Alberto Ascari vs James Hunt

Champion of Champions

Champion of Champions: Alberto Ascari vs James Hunt

The next Champion of Champions match-up features two drivers who set unusual records.

Alberto Ascari won more races consecutively than any other driver, while James Hunt overcame one of the largest ever points deficits to win the title.

Ascari’s victories at Spa-Francorchamps in 1952 and 1953 were significant because he won every world championship race he entered in between – nine in a row, a feat that has never been equalled.

His first championship victory came at the Nurburgring in 1951, where he led home Juan Manuel Fangio. In 1952 the injured Fangio missed the championship season and Ascari cleaned up. But the Ferrari driver retained his crown in 1953 as Fango returned.

However Ascari endured a dreadful 1954 after switching to Lancia. Their new car was delayed and he whiled away the season with guest drives for Maserati and Ferrari, failing to score a single point.

Ascari led the 1955 season-opener in Argentina but spun off on the melting track. He crashed out at Monaco too, landing in the harbour. He survived, but a few days later was killed testing a Ferrari sports car at Monza.

He made the fewest starts of any of champion – just 32. Hunt’s career covered a similarly short time frame. He made his first start at Monaco in 1973 and made his final start at the track six years later.

Hunt was very much the underdog in his first few seasons with Hesketh, but realised his potential by winning on a damp track at Zandvoort in 1975.

He was called up to drive for McLaren following Emerson Fittipaldi’s abrupt departure from the team. Nine races into the season the championship looked like a tall order: Niki Lauda had 61 points to Hunt’s 26, a gap of almost four wins.

But Lauda was badly injured at the Nurburgring and missed three races. He returned with Hunt just 14 points behind, setting the scene for an exciting battle for the title over the final races.

In the end it was decided when Lauda withdrew from the final race of the year at Fuji in dreadful conditions, while Hunt claimed the third place he needed to take the title.

Though Hunt won three times in 1977 he couldn’t prevent Lauda taking his title back. With McLaren flagging he joined Wolf for 1979 but retired six races into the season.

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.

Alberto Ascari James Hunt
Alberto Ascari James Hunt, McLaren, 1976
Titles 1952, 1953 1976
Second in title year/s Giuseppe Farina, Juan Manuel Fangio Niki Lauda
Teams Lancia, Ferrari, Maserati Hesketh, McLaren, Wolf
Notable team mates Luigi Villoresi, Giuseppe Farina, Mike Hawthorn Jochen Mass, Patrick Tambay, Keke Rosberg
Starts 32 92
Wins 13 (40.63%) 10 (10.87%)
Poles 14 (43.75%) 14 (15.22%)
Modern points per start1 13.94 6.84
% car failures2 18.75 29.35
Modern points per finish3 17.15 9.68
Notes Enjoyed success in several pre-championship Grands Prix Snuck a win for tiny Hesketh team in 1975 before joining McLaren
Won nine consecutive starts from 1952-3 Overhauled large deficit to take title off injured Lauda in 1976
Killed during 1955 season driving a Ferrari at Monza Abruptly quit early in 1979 season
Bio Alberto Ascari James Hunt

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?

  • Alberto Ascari (80%)
  • James Hunt (20%)

Total Voters: 570

Loading ... Loading ...

You need an F1 Fanatic account to vote. Register an account here or read more about registering here.

Read the F1 Fanatic Champion of Champions introduction for more information and remember to check back tomorrow for the next round.

Have you voted in the previous rounds of Champion of Champions yet? Find them all here:

Champion of Champions

Browse all Champion of Champions articles

Images ?é?® Pirelli (Ascari), Ford (Hunt)

Advert | Go Ad-free

98 comments on Alberto Ascari vs James Hunt

1 2 3
  1. sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 8th January 2011, 17:15

    Ascari for me.

    Hunt would have been a far greater driver had he focussed on racing rather than women or various other substances. Hunt’s title also probably should have been Lauda’s after his horrible crash.

