, could have done the same or better .

The path each driver takes to reach F.1 is unique, no matter how many corners they have raced in common with their rivals or how many racetracks they know as well as their teammate. Surviving and winning in the highest category of motorsport requires much more than sheer skill behind the wheel, in negotiations with team leaders or in the sincerity of the smile printed in front of the television cameras and the audience of the guests.

You have to live the moment intensely and enjoy life with what it puts on the table. This gives us the opportunity for all of us to be excellent at what we do.

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Automundo is the blog about news from the automotive industry, motorsport and the culture of the region. Director: Diego Durruty.

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