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”

  1. Thoroughly agree with most of these comments. I always enjoyed watching Mika race but thought that Jacques was not half the man his father was.

  2. On the face of it, perhaps the hardest choice yet for me. But really, it has to be Mika. Both could produce impressive single laps and consistent pace and Villeneuve’s lack of a second title may owe as much to the rule changes of 1998 as Mika’s championships did. Let’s not also forget Mika had Eddie Irvine as a rival in 1999, you’d have expected Schumacher to beat him that year had he not broke his leg. But I feel Mika was a far more complete driver than Villeneuve ever became and if Jacques was in the wrong place at the wrong time when the rule changes came, unlike Mika in McLaren’s mid-1990s slump he didn’t stick it out and went in search of greener grass.

    Someone made a comparison between Villeneuve and Vettel and I think it’s valid, but in a more negative sense that Vettel’s skills will improve but he won’t become a totally complete driver like Alonso or Hakkinen. Now, if those too should meet in this series, that will be a very hard choice.

  3. Some good Hakkinen comments here…

    I miss him!

    (and he definitely gets my vote).

    1. The monosyllabic man. Kimi sounds like a chatterbox in comparison. In every interview I’ve read since he has retired, Mika displays a deadpan sense of humour and refreshing sense of self-deprecation about himself.

  4. I chose Hakkinen on the basis that his career reflects that he got the most out of the car he was given. His championships were deserved and he gave Schumacher a real challenge over the course of 2000. Let’s not forget that had Hakkinen won the championship he would be the first driver to win three consecutive championships since Fangio. That fact alone is enough to sweep aside Villeneuve who, as much as I love him as a personality, was uncompetative against some very average team-mates. Hill and Button whilst both world champions and race winners seemed to have an answer every time against him and neither would be considered great. I completely agree with Patrick Head that Villeneuve made an easy championship look more difficult, the 97 Williams was the class of the field whereas, Hakkinen’s championships had much closer rivals technically and that was proven from 2000 on.

  5. Mika for me as well. A Bit surprised he’s so far ahead in votes though. Expected Jaques to do a bit better. Well i just feel Mika was one of the best drivers in F1 history possibly top 10 for me. There carears totally contrasted as Mika spent the early part of his caear in the wilderness while Villeeuve went right of the radar after winning the title

  6. It has to be Mika.

    I still rate his qualifying lap at Monaco, 1994 as the most impressive single lap I have ever seen (and that includes Senna’s 1993 Donington first lap extravaganza!).

    Exceptional talent.

  7. Mika Hakkinen without even a trace of doubt. Hakkinen had some notable drives for Lotus, outqualified no one other than Senna in his first qualifying session for McLaren, survived a horrifying accident in Adeladide and won two championships later, being a most fearsome career opponent for Michael Schumacher, as admitted by the man himself. They raced each other for more than a decade in various categories.

    Villeneuve doesn’t come close, i’m afraid. Never won a single race in a car that was not dominant. Though he’s was a great character, not a match for those PR-muppets these days.

  8. I went for Mika but I do think Jacques is underrated. His early years in F1 were very similar to Hamilton’s. I just think he made a bad decision when he switched teams and that he always was a very good driver. Mika was much better in my eyes but I always feel Jacques is one of the underrated champions who really gets more stick than he deserves.

  9. It’s gotta be Mika. I bet even his singing is better than Jacques’.

  10. Has to be Hakinnen for me, any driver who drove for the original team lotus always has a soft spot in my heart :)

    But aside from that, the numbers show it all. And justv as important for me, is that hakinnen came to Mclaren when they were basicly at a low, and build the team back uo to their winning ways after Senna left. Villeneuve couldn’t do the same at BAR (even though he probably had a harder time of it because it was a totally new team, then hakinnen did)

    Both lost their motivation after a few years though, so whoever wins, I can’t see either of them going much further then the next round…

  11. Hakkinen. Because he worked very hard for his titles, having quite a few bad years in McLaren behind him and because he proved to be a real challenger for everyone he faced, be it Schumacher or Senna. Villeneuve was just dropped into one of those all-conquering Williamses. He never again had such superior car and never again showed the spark of a champion to be ultimately put out of business by Robert Kubica.

