Emerson Fittipaldi vs Denny Hulme

Champion of Champions

Champion of Champions: Emerson Fittipaldi vs Denny Hulme

Emerson Fittipaldi and Denny Hulme were team mates at McLaren in 1974 – though the comparison does not flatter Hulme.

That was his final year in the sport, while Fittipaldi was at the peak of his powers, winning his second championship that year.

Hulme got his break in F1 through Jack Brabham, who he worked for as a mechanic before starting his first championship races in 1965. The following season was a breakthrough year for Brabham as he won the championship in his own car.

Hulme went into the 1967 season having never previously won a race. But while Brabham frequently hit trouble running new parts on his car, Hulme’s Brabham saw the chequered flag in nine out of 11 races, and it was in the top four every time. He won at Monte-Carlo and the Nurburgring, and took the title from his team mate.

With that he joined another driver running his own team – fellow Kiwi Bruce McLaren. Hulme went into the final two races of 1968 level on points with championship leader Graham Hill, but he missed out on a second title after crashing out at Watkins Glen and in Mexico – the latter an enormous shunt caused by a suspension breakage.

McLaren was killed in 1970 – the same year Jochen Rindt lost his life, which prompted Fittipaldi’s promotion at Lotus. He quickly delivered on his potential, winning his fourth career race at Watkins Glen.

But 1971 was a difficult season as the team struggled to get to grips with its new car, the 72, and Fittipaldi was briefly sidelined after being injured in a road accident. After getting a handle on the new car, he clinched the championship in 1972, becoming the youngest driver ever to do so.

Fittipaldi started 1973 with a pair of wins but came under increased pressure from new team mate Ronnie Peterson as the season wore on. Jackie Stewart claimed his title back from Fittipaldi.

That led him to cut his ties with Lotus and join McLaren. He paired up with Hulme, who had won once with the competitive new M23 in 1973. Hulme won the season-opener at Buenos Aires, but come the end of the season it was Fittipaldi who won the title in the final round.

While Hulme headed into retirement, Fittipaldi spent a second season with McLaren before making the surprise decision to drive for his brother Wilson’s team. In five years the team tasted little success, second place for Fittipaldi in Brazil in 1978 being the notable exception.

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.

Emerson Fittipaldi Denny Hulme
Emerson Fittipaldi Denny Hulme
Titles 1972, 1974 1967
Second in title year/s Jackie Stewart, Clay Regazzoni Jack Brabham
Teams Lotus, McLaren, Copersucar, Fittipaldi Brabham, McLaren
Notable team mates Ronnie Peterson, Denny Hulme, Jochen Mass Jack Brabham, Bruce McLaren, Emerson Fittipaldi
Starts 144 112
Wins 14 (9.72%) 8 (7.14%)
Poles 6 (4.17%) 1 (0.89%)
Modern points per start1 6.90 8.39
% car failures2 25.69 25.89
Modern points per finish3 9.29 11.33
Notes Won in his fourth F1 start Took title off team mate Brabham in 1967
Spent five seasons with Fittipaldi team after winning second title Moved to McLaren the following year and came close to retaining his crown
Formerly the youngest ever world champion Won the first race of 1974 but retired at the end of the year
Bio Emerson Fittipaldi Denny Hulme

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?

  • Emerson Fittipaldi (82%)
  • Denny Hulme (18%)

Total Voters: 530

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Images ?? Gillfoto via Flickr (Fittipaldi), Gerry Swetsky (Hulme)

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74 comments on Emerson Fittipaldi vs Denny Hulme

  1. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 10th January 2011, 17:28

    I voted for Hulme, pretty much because many people will probably be finding themselves in the same situation last year, i.e. discovering this guy even existed.

    But it’s more than that. I’ve always tried to approach the votes by the criteria the series is based on, but I’ll allow myself this one indulgence. Becoming world champion is hard and after hearing a lot of rubbish how Webber would have been an undeserving champion (mainly from a few passionate individuals), I thought I would honour that in this vote.

  2. Emmo, definitely. He won in his 1st season. How many drivers have achieved that? Hulme didn’t start winning until the year he won the title, but then again it was only his 3rd season. I’d still say Fittipaldi, he was a lot more successful despite spending the last 5 years of his career at a backmarker team.

  3. Rocky (@rocky) said on 10th January 2011, 17:37

    This is a tougher one then I thought it would be but then looking at the stats and reading some great comments it became quite close.
    I have good memories of Denny from CanAm at Mosport, but better memories of Emerson in the JPS.
    So being undecided at that point I went back to my first impression and voted Emerson Fittipaldi

  4. skodarap (@skodarap) said on 10th January 2011, 18:00

    No brainer really, Hulme.

    To take a title in front of Brabham, Stewart, Clark, Hill, Surtees – you just don’t do that if you’re not “great”.

    • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 10th January 2011, 19:22

      To be fair, Stewart was driving in a BRM team heavily into its decline,q

    • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 10th January 2011, 19:28

      To be fair, Stewart was driving in a BRM team heavily into its decline, Surtees was aging in a rubbish Honda and Lotus (Hill and Clark) were in transition to the 49. But credit to Hulme, he also beat Brabham in his own team.

