Niki Lauda vs Alan Jones

Champion of Champions

Champion of Champions: Niki Lauda vs Alan Jones

Niki Lauda and Alan Jones both won championships, then retired and made comebacks. But only one of them added a further title on their return.

Lauda’s entry into the sport in the early seventies came at great financial risk as he took out huge loans to fund places at teams like March and BRM. But it paid off as he was called up to drive for Ferrari in 1974.

He won titles for the team in 1975 and 1977. It would surely have been three on the trot had it not been for his terrible crash at the Nurburgring in 1976, in which he suffered terrible burns to his face and nearly died. He got back in the car for the final races of the season but couldn’t stop James Hunt from taking the championship at the last race.

Lauda fell out with Enzo Ferrari in 1977 and missed the final races of the year after winning the title. After two years with Brabham his motivation had dwindled and despite signing a new contract at the end of 1979 he abandoned his plans and quit Formula 1.

Jones, however, ended 1979 on a high with a competitive Williams underneath him. Indeed, under the strange scoring system of the time he went into the last race of the year having already scored the maximum points available to him in the second part of the season.

He had joined the team in 1978 from Shadow, with which he had scored his maiden win (and their only win) at the Osterreichring. Jones carried his 1979 form into 1980, beating Nelson Piquet to the title. But an angry fall-out with team mate Carlos Reutemann marred the following year and Jones quit the team.

Lauda was enticed out of retirement by Ron Dennis and he won his third race back for McLaren at Long Beach in 1982. The same track was the scene of Jones’s one-off drive for Arrows the following year.

The McLaren project came good as the team switched to Porsche turbo power in 1984. Lauda prevailed in a year-long battle with new team mate Alain Prost. He won his third championship by the slimmest of margins – a mere half-point.

But 1985 was a disaster, riddled with mechanical failures, and Lauda made his final retirement at the end of the year.

Jones, however, still wasn’t done. He returned for the Haas team late that year and contested a full season in 1986. But the car was short on power, and persistently unreliable, leading Jones back into retirement – this time for good.

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.

Niki Lauda Alan Jones
Niki Lauda Alan Jones
Titles 1975. 1977, 1984 1980
Second in title year/s Emerson Fittipaldi, Jody Scheckter, Alain Prost Nelson Piquet
Teams March, BRM, Ferrari, Brabham, McLaren Hesketh, Hill, Surtees, Shadow, Williams, Arrows, Lola
Notable team mates Carlos Reutemann, Nelson Piquet, Alain Prost Clay Regazzoni, Carlos Reutemann, Patrick Tambay
Starts 171 116
Wins 25 (14.62%) 12 (10.34%)
Poles 24 (14.04%) 6 (5.17%)
Modern points per start1 7.85 6.09
% car failures2 34.50 28.45
Modern points per finish3 11.99 8.52
Notes Badly burned in 1976 crash, withdrew from title-deciding race in heavy rain Gave Shadow their sole win in 1977
Clinched second title for Ferrari in 1977 then left team Strong second half of 1979 season set him up for 1980 title win
Ended two-year retirement to return to McLaren and win third title Two comebacks with Arrows (1983) and Haas (1985-6)
Bio Niki Lauda Alan Jones

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?

  • Niki Lauda (96%)
  • Alan Jones (4%)

Total Voters: 589

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Images ?? Patrice Tercier (Lauda), Williams/Sutton (Jones)

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65 comments on Niki Lauda vs Alan Jones

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  1. frankus28 (@frankus28) said on 7th January 2011, 12:30

    I’m an Aussie, but Niki Lauda gets my vote. To beat Alain Prost after coming out of retirement is remarkable!

  2. Larcem said on 7th January 2011, 12:30

    Lauda all the way. The guy almost burned to death and came back to win again. he´s a Legend.

    • Scribe (@scribe) said on 7th January 2011, 14:23

      Yeah, one of the most incredible F1 stories, man catches fire in horrific crash. Suffers life long injuries, misses but two race, wins race with his wounds opening.