    • Scribe (@scribe) said on 8th January 2011, 18:17

      Hunt on his day could maybe beat Lauda, Lauda could beat most people in his era on his off days.

      Ascari’s era included Fangio so no luck there but 9 consecutive wins! Two championships against Fangio as well, wonderfully respected driver to this day. Has to be Ascari doesn’t it?

      • US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 8th January 2011, 19:23

        I think it does have to. As you said, 9 consecutive wins and 2 consecutive championships against Fangio! 4 of Fangio’s five championships came after Ascari’s death, so one has to wonder if he’d have been as successful had Ascari lived longer. Would Ascari have been the 5 time champion? Or maybe six times? We’ll never know, but he certainly wins this round easily I think. Hunt seems like he had a lot of personality, but I think it’s safe to say he wouldn’t have been challenging Fangio.

        • 0634 (@0634) said on 8th January 2011, 21:51

          Not really all true. Fangio didn’t race F1 in the ’52 season. So in Ascari’s first championship win and also during the first 6 races of his 9 consecutive wins, Fangio wasn’t there.

    • Roger Carballo AKA Archtrion said on 8th January 2011, 19:27

      James Hunt should have been banned from this champion of champions tournament, as we all know he actually stole the title from Lauda by failing to fulfil the agreement to not race at Fuji. He acted the likes of a coward, with Lauda flying on a plane out of Japan and he racing where he said he wouldn’t.

      • sennaboy3 (@sennaboy3) said on 8th January 2011, 23:05

        what are you talking about?

      • Dafffid (@dafffid) said on 8th January 2011, 23:07

        No-one who drove in that race could possibly be described as a coward, check your dictionary.

      • judo chop said on 9th January 2011, 0:31

        @ Roger Carballo AKA Arch-loon

        I take it that your attempt to rewrite F1 history – as Hunt and Lauda both started – has nothing to do with Hunt being British and driving a McLaren.

      • Architrion (@architrion) said on 9th January 2011, 1:18

        Ok, calm yourself, guys. As I read on F1racing (british mag last time I saw) there was a drivers meeting before race where a not to race decision was made, but then they when to race because of TV schedules pressure. Anyway, there was an intention to do an Indy 2005, some laps and run to the pits. In fact, some of them really did it, Lauda first of all, but then, Carlos Pace, Fitipaldi and Perkins. Reading F1Racing it makes clear it was James Hunt who refused to not race when almost everybody believed it was far too dangerous.

        Anyway, I couldn’t find what F1Racing magazine number it was. It goes direct to recycling after reading…. My fault, who could know I would need it someday to defend myself from a racist insult?

        • lol racist good one. Your arguments lost all credibility as soon as you bust out that old chestnut.

          And how does
          “it was James Hunt who refused to not race when almost everybody believed it was far too dangerous”
          make him cowardly? That would in fact be the complete opposite!

          • Mike said on 9th January 2011, 5:35

            has nothing to do with Hunt being British and driving a McLaren.

            That, is a racist insult…
            What I think aside, Architrion has made a good point, If they was an agreement not to race, and Hunt won the championship by breaking that agreement, then yes, you can call that cowardly.

            Secondly, I don’t see why he isn’t entitled to his opinion.

          • thats not racist. Race and country are two completely independent things.

          • BasCB (@bascb) said on 9th January 2011, 11:47

            I can perfectly understand Hunt would want to drive and finish the race as it would make him champion.

            Hard to resist such a temptation, isn’t it?

        • kowalsky (@kowalsky) said on 9th January 2011, 7:01

          then senna was a coward as well, when he stayed inside his cockpit at the australian gp in 1989? Not in my book.
          Another point of view with more credibility would be… Niki knowing that he was very weak after the accident tried to manipulate the rest of the field in order to stay in the pits and not having to go out and race in very dificult conditions.
          Your mistake was to call coward to a guy who was driving an f1 in the seventies. It’s just not what any of those guys were.

