Champion of Champions: Mika Hakkinen vs Jacques Villeneuve

Mika Hakkinen vs Jacques Villeneuve

Champion of ChampionsPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Champion of Champions: Mika Hakkinen vs Jacques Villeneuve

Mika Hakkinen succeeded Jacques Villeneuve as champion in the 1990s.

But they never went up against each other for the championship – the common thread between this pair was another driver: Michael Schumacher.

Villeneuve made a huge impact on F1 when he first appeared for Williams in 1996. He started his maiden race from pole position and would have won it had his car not suffered an oil leak.

That allowed team mate Damon Hill through to win. Hill beat Villeneuve to the title but not before the Canadian had won four races in his rookie season.

Hill was replaced by Heinz-Harald Frentzen in 1997 and Villeneuve duly claimed the title after Schumacher’s infamous attempt to take him out at Jerez.

Hakkinen broke his Grand Prix duck in that race – thanks to team mate David Coulthard – and the following year he took Villeneuve’s place as Schumacher’s title rival. He won eight out of 16 races to clinch the championship.

This was the culmination of six years’ work with McLaren. Hakkinen joined the team in 1993 after two seasons with Lotus.

A second title followed in 1999, though Schumacher was taken out of contention halfway through the season when he broke his leg. In 2000 Hakkinen was runner-up in another title duel with Schumacher.

By 2001 his motivation seemed to be sapped and he announced he would be taking a year away from F1. But he never raced in the top flight again.

While Hakkinen endured several trying years at the beginning of his career, Villeneuve went through the same after winning his championship. He left Williams to join the new BAR team in 1999 and the project made excruciatingly slow progress.

After a change of management at the team he left on the eve of the 2003 Japanese Grand Prix. He made a partial return at the end of 2004, partnering Fernando Alonso at Renault, before moving to Sauber.

That team became BMW in 2006, and Villeneuve was dropped to make way for Robert Kubica following that year’s German Grand Prix.

Which of these drivers should go through to the next round of the Champion of Champions? Vote for which you think was best below and explain who you voted for and why in the comments.

Mika Hakkinen Jacques Villeneuve
Mika Hakkinen, McLaren, 1999 Jacques Villeneuve, Williams, 1996
Titles 1998, 1999 1997
Second in title year/s Michael Schumacher, Eddie Irvine Michael Schumacher*
Teams Lotus, McLaren Williams, BAR, Renault, Sauber, BMW
Notable team mates Johnny Herbert, Martin Brundle, David Coulthard Damon Hill, Olivier Panis, Jenson Button
Starts 161 163
Wins 20 (12.42%) 11 (6.75%)
Poles 26 (16.15%) 13 (7.98%)
Modern points per start1 8.58 5.23
% car failures2 24.22 22.70
Modern points per finish3 11.33 6.77
Notes Stunned Ayrton Senna by out-qualifying him in their first race as team mates Finished on podium on debut and won his fourth race
Recovered from head injuries after crashing at Adelaide in 1995 Took title in second season for Williams but never won a race again
Won back-to-back titles for McLaren in 1998 and 1999 Failed to score a point in 1999 at beginning of troubled BAR project
Bio Mika Hakkinen Jacques Villeneuve

*Placed second in points but disqualified from championship after the season ended. Heinz-Harald Frentzen was promoted from third to second.

1 How many points they scored in their career, adjusted to the 2010 points system, divided by the number of races they started
2 The percentage of races in which they were not classified due to a mechanical failure
3 How many points they scored in their career, adjusted to the 2010 points system, divided by the number of starts in which they did not suffer a race-ending mechanical failure

Which was the better world champion driver?

  • Mika Hakkinen (93%)
  • Jacques Villeneuve (7%)

Total Voters: 688

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Images ?é?® Bridgestone Corporation (Hakkinen), Williams/Sutton (Villeneuve)

131 comments on “Mika Hakkinen vs Jacques Villeneuve”

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  1. When Patrick Head says that Jacques made hard work of what should’ve been an easy title win in 1997, you’ve gotta agree with him.

    Mika for me – probably the only rival Michael Schumacher truly respected (for better or worse).

    1. Having the best car and dominating is not so easy. Vettel is a wonderful driver (much better than Villeneuve) and had the same problem this year.
      But in general I think Hakkinen was far better than Villeneuve.

      1. I do not think Jaques was a very good driver. The way he won in CART at its top and his years at Williams show that.

        The BAR desicion and the years after showed he lost his reason (on par with Emerson Fittipaldi doing his own team) and only recently showed some real racing again in NASCAR.

