Debate: The Bottom 10 F1 drivers

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Alan Henry’s done it, F1 Racing did it, and now The Times are naming their top 100 F1 drivers.

I toyed with the idea of doing something similar here but these debates always end up the same: arguments about whether you can compare drivers from the ’50s with those from five decades later, why all the current drivers are over-rated and so on.

Instead let’s go to the other end of the scale and ask who were F1’s very worst drivers ever? I’ve picked five, nominate yours below…

Jean-Denis Deletraz

Presences: 3
Starts: 3
Best grid position: 24
Best finishing position: 15

Deletraz was nine laps into his Grand Prix debut at Adelaide in 1994 when the leaders came by him for the first time. He was ten laps down by the time his car died of shame on lap 57. On his third and final Grand Prix appearance at the Nurburgring in 1995 he actually finished having been lapped seven times.

Giovanni Lavaggi

Presences: 10
Starts: 9
Best grid position: 20
Best finishing position: 10 (classified finish despite having spun off)

After four races with Pacific in 1995 he returned the following year to replace the a young, under-funded Giancarlo Fisichella at Minardi – and promptly failed to qualify for his first race back. He only looked good when D?â?®l?â?®traz replaced him.

Ricardo Rosset

Presences: 33
Starts: 26
Best grid position: 17
Best finishing position: 8

You don’t need to know much more about Rosset other than the fact his Tyrrell mechanics used to swap the letters ‘R’ and ‘T’ of his surname around on his car’s stickers.

He provided a sublime comedy moment for ITV’s Murray Walker and Martin Brundle by crashing just was Walker was finished saying, “There’s some debate about whether Rosset is Formula 1 material” to which Brundle dead-panned, “That’s a pretty short debate, Murray.”

Enrico Bertaggia

Presences: 6
Starts: 0
Best grid position: DNPQ
Best finishing position: N/A

The stats say it all, really. In six attempts he never pre-qualified once. But he is trumped by…

Claudio Langes

Presences: 14
Starts: 0
Best grid position: DNPQ
Best finishing position: N/A

Yes. Well, the less said the better really.

Those are my first five. But who do you think belongs on the list of F1’s worst drivers – and why? Do any current or recent drivers deserve to be on the list? Nominate as many as you like as later on we’ll whittle the list down to ten.

In the meantime, here’s a few more names to consider: Taki Inoue, Philippe Adams and Piercarlo Ghinzani.

41 comments on “Debate: The Bottom 10 F1 drivers”

  1. I remember Martin Brundle commenting on Lavaggi:
    “There goes Giovanni Lavaggi, or – as he’s known in English, Johnny Handwash”
    .
    I think Phillipe Addams rates as one of the all time worst drivers ever. Didn’t he struggle mightily to qualify for a superlicence AFER Lotus had signed him?

  2. This debate will be very hard because some of the worst drivers never made it anywhere simply because their machinery was so sub-par. If we look at this year’s results we would be inclined to declare Sato a horrible driver… although we all know that it’s really that SAF1 had a poor car to work with this year (and other things on their mind).

    For the real ‘poor performers’, we need to more so look at who did bad in good cars. For instance Michael Andretti… 11th in the championship in 1993, in the same equipment that Senna took to 2nd place. Heck Häkkinen nearly beat him for the season, despite taking over with only 3 races to go for the season.

  3. Robert McKay
    16th May 2008, 15:26

    “This debate will be very hard because some of the worst drivers never made it anywhere simply because their machinery was so sub-par”

    Fair point.

    The flipside is also true, though, that many of these drivers never made it to better machinery BECAUSE they were so god-awful.

    But you are right that the debate has to separate rubbish drivers from rubbish driver-car packages. Lavaggi would still have been infamously bad in a decent car.

  4. OK so let me throw a potentially interesting name into the mix: Andrea de Cesaris.

  5. Haha what I’ll always remember about Rosset is at the Spa 98 mass pileup he drove full speed into the wreck like some kind of computer game!

  6. Rosset gets my vote – good to see him appear in here.
    Where’s Taki Inoue though??

  7. Blimey, time really does fly. I can’t believe Brundle & Walker were commantating together when Tyrrell were still racing.

  8. Is it really necessary to do this?

  9. You can have quite a laugh at some drivers in F1, like:
    Otto Stuppacher (1976) – Entered 3 races in 1976 in a Tyrell. He failed to qualify for 2 (27secs off pole at the East US GP!) and only qualified for the remaining race as other competitors had been excluded. Thing is, he had already left the country. :D
    or
    Al Pease (1969) – Only driver to be black flagged for driving too slow.