          • judo chop said on 9th January 2011, 12:07

            @ Mike

            My comment was nowhere near racist. I did not mention – as I do not know or care about it – the Arch-loon’s race or nationality (he could be British for all I now). I do know he loves to attack British F1 fans and f1fanatic followers as supposedly biased at every opportunity with phony facts in a goading “‘Ello my British chums” manner. Suggesting an obvious and pre-existing bias on his part is deemed a “racist insult” yet calling James Hunt a coward is okay?

            “I don’t see why he isn’t entitled to his opinion”

            I don’t believe anyone’s suggested otherwise.

          • Architrion (@architrion) said on 9th January 2011, 12:08

            I was talking about another kind of cowardy, the likes of breaking and agreement and taking unfair advantage of someone who had a near to death experience. Maybe, not cowardy, but could you render a better word for that attitude?

          • kowalsky (@kowalsky) said on 9th January 2011, 13:13

            a much better word would be traitor.
            But i am not here to teach you grammar architrion. I am spanish by the way.
            Hunt was a deserving champion that’s out of the question. He was very fast, and let’s not forget for all those that use the argument that lauda was out for two races, that at monza hunt was penalized for a very dubious reason, and couldn’t get any points.
            Lauda on the other hand was the most manipulative driver of it’s time, always looking for a way to get an advantage. And that among other things made him an overall better driver than hunt. But not in 1976.

        • 0634 (@0634) said on 9th January 2011, 13:35

          Did the article also mention what Hunt had to say about the whole situation? Or the other drivers that continued to race? Maybe Hunt never agreed. Maybe he thought he wanted to fight for his Championship chances. It easy to say that you don’t want to race if you’re in front but it is another to do so if you’re second in the standings. If James disagreed with the ‘not driving’ agreement, he had every right to continue racing.

          I never heard Niki say it was a unsportif thing that Hunt did. In fact, Lauda and Hunt we’re pretty close, wich looks pretty bizar to me, if Hunt really stole the title even tough he agreed not to race.

          So I have questions about this whole statement that you’re making and also about the article that you say to be quoting. I;m not saying that it ain’t true, but it doesn’t really seem to be the whole story.

          • Paper Tiger said on 9th January 2011, 13:55

            Sorry, but James Hunt was under no obligation not to race just because other people thought it was too dangerous. If the organisers had cancelled the event, then fair enough, Niki Lauda would have been World Champion. But that didn’t happen. In the end, Hunt decided it was worth the risk and went for it. I fail to see how that’s cowardly.

          • Roger Carballo AKA Architrion said on 9th January 2011, 22:22

            see the article sw6569 has linked some lines below… read what Lauda said some years later. I wrote using my thin memory, but it seems I did it too bad after all :-)

      • sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 9th January 2011, 14:52

        As far as I remember, he was compelled to race. He didn’t start the race by choice, but was contractually obliged to. I also don’t see what any agreements have in the outcome of deciding who is the greater champion. A single race doesn’t define a drivers career.

          • Roger Carballo AKA Architrion said on 9th January 2011, 22:29

            thanks so much, mate, for finding that article and bringing it to life. It served to show me that, as thin as my memory is, this time it didn’t let me down. F1Racing article was about that Lauda statement… “What actually happened was that we agreed with Bernie [Ecclestone] that we would do two laps and then all pull into the pits. That way we would have started the race and fulfilled obligations. I stopped, and so did Emerson and Carlos Pace and Larry Perkins in Bernie’s Brabhams, but once they started racing everyone else either forgot or ignored the agreement …”
            Not too far of what I said up above :-)

        • Paper Tiger said on 10th January 2011, 13:19

          Well, if true, I would have to agree with you that he broke a gentlemans’ agreement, which is pretty unsporting in my opinion and James Hunt would have to be judged in that light. But one quote in a magazine from Niki Lauda hardly counts as definitive proof that there was actually an agreement of any kind.