        But Mika Häkkinen was just a lot better, although he also had a big car advantage his drives were superb and his back to back WDC thoroughly deserved.

        1. Emerson Fittipaldi raced for his brothers team.

    2. Yes, it’s ironic that now he’s slamming Vettel a lot for squandering opportunities, when Jacques probably squandered things a lot more.

      1. A Devil’s advocate might point out here that Vettel has had four full seasons in F1, whereas Jacques came second in his first season, and one it in his second season. He may have made more mistakes that Vettel, – though that is very debatable – but Vettel has had two extra seasons.

        1. Not really, just three. He only raced in the USGP in 2007 as a replacement for Kubica – hardly an entire season.

          1. And he had the second half of 2007 in Toro Rosso, so if we are really fussy, three and a half seasons.

    3. if schumacher did’t respect alonso, would be very stupid of him. He lost twice against him, being 2006 a very deserving victory, no matter what alonso haters say.
      But we are talking about two other great drivers today.
      I voted for mika, because he was fast, didn’t get afected by schumacher tactics, and have better record. Villeneuve was also fast, was also mentaly strong against michael, but when he went to bar couldn’t show what he was capable of, going even worse at renault and sauber. A closer call than i thought, but i go for the finn.

      1. “He lost twice against him”. When was the second time? XDD. He lost only in 2006. 2005 championship was Alonso vs Kimi.

        1. Schumacher drove in that championship too you know! Same holds true for Hakkinen who only defeated Schumacher once since the other title he won against Irvine??? Weird reasoning.

          1. Then Schumacher defeated Alonso three times as well.

      2. the best drivers Schumacher and Alonso seem to hav to biggest haters

        1. Luckily for Fangio all his haters are still communicating by telegraph, rather than using computers.

          1. “Luckily for Fangio all his haters are still communicating by telegraph, rather than using computers.”

            – DVC

            I nominate that for comment of the day!!
            Thanks for lightening the mood man.

    4. Agreed. Hakkinen was my first Formula One hero, but that’s not just why I voted for him. Villeneuve was very overrated, and basically gave up after failing to get a decent car in 1998.

      1. BS he drove amazing in 2000 had a brilliant year. he had the legs on Panis too who was no slouch. he was pretty much on par with button in 03 despite Dave richards massively favouring button (which button re-payed in 04 lol).

        i personally think the melbourne accident effected him and slowed him down.

        JV was a great driver and racer. he just was. but made the wrong decisions, could of gone to mclaren or benetton around 2001-3 and really he should of.

        JV was brilliant in 96, less so in 97, drove a bad car well in 98, kept his head high in 99.and was amazing 00. things slowly went down hill from there.

        Mika was brilliant in 94 96 and 98. and the latter half of 00.

        id plump for mika simply for staying at mclaren. like JV should of stayed at williams. for me that one(massive) decision is all that splits them.

    5. Mika for me too.

  2. Out of these two, Hakkinen was simply better. Villenuve did well at Williams and was decent for BAR in 2000 and 2001, but Villeneuve should have done better throughout his career.

    1. Well.. this choice is not as easy as it seems. Lets not forget that it took Hakinnen ages to get his first win, but Jacques on the other hand, made one of the most stellar rookie entrances in the sport ever (2nd only to hamilton’s entrance). The Williams challenger in 96 and 97 was stellar, but Villenueve showed a lot of grit and maturity to take the title in 97. I think Jacques just screwed up his career by falling for the money, and leaving for a fresh team. After 97, he had no motivation to achieve anything in the sport and just switched off for the rest of his F1 career.

      Mika, on the other hand, started hitting his peak later on in his career, and when he was at his peak, he was awesome. It was a close vote, but I had to go with Mika as well.

      1. Lets not forget that it took Hakinnen ages to get his first win

        In cars that obviously weren’t as good as Villeneuve’s.

  3. Has to be Hakkinen, though I do think Villeneuve gets somewhat unfairly criticised at time.

    JV was undoubtedly a quick driver and despite a complete lack of success with BAR, that wasn’t always his fault. He still put in a number of stunning drives, but the problem was he wasn’t enough of a team leader to drive the team forward. When Panis joined him there in 2001 it effectively undermined any technical input Jacques had and when Button had the beating of him in ’03 it was the final nail in the coffin of his career.

    One thing I always liked about JV was his racing spirit and outspoken nature. He was a true character, something we haven’t really had since he left.