  10. Pedro Chaves is nominated for me.

    Despite a bad car…
    13 appearances
    13 DNPQ’s

    And about Andrea de Cesaris, it was really before 1991 where Andrea was… bad.

  11. Ukyo Katayama, he was good for laughs!! I can remember the Japanese commentators (I lived there at the time) screaming his name in a way that only moronic Japanese commentators can, all the way until he spun.

  12. Maybe a bit controversial, seeing how big a hero he is, but Alex Zanardi was outclassed 35 points to nil in the 1999 Williams – by Ralf Schumacher of all people! I respect his bravery and the skill he’s shown in Champ Car etc, but he really failed badly in F1.

  13. Agreed Vertigo. Zanardi is a legend of CART and so brave for still continuing to race despite his condition. Useless in F1 though

  14. Taki Inoue? – Didn’t he once manage to crash into a course car after it was towing him along in Monaco?.And he distracted Damon Hill so he ran straight into the back of Schumacher’s Benetton that year as well….

    Yuji Ide would be a name I’d be tempted to throw into the mix – he only lasted three races before the FIA took away his superlicence and he struggled to stay on the track as well.

  15. Andrea de Cesaris
    214 Races
    15 Seasons
    10 Teams
    34 Tracks
    Scored 59 out of a possible 1985 points !
    5 Podiums
    1 Fastest lap
    22 times in the points
    You can’t say he didn’t have opportunities

  16. I’ve got one, Pedro Diniz! Never really like him much,
    never really did anything of note. Was involved in some big crashes (Nurburgring 99 and Hockenheim 00), of which the latter was completely his fault.
    His relationship with Alain Prost, as business partners was as disastrous as his F1 career.

  17. Jean-Denis Deletraz

    Presences: 3
    Starts: 3
    Best grid position: 24
    Best finishing position: 15

    I could be wrong, but isn’t that better than Sutil?…

  18. Nevermind, Sutil finished 8th in Japan by way of attrition. I hope he sent Vettel flowers.

  19. Yeah, but Sutil’s rubbish as well.

  20. PP Diniz at least one time was better in Qualify then teammate Alesi! This is something that the very rich pay drivers, didn´t dream to made (as Rikki von Opel, Hector Rebaque, Johnny Dumfries…).

    I Think Keith was a little unfair with Yuji Ide.

    once upon time Ricardo Rosset remained backwards in Monaco and didnt´t managed to spin the car. The Shamefull SPA 98 incident after all, was a Guiness record…

    For Nelson Piquet the slower one was François Migualt cause he managed to spin at Monaco and not to hit the guard rail.

  21. What about doing the worst drivers in top cars?

  22. This is a topic I like because I like to support the underdog,
    Anyway how about: Massimiliano Papis, Esteban Tuero, Giovanna Amati and the proof why Piquet Jnr will fail, who remembers Michael Andretti in 1993?

  23. steve thompson
    16th May 2008, 20:06

    What about poor old Rupert Keegan – the new wonder star, the next Graham Hill……er RAM March or something…. I have a photo of him…… and another name from the 70s Arturo – thats him at the back missing gears – Merzario

  24. Just found this:
    Bernie Ecclestone attended the 1958 Monaco and British rounds but didn’t qualify can he be considered :)

  25. Well, Let me add one brazilian to the list:

    Tarso Marques:
    I don’t remember exactly if he was a pay driver, but he was always off pace, he was always in trouble and had the privilege of being one of the last drivers to fail to qualify because of the 107% pole time limit rule…

    In 2001, he partened (supreme cruelty) none less than Fernando Alonso, in Minardi.

    While the future double world champion managed to qualify in the 9th row seven times (17h once and 18th six times), Marques only qualified ahead of the 11th (and last) row once, with a 20th place in Malaysia…

    In qualifying results, Alonso beat him 12-2 (as he was replaced before the season end), and, even if it’s very cruel to compare one of the worst with one of the best, that’s a good showing of how differently two drivers can perform with the same machinery, and let’s not forget that Alonso was a rookie, while Marques had 11 Grand Prix starts on his bag before the season began… and Alonso, back than, was only 20 years old…

  26. Terry Fabulous
    16th May 2008, 23:14

    Johnathon Palmer
    “And Lavaggi getting in the way, getting even MORE in the way, he needs to move out of the way, he’s desperately slow, he’s there because of his money”

    Murray Walker
    “What IS Delatraz doing?”