      Would have won the championship had he not decided the conditions where ridiculous (probably right).

      What an amazing racer.

      • BellaCombs (@) said on 7th January 2011, 17:07

        Totally agree, Lauda without a doubt. Just an incredible driver. One of the few rounds that didn’t take any thinking about. Lauda straight off!

      • RobR (@robr) said on 7th January 2011, 21:57

        He also didn’t take any guff from Ferrari. Or anyone really.

        Pulling out of Fuji in 1976 was actually harder to do than it looked. Ferrari accused him of cowardice later. That’s why Lauda has a lot of fans, he was clearly his own man.

    • The guy almost burned to death and came back to win again.

      For that reason alone, he gets my vote. Legend of a man!

  3. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 7th January 2011, 12:30

    Expect Lauda to win this one comfortably. I don’t know too much about Jones so perhaps my voting is unfair, but falling back on the stats there can only be one choice.

    • sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 7th January 2011, 13:48

      Indeed, this is one of the ones that I barely had to read. Whats incredible about Lauda isn’t just that he won 3 championships, but to come back and win races after his injury was astounding. One of the greatest champions in my opinion (also, would have beaten Hunt comfortably to the title in the year of his injury)

  4. Paul G said on 7th January 2011, 12:40

    Who voted for Jones?

    Sozzled Australians obviously…

    • DavidS (@davids) said on 7th January 2011, 13:03

      I’m an Aussie, voted Lauda.
      Lauda is quite simply better than Jones, and a lot better than a large portion of championship winners.

      Also, let’s see how well Hamilton or Button do against someone like Prost.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 7th January 2011, 14:59

      Maybe people who are fed up with Laudas all to frequent critisizing whomever on the grid for German TV?

      • kowalsky (@) said on 7th January 2011, 15:57

        his critisizing has to be a plan. He is not stupid, so the plan is people talking about what he says, so he can keep his job at rtl.
        He doesn’t have the elegance of stewart, but his record is as good, and he is the most fampous survivor of any f1 accident. His comeback in 1976 is what legends are made of. And the only come back champion that won again. Without a doubt, f1 royalty.

        • Daniel said on 7th January 2011, 23:00

          In fact, if you consider Prost’s return from’sabbatical’ in 1992 as a comeback in 1993, the frenchman also won after leaving…

    • Mike said on 8th January 2011, 0:27

      Most Australians are fairly good with bias, So I suspect it was just the Channel 10 commentary team.

      • Stevo said on 8th January 2011, 11:47


        Have to reiterate what most Aussies have said here. Jones was a solid driver, one of the better of his era and deserved of his championship even if in a superior car. But he just can’t compare to the skill that was Lauda.

        You can’t compare the comebacks though, Lauda came back into a McLaren while Jones came back into a Haas Lola!

  5. melkurion (@melkurion) said on 7th January 2011, 12:44

    Lauda offcourse! One of my personal all time favorites!

    Come on, the guy nearly died, came back a few weeks later and lost the title in the final race. Why? Because it was raining, and he was so badly burned he couldn’t blink to keep the water out of his eyes!

    Respect for that.

    Then to come back and beat Alain Prost, who was just comming in to he peak of his carreer says it all.

  6. jimscreechy (@) said on 7th January 2011, 12:53

    Alan Jones! I thought that was Steve Austin.

  7. Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 7th January 2011, 12:58

    Niki All the way… The Clark and Surtes match up make me wax nostalgic for a whole day…but this one was easy.

    I liked Jones, but Lauda was just too much of a leader in his day. I’m thinking of the drivers strike of the ’82 South African GP, His come back after being burned at the Nurburgring (going to Enzo Ferrari a few months after the accident and asking how much is a singed F1 driver worth) , his offer to race with Macca for one dollar a season, his physical fitness (a standard in todays F1 drivers), his 3 WDC’s… is there more?

    Lauda was really the first modern F1 driver in my opinion. Good or bad he changed the sport.