  12. Im picking Hakkinen because IMHO Jacques was nowhere near Hakkinen in skill. Michael Schumacher himself said that Hakkinen was the rival that he respected the most, and that means alot. I’m definitely biased though, as I’m Finnish and Hakkinen is in my Top 3 favorite drivers ever.

    1. kowalsky (@)
      7th January 2011, 5:37

      behind keke and kimi i suppose.

      1. lol no… Keke defo aint in my top 3 as I have not watched enough races of him to be a big fan of him.

  13. Mika gets my vote by a mile and a half. He was one of the best racers of the period.

    On the other hand I think Jacques was still a very quick driver, but not enough of a worker as Hakkinen and Schumacher were. On the other hand again (my 3rd hand), I think DC is being put down a bit too much here, he was a very quick driver as well.

    Despite voting for Mika, I’ll point out that Jacques soundly beat H.H Frentzen, who is isn’t exactly a slouch.

  14. And in the next year Frentzen beat Villeneuve, isn’t it? If you take the first 2 years away from Villeneuve he looks like a very bad driver. If someone started to watch F1 from 1998 and you’d tell him that he was champion, he wouldn’t believe you, and that’s bad for him.
    And I think Hakkinen is one of the best drivers I saw in F1.

  15. Hakkinen. I was a fan since the Macau GP days of this driver. He really made the sub par Lotus and Mclare shine in the early years. However, he lost some of his edge after the Adelaide crash, in 1995. The pre 1995 Hakkinen wasn’t affraid to take risks, drove spectacularly and made fantastic passes. That Hakkinen was great on the rain, also. The after 1995 Hakkinen, however, was much less risk taking, and in the rain was simply outclassed by Schumacher. I remember a British GP Hakkinen was leading, then rain came up and Schumacherjust catched up and passed from a more than 10 seconds gap.

    Still, the better driver vs Villeneuve, IMO

  16. …well judging by the first page of comments i’m voting a different way to most people. My vote goes to Villeneuve.

    This was, however, an extremely difficult decision, but it comes down to a few points. Villeneuve was like a childhood hero for me, so that probably sways it a bit too.

    His first two seasons were exceptional – we must remember that while he made hard work of the championship in 1997, he also destroyed his teammate Frentzen, despite Frentzen being touted as the man who was faster than Michael Schumacher. Villeneuve took hill to the last race in Suzuka as well, despite Hill being the number 1.

    Despite making poor decisions (he had the option to go to McLaren in 1998…!), Villeneuve never gave up in his career. He raced hard and raced like a racer. Bold overtaking manoeuvres, massive do or die crashes (at Eau Rouge for example). Hakkinen was great between 1998-2000 – but was simply good for the earlier part of his career. As another poster has mentioned, it was Coulthard in 1997 who was leading McLarens charge. Villeneuve put in some astounding performances between 1998 and the end of his career that largely went unnoticed, but they were incredible nonetheless given the equipment. Had he made a few different decisions in his career, Mika might never have been a world champion.

    This of course is not to underestimate Mika as a driver, as he was exceptional, but for me Villeneuve gets it.

    1. I didn’t know that Villeneuve had the option of going to McLaren in ’98. Wonder who Ron Dennis would have dropped, the driver he helped rehabilitate or the driver who led the charge for McLarren for the two previous seasons.

      1. I have looked for a source, but unfortunately I can’t find one. I’ve read it a few times though.

        Its very interesting to think about who Ron would have dropped. Probably Coulthard – as I suppose he would have gone back to Williams. If it had been Hakkinen, this debate wouldn’t be ongoing! F1 is if spelt backwards I suppose :P

  17. definitely Mika Hakkinen, best racer I have known.

  18. Both drivers for me were excellent. I was always a Jacques fan but supported both of them through their championship years. For me the two memories that swing it were at Spa and Monaco respectively.