    Great article Keith!
    For more on F1’s greatest failures you have to have a look at http://www.f1rejects.com. They are enormously funny and very good hearted as the celebrate the drivers who were the best failures in our sport.

  27. Alex Yoong anyone?

  28. also, jean-marc gounon!

  29. Saw Justin Wilson race recently in an IRL car, didn’t seem too bad in that, but his F1 career was very shortlived and unispiring.
    Anyone think he was poor in F1, or just in the wrong team at the wrong time?I know lady luck plays a large part in such things, but what about you guys?
    I am interested in hearing what Sush has to say about it!

  30. Robert McKay
    17th May 2008, 12:29

    Wilson: wrong team, wrong time. Decent driver. Shame Champcar went belly-up, just as he’d negotiated his way to NHLR, the best team on the grid. I remember he made some great starts in the Minardi, would get up to like 12th on the opening lap from th start and then fall back as the other better cars made their advantage tell. And then if memory serves me well he was parachuted into a mediocre Jaguar at very short notice for a few races after Pizzonia (remember him??) got the push. I don’t think he was stellar at Jag, but he didn’t get much time…

    Also wrong height, because he was so tall most teams didn’t even consider him for the problems it meant trying to fit him in the car if I remember.

  31. I’m glad somebody else remembers Rosset for being the one who ploughed into the Spa 98 mass pile up with unabated speed – in fact, he almost looks like he floored it, and sped up! Genius.

  32. Michael Andretti (1993) was pretty awful

  33. Can’t believe that someone’s mentioned Ukyo here. He’s the best driver to come out of Japan so far (yes, he’s better than Sato, but, tbf, that isn’t hard – although Davidson’s failed at even that), and was on the verge of getting the second Benetton seat before he was diagnosed with cancer.

  34. who has cancer?
    if ur referring to Ukyo, he left F1 to persue mountain climbing!

  35. Ukyo was diagnosed with cancer of the back towards the end of 1994: http://www.f1rejects.com/centrale/katayama/index.html

  36. this i didnt know!
    cheers

  37. I second the motion to check out F1 Rejects – the podcasts are hilarious !

    I could be wrong, but I think that inspiration behind the site is Perry McCarthy – so surely he would have to make the list?

  38. Was it Brundle who said about Marques, “he couldn’t drive a nail into a piece of wood”? Classic!

    Wilson’s good. Not stellar, but plenty good enough to keep well off this list. There’s an interview on the IndyCar site somewhere at the moment with Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon in which they’re asked which ex-Champ Car drivers have impressed them most, and Wilson’s one of the names they come up with.

    Don’t know if it counts because he was only test driver, and that in name only, but in the final years of Minardi we signed 41-year-old Chanoch Nissany. The BBC wrote: “Nissany is a relative newcomer but very wealthy, a fact which no doubt boosted his attractiveness to Minardi.” I’m not sure he was actually allowed anywhere near the car…

  39. Perry McCarthy was probably a good driver, but Andrea Moda is a candidate for the worst team that ever raced in F1, so he never got the chance. He inspired F1 Rejects because he was a good driver with few results, not because he was an awful driver.

    Chanoch Nissany got a Friday session in the Minardi in Hungary 2005. Nicknamed “Stirling Mossad”, he was 13 seconds off the pace in the morning before a technical problem sidelined him in the afternoon – to the relief of all his rivals.

  40. Andrea Moda was probably the worst team ever. At one race McCarthy was in the lobby of the hotel looking for the team when he met Andrea’s brother who told him the team had left for the track..without the driver. The brother decided he would drive Perry to the circuit and flew through several red lights. It is worth digging through the net to find McCarthy’s description of this journey. Eventually they come to a green light and the brother locks up all the wheels. McCarthy asked him why he didn’t just carry on at the same speed and was told ‘don’t be stupid my brother could be coming the other way.’

    Johnny Dumfries was not a pay driver. He was British F3 champion but Senna had refused to have Derek Warwick as his team mate but Lotus wanted a British driver as the number two to keep sponsors happy. Being number two at Lotus was never a good place to be that’s why Jackie Stewart refused to be number two to his friend Jim Clark. Lotus focussed on Senna and Dumfries’s GP career withered away. He had the potential to be a good GP driver but Lotus was the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Zanardi struggled at Williams but Lotus raved about his ability before he went to America.

  41. Dinix may of bought his way into formula one but he finished 7th in a forti he actually was one of the better pay drivers

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