    1. The interesting thing about the Jenson-Jacques relationship for me was that they didn’t get on very well at all at the start of 2003, but were very good mates by the end of the year when Jacques left.

      That said… other than Frentzen, did Jacques definitely beat any of his other teammates? I can’t seem to think of any.

      1. by the end of 1996 he was easily better than Hill. though that was a great year for Hill overall. Villeneuve seemed to be on the cusp of real greatness but never really achieved.

        hakkinen, on the other hand was a true great, fully deserving champion and one of the fastest drivers ever. also, i was at spa watching on the back straight in 2000 and we all know what happened there. hakkinen gets the nod easily.

    2. I always grin when someone says that Button had the best of JV at BAR. If you overlook the multiple DNF’s due to mechanical unreliability, and the fact that the team principal was publicly out to get him. Jacques had some of his best drives in 2000 and 2001, putting that crappy BAR much higher than it deserved, but the vast majority only look at the results to make judgments, not the effort.

    3. …dont forget Juan Pablo Montoya..same mould as JV, a real character, extremely quick, outspoken…but never had his head screwed on straight…my favourite of all time!

      In this battle..its got be Mika. He was as good if not better than Schumacher, and the respectable thing is he’s not a tw*t like Schumacher.

      JV on the other hand, probably made some of the worse career desicions in leaving for BAR, he never had a break after that, eveything just went downhill…with luck and better judgement, JV could have been one of the greats…have to admit, he was a real racer.

      My vote..Mika

  4. One of the hardest choses for me.

  5. Quantum Electrodynamics
    6th January 2011, 10:12

    MIKA MIKA MIKA!!!!!!!!

  6. Hakkinen no doubt, he was blighted by car hydraulic and engine failures in the Schumacher years which, although probably wouldn’t have won him a 3rd title he would’ve been a lot closer and put up more of a fight than DC.

    Jacques, i’m afraid is another Button, wins in a ridiculously quick car but can’t make anything happen when left in a car on par with the rest of the front runners. BUT, Villenueve’s pass on Schumacher at Adelaide was nothing short of brilliant.

    Hakkinen gets my vote.

    1. Estoril, not Adelaide. I had that track on the brain yesterday…

  7. This is very easy for me. Mika got the most out of what he was given. I was always impressed with his race craft and speed.

    JV was good in a good car, but that was it. I’ll remember him for what he did outside of F1 than with F1, like the only driver to drive 505 miles to win the Indy 500.
    I guess that sums JV up though. He always made things difficult for himself.

  8. Mika is really beter then Jacques. Someone who can upset Senna is the beter one for me. He quited way to soon, but he didn’t want to continue but if he did we were talking the same as we do with Schumacher.

    Clearly a easy decision )

    1. Eddie Irvine upset Senna to the point of him getting punched in the face…how does Fast Eddie rank in your list then?

      1. “Eddie Irvine upset Senna to the point of him getting punched in the face…how does Fast Eddie rank in your list then?”

        A lot like JV and JPM, a great unrealized talent, a fierce personality, and an exciting racer that I miss seeing in F1.

  9. On the face of it, a difficult choice, but, when you look further into it, I can’t see past Hakkinen.

    As Keith said, the only common link is Michael Schumacher. JV fought Michael for the title once (maybe twice if you count 1996)… Hakkinen kept him on his heels for 4 years (plus comings together in the lower categories, think Macau…).

    Hakkinen even outqualified Senna on his debut. I think this isn’t as difficult as I first thought.

    Jacques isn’t as good as Gilles in my opinion – just on a side note! Although if Jacques can do well in NASCAR he will be a more complete driver than Gilles.

  10. A tough one but I go for Mika. Jacques Villeneuve always was an under-achiever to me as Mika overcame odds staked against him. And that pass on Michael at Spa is one of the greatest in the history of Fomula One. Mika had real “sisu”.

    1. Agreed, but then Jacques’ move on Michael at Jerez 1996 was also one of the greatest…

      1. Hmmm. Jacques in Estoril 96 was astonishing, but Mika in Spa 2000 was even better, IMHO.

        And I’m speaking as a Schumacher fan.

        1. I agree that Spa 2000 with Hakkinen was better than Jacques in Jerez, I was just sparking an alternate viewpoint! The added variable of Zonta made it all the more astonishing. Imagine sitting in that BAR at that point!