    • Fixy (@fixy) said on 10th January 2011, 16:13

      Lauda losing by one point after missing two races, after such a horrible crash, is not fair. Ascari is better in my opinion.

  2. This is probably the hardest lineups to choose from. All the credit to Ascari for taking wins and championships in his day against the greats of Fangio & Farina. Hunt in comparison doesnt show as good a driver as he was/could have been just by looking at the points scoring we’re provided with. Having his eyes on the girls & other vices rather then the (racing) prize might have kept him from achieving more then he did, and i dont think theres been a character quite like him before or since.

    My heart says Hunt … but hy head is saying Ascari, and im torn who to choose.

    • Roger Carballo AKA Architrion said on 9th January 2011, 22:25

      thanks so much, mate, for finding that article and bringing it to life. It served to show me that, as thin as my memory is, this time it didn’t let me down. F1Racing article was about that Lauda statement… “What actually happened was that we agreed with Bernie [Ecclestone] that we would do two laps and then all pull into the pits. That way we would have started the race and fulfilled obligations. I stopped, and so did Emerson and Carlos Pace and Larry Perkins in Bernie’s Brabhams, but once they started racing everyone else either forgot or ignored the agreement …”

      Not too far of what I said up above :-)

  3. Has to be Ascari, both were legends with amazingly short F1 careers, but Ascari’s unbeaten 9 consecutive wins, considering our calendars are twice as long now, is remarkable!

    • US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 8th January 2011, 19:24

      True. That just makes the statistic all the more impressive. He won every race for an entire year, which to match today would mean 20 races in a row.

    • DVC (@dvc) said on 9th January 2011, 1:29

      That 9 consecutive fails to count the Indy 500, which was part of the Championship that year, so that’s why it doesn’t always appear in the record books.

      Quick question: does anyone know if the Ascari curves at Monza are named after Alberto Ascari or his father Antonio. I’m guessing Antonio, he was quite the driver in the 1920s.

      • Old_boy_racer (@old_boy_racer) said on 9th January 2011, 12:33

        I’ll never forget Ascari’s battles with Campari. Such daring – took my breath away! His son was quite the driver too, quite a different style with those straight arms, but on track had the same presence. Saw an early race of his after the War, it was like deja vu, another Ascari! I wish I could have seen him drive Brooklands but it was in disrepair by then.

        I saw some of Hunt too, but all on TV. Quite different from seeing them live of course. On track he was not as dominant as Ascari. Even when Alberto was losing you could tell he was good, but I agree with those who rate Lauda above Hunt.

        I give my mark to Ascari.

      • Old_boy_racer (@old_boy_racer) said on 9th January 2011, 12:43

        I’m terribly sorry. I forgot to answer your question. The Ascari chicane at Monza is named after Alberto. The Ascari curve is named for the corner where Antonio lost his life at Montlhery circuit.

  4. Bleu (@bleu) said on 8th January 2011, 17:36

    I don’t rate Hunt very much among the champions, so it’s quite easily Ascari for me.

  5. Hunt was only champion due to Lauda’s accident therefore Ascari gets it

    • frood19 (@frood19) said on 8th January 2011, 19:46

      i think it’s possible to say Hunt is the least deserving champion. he had a lot go his way to make him champion that year. I think Hunt is more undeserving than Rosberg (who people were maligning in that round).

      • David B (@david-b) said on 8th January 2011, 21:13

        I think Villeneuve is least deserving than Keke and Hunt.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 9th January 2011, 11:50

        Wow, there is quite a lineup for least deserving champion now. Each round of the champion of champions competition, I read about another not deserving champion.

        We have now had Surtees, J. Villeneuve, K. Rosberg, J. Hunt and both Hill and Button mentioned, and Vettel thrown in at times as well. So whom of these really is the less deserving? I am thinking of opening a Forum tread on this.

        • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 13th January 2011, 11:45

          The most undeserving of undeserving champions? Yeah, I think Hunt was brave, probably a bit reckless, but I suppose you had to be looking at all those terrible crashes during this era of F1.

          I think Lauda was a better driver, and without his accident he would have won that championship clearly, but being champion is also about picking up opportunity when it presents itself, as we saw again during the 2010 season, and Hunt definitely did that well.

          My vote went to Ascari.

  6. 0634 (@0634) said on 8th January 2011, 17:43

    Definitly Ascari. One of the ten best ever. Hunt was good, very good, but not one of the best ever.

  7. Hairpin (@hairpin) said on 8th January 2011, 17:43

    Hunt I’m afraid was a much better commentator than he was a driver, albeit he had to be their to do it.
    As much as I like James Hunt and his antics on and off track, his ambition and drive to succeed just didn’t seem to be their.
    Ascari for me, no doubt.

  8. Dougie (@f1droid) said on 8th January 2011, 17:45

    As Doug says Hunt would not have been champion had Lauda not crashed.

    That aside tho, Ascari being 2 times champion and one after beating the great Fangio, along with 9 consecutive victories (tho in the absence of Fangio its still a great achievement that even Fangio or Schumi never managed) makes it an easy win anyway.

    • Kenny (@kenny) said on 9th January 2011, 3:28

      Saying that Hunt would not have been champion if Lauda had not crashed is like saying if the sun hadn’t come up this morning it would be dark. Nobody ran Lauda off the road, nothing broke on the car…he made a mistake and crashed. Was Hunt supposed to stay home until Lauda got back?

      • Dougie (@f1droid) said on 10th January 2011, 11:46

        No, he should have capitalised on that and grabbed his chance, which made him Champion by a scant point.

        However what I didn’t know, until I looked just now, was that Lauda failed to score in 5 races that year, Hunt failed to score in 6. Lauda may have had a substantial lead up to the crash, but that was due to Hunt retiring on 4 occasions through a combination of reliability & collisions. To win it you’ve got to be in it, but that counts for both drivers, and therefore yes “Hunt may not have been WDC if Lauda had not crashed” but equally “Lauda may not have been WDC if Hunt had better reliability”… as Murray Walker loves to say “IF is F1 backwards” LOL!

  9. Stuart said on 8th January 2011, 18:06

    Ascari was the better driver so he deserves it.
    But Hunt for all his womanising and drinking was a very very brave man.See him here running into a fireball to pull Ronnie Peterson out of his blazing car at Monza in 1978.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wk7uSuWPkE

  10. kowalsky (@kowalsky) said on 8th January 2011, 18:11

    andretti saw him race at monza and though he was the coolest man on the face of the earth, and i can understand that. I never saw an interview of the italian, but he has some pluses over hunt. Two titles, more wins, and died on the race track.
    hunt’s title, even though was impressive, had niki on the sidelines for a few races.
    And if i have a doubt, i always choose the one that was driving in the earliest era. It was more dangerous. And that’s a plus in my book.

    • Scribe (@scribe) said on 8th January 2011, 18:46

      Kinda agree in someways with that last sentance, but I’d put it as more dangerous an therefore requiring greater commitment, an indeed, knowledge of your limits.

      Hunt nearly lost his title to Lauda at the last race as well, cept Lauda retired on a point of principle. Must say, it kinda devalues your title when your principle challenger misses two races due to injury, then decided not to show race on the final day because he feels the rain is too dangerous.

  11. Scribe (@scribe) said on 8th January 2011, 18:13

    Not a particularly hard one, it’s got to be Ascari, won two championships against Fangio, enjoyed pre-championship sucsess as well as died too soon so we can assume he’d have gone on to enjoy more sucsess, might have given Fangio a hard time.

    Hunt was a fantastic F1 character but Lauda probably deserved his title and Hunt probably had other things on his mind, so he was never likley to fulfill his natural potential, makes him an interesting person but not a great champion.