  8. Cyclops_PL (@cyclops_pl) said on 7th January 2011, 13:12

    Niki it is, although he said a lot of [censored] after retirement. And Mr. Lauda “polacke” is not a nice word.

  9. Dougie (@f1droid) said on 7th January 2011, 13:14

    I love Alan Jones, I started following F1 in 1980 and followed him to his championship win. My first favourite driver.

    However, this has to go to Niki, no question. In ’76 should have easily made it 2 World Championships, but instead almost burned to death. Then to recover from that and take another WDC the following year, and then yet another championship 7 years later defeating a young fast Alain Prost, who was heading into the peak of his career, makes him the easy victor here.

    Niki Lauda by all accounts should have been 4 times WDC… or he should have been dead… but he is still here as a triple champion and a great ambassador for the sport. Go Niki!

  10. This has to be Lauda, the courage, skill and determination he showed both in personality and his driving were extreme. Not a huge fan of Alan Jones, one of the worst WDC’s in my opinion, he deserved it, but only just! Not a great driver, good, but not great.

    Lauda hands down.

  11. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 7th January 2011, 13:39

    Niki Lauda, if only because his comeback tour went better than both of Jones’.

  12. RBAlonso (@rbalonso) said on 7th January 2011, 13:52

    I am voting for Lauda on the basis that he drove in 2 eras of formula 1 and won championships in both. His 3rd championship was a masterclass of racecraft, despite not having the speed to match Prost. Jones is still a worthy champion but to return to something six weeks after it nearly killed you is dedication. Taking nothing away from Hunt’s championship but Lauda should have won in 1976 making him the first consecutive triple champ since Fangio. Admittedly, Lauda did have the best car in his championship years so I don’t think the “Jones only won because of Williams” argument is that important here.

    Even Senna idolised Lauda, so Jones has little chance of victory here in my opinion.

  13. Cristian (@cristian) said on 7th January 2011, 14:01

    Lauda also had a great season in 1974, kind like Vettel this year, he dominated qualifying, but lost the title due to lack of experience I think. Anyway, my vote goes for him, although I agree with cyclops, he says many….. things today but we’re not voting that !

  14. Rocky (@rocky) said on 7th January 2011, 14:08

    Niki it’s a no brainer!
    I remember reading an account of his time in hospital immediately following his accident, he said he could feel himself slipping away with nothing to hold him back, suddenly his manager entered the room where Lauda lay dying and spoke, Lauda claims he heard the voice of his manager and started to pull him self back.

  15. Hang on, Keith’s intro to Lauda seems to suggest he was (shock, horror!) a pay-driver! Teams taking him on at the beginning of his career because he was paying them?!?

    I don’t see how anyone can vote for Lauda in light of this, especially as everyone who comments on this site seems to think pay-drivers are worse than Hitler, Stalin and Satan combined…

    • Icthyes said on 7th January 2011, 14:48

      Except Lauda was clearly a rising talent. Can the same be said of Maldonado or Karthikeyan?

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 7th January 2011, 15:03

        I would love one of those to suprise all of us, but that would be too big a gamble, LOL.

      • Daniel said on 7th January 2011, 23:05

        Well, strictly speaking, Maldonado is the current GP2 Champion. I know he’s been there for ages, and only now could do it, but that only shows how subjective is the definition of a rising talent…

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 7th January 2011, 15:02

      Well, … suprise, suprise, … He was. Initially (like Schumi).

      • McGregski (@mcgregski) said on 7th January 2011, 22:46

        I dont think you can really compare pay drivers of this day and age to back in the 70’s, if anything… he was taking a much bigger gamble by getting himself loans to get himself in whereas modern pay drivers are sponsored by big corporates who want to get their name on some overalls.

        There is some raw talent out there that is likely to miss out this year like the Hulk and Chandhok all because their pockets aren’t deep enough. Remove the recession from the world and you can guarantee that they’d have their name on a seat already.

        Niki smashed it, he wasn’t a rich kid showing off, he had a belief which he battled for and got his name in the “Legend” category – you can’t buy that!!

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