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 ?é?® Gillfoto via Flickr (Fittipaldi), Gerry Swetsky (Hulme)

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74 comments on Emerson Fittipaldi vs Denny Hulme

  1. 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…

  2. 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 (@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.

  3. 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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