          1. For me Jacques move on Schumacher Estoril 96 was one of the best I have seen, His own engineers warned him against trying it but he used his Indy experience to ride the curve.. And then had to dodge the slower Footwork on the straight. Brilliant……

  11. Hakkinen gets my vote but it was tough deciding.

    I mean Hakkinen didn’t get his first win until 1997, whilst Villeneuve got it in his first season. Granted Hakkinen was at a dying Lotus team and then when he moved to McLaren they were kind of in a transitional period.

    I remember rewatching the 1997 season and thinking where is Hakkinen, he should be in the points more, but it was DC who was. Whilst at the same time Villeneuve was winning races and up there fighting, albeit in a much faster car.

    As for Villeneuve I think he did benefit from a fast car in those first two years, but as we’ve seen many times before, you still need to get the thing to the finish line even if it is a fast car. The only thing that stops me voting for Villeneuve is the way his career started so well and then dropped off so badly, as in the article, he didn’t win another race.

    I’m not sure whether I’m just seeing it as Hakkinen ended his career not too long after his double title wins, and that Villeneuve continued for many years after his title. One ending on a high, the other on a low.

    But still Hakkinen just seemed a more pure driver, and had that concentration that only a few seem to have.

    1. Quantum Electrodynamics
      6th January 2011, 10:45

      and had that concentration that only a few seem to have.


      That said I think Mika is still my all time favorite.

      1. Don’t think that really proves your point. Drivers make mistakes, thats not what I’m talking about.

  12. Mika easily gets my vote. Also has the best pass I ever seen, think was at spa were he passed Scumhi with a back marker sandwiched between the two. Jacques unfortunately ruined the prime of his career stuck at go nowhere BAR. It was good though to have drivers like Jacques about who spoke their mind instead of the usual company BS.

  13. Hakkinen, no doubt. That’s no reflection on Villeneuve’s driving per se as I think he’s a bit underrated, but more of an acknowledgement that one should be able to back up ones words with on-track showing and Hakkinen is well ahead of Villeneuve in that respect.

    Mind you, being a man of few words does help him a little bit ;)

  14. Hakkinen, easily. He was the only man Michael Schumacher was ever afraid of. That’s a massive endorsement, not only for this round, but for the entire competition.

    Plus, he doesn’t have a bald patch or a short-lived career as a singer-songwriter. About the only thing negative that I can say about Hakkinen is that he didn’t stay in the sport longer. It’s a mystery to me why he left he sport. His accident in Australia didn’t help things, but more should have bene one to keep him around.

    1. That’s a massive endorsement, not only for this round, but for the entire competition.

      Very true.

      Plus, he doesn’t have a bald patch or a short-lived career as a singer-songwriter.


  15. JamesC1991 (@)
    6th January 2011, 10:48

    Even not been biased(Big Mika Fan),Hakkinen wins this one hands down.
    Villeneuve managed to win a championship like Button(prepared to be corrected about Williams’ car,started watching in 99),only cause he had the quickest car,he had some good moments after this but not that many.
    Mika well outqualifying Senna on his Mclaren debut,mighty impressive.
    98,drove superbly,would have won it earlier had it not been for car failures.
    99,wasn’t so good but grinded it out in the end.
    2000 I thought was actually his best season but that heartbreaking engine failure in the US cost him but who can forget that pass at Spa,just sensational.
    Facts up there speak for themselves Mika was the better driver so gets my vote obviously.

    1. I’m sorry but this view on Jenson Button that because his car was quick at the beginning of the year means he is not as worthy is frankly complete rubbish.

      So just because Villeneuve and Button won in a quick car, that makes them not as good?! So Sebastian Vettel surely fits into this?!

      Most champions were in the fastest car, thats why they are the champion that year

      1. Most champions were in the fastest car, thats why they are the champion that year

        It depends on the level of advantage the car had over the rest of the field and on how well the driver utilised that car.

        The Brawn was really fastest for the first 7 races and Monza, and Button finished on the podium in all 8, winning 6 of them. He built up enough of a points advantage over the Red Bulls (who caught up performance-wise) to clinch the title in Brazil.

        Vettel scraped the 2010 title, made lots of errors which dropped him points, but at least he lost more points through mechanical faults than he gained through other’s misfortune.

        Villeneuve had the fastest car all season, yet scraped his title over a Ferrari that was a second a lap slower, despite inheriting wins at Silverstone, Hungaroring and Nurburgring.

        In my opinion, Button and Vettel utilised their cars much better than Villeneuve did.