  5. Antranik (@antranik) said on 10th January 2011, 18:36

    I know very little of these two drivers, but after reading the comments and looking at the stats I chose Emerson, but not by much.

  6. Marco said on 10th January 2011, 19:17

    Personally I consider Fittipaldi as a bit better driver then Hulme, but both are not in my top 30 of Formula One drivers…

    • kowalsky (@) said on 10th January 2011, 22:19

      not top ten someone said. I can cope with that, but not top 30!!!! come on. That’s nonesense.
      I think emerson is a top ten. In the mold of mika, nelson piquet, mansell or andretti. And a little behind lauda, stewart, fangio, prost, schumacher, clark and senna.
      Anybody outthere is with me, or am i crazy?

      • Hamish said on 11th January 2011, 2:11

        My ten would go something like this:

        Senna
        Clark
        Prost
        Fangio
        G Villeneuve
        G Hill
        Stewart
        Piquet (Snr)
        K Rosberg
        Montoya (yes, Montoya)

        Each to their own though.

      • Marco said on 11th January 2011, 12:15

        Yes, for me clearly NO TOP 30 for Fittipaldi and Hulme, because I am looking at the way HOW their top results were achieved, if only because of other retirements or because of their pace and strength…
        In terms of laps led is
        Fittipaldi 39th and Hulme 40th in official statistics, which is quite poor, especially for the Brazilian who is 2x World champion… Using the percentage
        laps led/race attended, he will be even the worst of all champions… So, overated as hell…

  7. schooner (@schooner) said on 10th January 2011, 22:37

    Back in the early 70’s, I was as big a fan of the Can-Am series as I was F1. Getting to watch the likes of Denny Hulme, Revson, Stewart, Cevert, Donohue, et al, have at it in what was essentially an unrestricted formula was a sight to behold. The McLaren M8D and M20 were absolute brutes, and Hulme seemed to be particularly suited to manhandling those incredible machines. I’ve always liked him for that. But we’re talking F1 here, and it was a tough choice. On the strength of almost double the amount of wins, and 2 titles over 1, I had to (somewhat reluctantly) vote for Fittipaldi. Close call.

  8. Olivier said on 11th January 2011, 0:48

    Fittipaldi makes my top 20 and Hulme doesn’t, so this one goes to the Brazilian.

  9. slowhand (@slowhand) said on 11th January 2011, 2:11

    schooner – Thanks for remembering Hulme in the CanAm series. Yes this is an F1 poll but wasn’t it grand when F1 drivers were allowed to be all around racers.

  10. kcrossle (@kcrossle) said on 11th January 2011, 3:23

    Tough one. Each worked mighty hard, uphill it seemed. Saw Emmo’s first win – to brighten the despondency over Rindt. Met him on the Queen Mary in Long Beach in ’77 or ’78. His wins in Indycar were huge.

    On the other hand Hulme was a partner in the “Bruce & Denny Show” (CanAm late ’60’s). Dominant is an insufficient word. Plus he went and won the WC in the year that Our Jim should have taken it in the Lotus 49.

    Nod to Bear.

  11. pseudohendrix (@pseudohendrix) said on 11th January 2011, 7:43

    Denny won his WDC because of Lotus’s unreliability. Emerson was genuinely faster than JYS in 1972 and the achievement of becoming the youngest ever world champion is not to be understated. He is still the 3rd youngest WDC and he did this in the days before karting really took off as a path to F1. To win the WDC at such a young age in such a brutal era is incredible. That and the fact that in F1 alone, I’m yet to see what was particularly special about Denny Hulme, wins it For Fittipaldi for me.

    • Marco said on 12th January 2011, 9:33

      And Fittipaldi won in 1974, because of Ferrari s unreliability…:) In both seasons /1972 and 1974/ he was not the driver, who spent the most laps in lead… This was the case of Stewart /1972/ and Lauda /1974/, who should be both champions for those years, if strong car reliability wasn t a key to result in races…

  12. verstappen (@verstappen) said on 11th January 2011, 8:44

    Fittipaldi, the most important stat says he has one more WDC then Hulme. Add to that CART and Indy and it’s an easy vote.

    On top of that, to go and drive for your family is a very nice thing to do, it shows he had his heart in the right place.

    • kowalsky (@) said on 11th January 2011, 10:04

      yes he has the heart in the right place. I agree on that one. That cost him in his profesional carear, but with the numbers he has, i don’t think he minds. If he was more like niki lauda, may be he would be three times world champion, but, to me he is more or less at the same level. And he doesn’t have any bad word for a fellow driver, like lauda does. Like i say, same talent, different personality.

  13. Tinakori Road (@tinakori-road) said on 18th January 2011, 19:30

    Although Denny Hulme spoke to me once in New Zealand when I was working for McRae I voted for Emerson who I had only seen in the pits in the US but I never talked to him.

    Denny was a terrible thrasher of dog rings in the Hewland transaxle; they would never last through practice, let alone the race.

    Emerson at least tried new car construction with an Aluminum honeycomb tub in the Copersucar which was way ahead of it’s time.

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