    The move that Mika pulled in Spa in 2000 firing down the inside of both Zonta and Schumacher into Les Coombes is the stuff dreams are made of. It send tingles down the spine just thinking about it. They had arrived at that breaking point lap after lap with Michael positioning his car beautifully. That time around I was on my feet screaming “right! go right!”…

    The second was in 1999 in a hotly contested qualifying. Yellow flags were the driving force that day but Mika’s lap was supreme. The shot of him arriving into Rascasse, one arm flashing out of the cockpit to acknowledge the flag, the silver McLaren poised slightly sideways on the very limit was beautiful to see.

    Despite being a big JV fan through 06 and 07 I have to vote for Mika. Great match up though Keith.

  19. Hakkinen no question, one of the most exciting racers throughout his career, and to have Schumacher’s respect and “fear” is not to be overlooked.

    Hakkinen also had to build the team and car around him (along with DC) to get into the fighting position, and then took the fight to Schumi in spectactular fashion.

    Villeneuve is undoubtedly quick and, as previously pointed out, could have been so much better but for different decisions and more focus. But, ultimately, he was dropped into a conquering car and then failed to make any positive mark or build a team thereafter.

  20. To all the people who criticise Jaques Villeneuve for being in a faster car than Schumi, where was Frentzen?

    Hakkinen’s McLaren was also incredible and gave him a massive advantage in 98, in the first two GPs they lapped the field, not even the Red Bulls did that!
    In 1999 he made all sorts of errors and if Schumi didn’t get injured Mika may not have won in 1999. He got rattled by Irvine despite having a faster car.

    I do think Villeneuve’s post Williams years were very poor. Estoril 96 though was one of the best wins I’d ever seen, and I was a Hill fan.

    1. I do think Villeneuve’s post Williams years were very poor. Estoril 96 though was one of the best wins I’d ever seen, and I was a Hill fan.

      Looking back maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration.

    2. “To all the people who criticise Jaques Villeneuve for being in a faster car than Schumi, where was Frentzen?”

      He was 3rd after Villeneuve and Schumacher with 42 points. However, Eddie Irvine, who was Schumacher’s team mate at the time, was 8th with 24 points.

      1. What does Irvine’s performance to Schumacher have to do with Villeneuve or Hakkinen? To be fair Irvine had awful reliability and Schumacher was arguably at the peak of his considerable powers.

        1. Don’t be ridiculous. What does Frentzen’s performances have to do with Villeneuve or Häkkinen?

          You argued that Villeneuve wasn’t in a faster car than Schumacher, because Villeneuve’s team mate Frentzen was slower than Schumacher and Villeneuve.

          I argued that Villeneuve indeed was in a faster car than Schumacher, because Schumacher’s team mate Irvine was slower than Schumacher and Villeneuve and Frentzen.

          It’s that simple. If your argument was valid, then my argument has to be valid also.

          P.S. In the seventeen GP’s of 1997 Eddie Irvine outqualified Schumacher only once. Also, there were nine GP’s in 1997 in which both Schumacher and Irvine were able to finish and Schumacher got a better result every time. But sure, it was all because of Irvine’s “awful reliability”.

          1. kowalsky (@)
            7th January 2011, 5:42

            do not fight. mika was better, but villeneuve was a good driver as well.
            He didn’t get along with patrick head, and that’s the reason why he said what he said.
            As a personality, i hope we all agree that jaques was miles ahead…

          2. You argued that Villeneuve wasn’t in a faster car than Schumacher, because Villeneuve’s team mate Frentzen was slower than Schumacher and Villeneuve.

            Hardly, my point was that he destroyed Frentzen (who, at the time, was so highly rated Williams dropped the man who won the WDC the year before).
            And then I stated “Hakkinen’s McLaren was ALSO incredible” which implies Villeneuve’s Williams was incredible (Adrian Newey TM). But incredible car or not, he destroyed a highly rated driver in the same car.
            My other point was that Hakkinen’s car in 1998 was also faster than Schumacher, just like Villeneuve’s was in 1997, at times even more so. This was in relation to people who think Mika was ‘miles better’ than JV, who was only in his 2nd year of F1 at the time.

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