  16. Webber is just like the modern Villeneuve. Webber and Villeneuve both could only win when they had a package that was faster by a country mile. Then Villeneuve stopped having that, and he stopped winning

    1. I think, though harshly put, that is a fair comparison.

      Webber is more of a journeyman though, he has driven for many teams and earnt his place at Red Bull.

      Villeneuve was helped into the Williams drive by a mixture of his IndyCar success and his surname, and couldn’t beat Hill. Then beat Frentzen (who, strangely, went on to beat Hill at Jordan!), in the best car, to take the title.

      I think Hakkinen takes this easily.

  17. I believe Villeneuve has been one of the luckiest F1 drivers ever. He won the title thanks to a enormous mistake by Schumi. If Schumi didn’ turn into the Dry Sack bend, that famous overtake attempt would have finished with a long breaking in the sand. Schumi really kept him in by turning against Villeneuve’s car.
    That day Villeneuve career actually went over. I can’t remember any good spot afterwards.
    Mika has been so quick, so brave, so…gentleman. One of the drivers I missed more when he decided to quit. I always have supported Schumacher, but MIka had all my respect and great estimation.

    1. I don’t agree with that, it was inevitable that Jacques was going to pass at some point. Villeneuve would’ve pulled off that move regardless of Schumacher turning in.


        Stop thi s at 1’11” and see how much Villeneuve was out of the line. If Schumi had let him go he would have easily come out from the bend still in first position.

        1. I’m afraid I still disagree, the actual impact would not have changed his direction so much as to keep him on the track. I respect and admire you finding evidence and it was great to watch it again! But, regardless of that move, it is inevitable that Jacques would have won.

          1. I still disagree but it’s fine to discuss with you.

        2. I have to agree with Ben that he would of passed eventually because he was definitely quicker.. and it was the contact with Shumi that put Jacques offline… the pass was inevitable.. :)

    2. Schumacher himself said that his biggest regret was that he turned in as he would have re-passed Villeneuve going into the next corner. At the time I thought that was a little silly, because Michael was clearly ailing, but I hadn’t thought about it this way before, that Villeneuve could have ended up in the gravel trap and lost the championship. That would have been an epic ending and goes to show how stupid these run-off areas are.

    3. If Schumi didn’ turn into the Dry Sack bend, that famous overtake attempt would have finished with a long breaking in the sand. Schumi really kept him in by turning against Villeneuve’s car.

      That was Schumi’s opinion, but it was and is unprovable. By the same token, Villeneuve was very confident he’d have made the corner and retained the lead.

      If fact, had the pass on Schumi been made without interference and had JV been allowed to win the race, I think the general opinion on Villeneuve as a champion would be somewhat more positive.

      While I’m inclined to agree Hakkinen was the better champion, he made the 1999 title look very difficult, in particular given that he was up against a far less formidable Eddie Irvine. The DNF in Monza was painful to watch.

  18. Very close between them but when Schumacher says that the driver he feared most in his career is Haikkinen you don’t need to have second thought.I really missed him a lot around 2003-2006 very few people in Schumi’s dominating formed have out-think him.In 16 years of his Mika’s racing career only Schumi have achieved more then him.

    Villeneuve comeback haven’t been successful as he even don’t knew which direction he will be going.


      I am wondering with whom will Keith pair up Senna?

      1. If Senna’s as highly ranked as I think he is, he’ll get a Mike Hawthorn or a Denny Hulme in Round 1. Maybe even Jenson Button.

        1. I reckon Emerson Fittipaldi will go out against Senna, both being from Sao Paulo.

          But who knows what surprises Keith has up his sleeve :-)

          1. @ Ben N
            If that is indeed Hamilton you couldn’t ask for better as even Hamilton himself will vote Senna as he is his number 1 fan.I am very confused but I am waiting for that.

  19. I think Jacques making his appearance in ’96 and winning the title in ’97 were great moments in the history of Formula One. Winning the WDC was something that had to be done, not only for himself.

    1. It was nice to see a Villeneuve win the title, but I don’t think he was “doing it for his Dad” – as it were… as with every other champion, he was doing it for himself.

      Jacques was a great driver in his own right – in my opinion, he was fortunate to be in the right car at the right time, but as I said yesterday, there are no lucky champions, and he deserved it.

  20. Mika all the way for me. When I started watching F1 in 1998, for 98 and 99 he was quali king. Ok, he had the best car, but he was still trouncing DC with it. Also Spa 00, I will never forget as long as I live!

    1. Nice memories, I used to love watching the final 2 minutes of qualifying and Hakkinen always (well, nearly always!) pipping the provisional pole sitter to the post!

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