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??l??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”

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

  2. 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?

  3. 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

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

  5. 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…

  6. 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 They are enormously funny and very good hearted as the celebrate the drivers who were the best failures in our sport.

  7. Alex Yoong anyone?

  8. also, jean-marc gounon!

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. Michael Andretti (1993) was pretty awful

  13. 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.

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

  15. Ukyo was diagnosed with cancer of the back towards the end of 1994:

  16. this i didnt know!

  17. 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?

  18. 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…

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

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