    Both are before my time though I’ve watched clips, going with the stats and what I’ve read, I voted Ascari.

    • You’ve pretty much said everything I wanted to Scribe. Wholeheartedly agree. It had to be Ascari even if James was arguably one of the most entertaining F1 personality ever

    • DVC (@dvc) said on 9th January 2011, 1:33

      Oh, you used the stats to help make your choice. I thought you were anti-stat?

      • Scribe (@scribe) said on 9th January 2011, 14:04

        largley I am anti-stat, I belive they can be misleading, for instance, Fangio wasn’t racing for 6 of Ascari 9 consecutives. I didn’t know that when I posted that comment.

        However I stand by my choice, Ascari completed amazing feats, Hunt largley wasted his potential. I’m going with Ascari despite liking Hunt more.

  12. jonnyw360f1 (@jonnyw360f1) said on 8th January 2011, 18:14

    I wanted to vote for Hunt, but I have to acknowledge that he only won the title because of Lauda’s crash. Furthermore, from what I’ve read about Ascari he was a character and a pretty good driver to pot. And let’s face it, you don’t get a corner named after you at Monza if you’re second rate…they wouldn’t have just named it after him because that’s where he crashed…that’s a bit morbid. Out of interest, does that mean the Lesmos are named after Lindsey Lohan…?

    Out of interest (two)…how many races did Schumacher win in a row in his prime? As in, what’s the most he won in a row?

    • Scribe (@scribe) said on 8th January 2011, 18:19

      Schumi managed 7 in 2002. Considering the kind of cars, the lenth of season, Ascari’s 9? The mind boggles.

      • jonnyw360f1 (@jonnyw360f1) said on 8th January 2011, 18:24

        Wow, that is pretty amazing…also bearing in mine that Ascari probaly got all of those wins on merit, whereas Schumacher had a number two to help him. I’m guessing that that tally includes the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix? Just saying…

        • Scribe (@scribe) said on 8th January 2011, 18:35

          Actually it doesn’t.

          European, Canadian, United States, French, British, German, Hungarian.

          • Scribe (@scribe) said on 8th January 2011, 18:42

            AND ANOTHER THING!

            In those days team orders where completely aceptable, regularly practiced, Ascari probably had one, or more for that matter. Multiple entries, he drove for Ferrari.

            Fangio’s number two was Stirling Moss, made the entire team about a bajazillion times stronger to have drivers working like that. However it was always understood that Stirling would get his turn.

            Another example, Francois Cevert was a loyal and commited no.2 for Jackie Stewart, treated him like a mentor, supported his title challenge, was going to get his turn the year after Jackie retired. Unfortunatley died in that year.

            These relationships where no bad thing, Barrichello’s was poisonous because it was never going to be Ruben’s turn. Massa’s was more like the no.2’s of old, quite a nice way to come up in fact.

          • jonnyw360f1 (@jonnyw360f1) said on 8th January 2011, 18:42

            Ooh, blimey! I wonder who Schumacher will come up against in the second round…the more I learn about that man I see what a [flawed] genius he is…please don’t come up against Senna.

  13. kowalsky (@kowalsky) said on 8th January 2011, 18:22

    The best five driver for Dennis Jnenckinso were:
    Ascari
    Moss
    Clark
    Villeneuve
    Senna.
    A little radical in my view, but interesting choice nevertheless.

  14. Scalextric (@scalextric) said on 8th January 2011, 18:41

    Mr Hunt also won despite excessive consumption of substances deleterious to personal health. It is said.

    And Ascari won when he had clearly superior equipment.
    But 9 wins in a row also requires an amazing consistency, so it has to be Alberto in this round.

  15. Cyclops_PL (@cyclops_pl) said on 8th January 2011, 18:41

    Ascari. Hunt still reminds me more of a rock star than a racedriver. He was like Kimmi the night-club warrior + Lewis the Pussy Cat boy x 2, except he lacked their skills on track.

1 2 3

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.