Ayrton Senna vs Damon Hill

Champion of Champions

Champion of Champions: Ayrton Senna vs Damon Hill

Ayrton Senna and Damon Hill’s F1 careers overlapped as Hill’s was beginning and Senna’s was coming to its sadly premature end.

They started just three races as team mates at Williams in 1994 before Senna was killed at Imola.

Senna made his F1 debut in 1984 with the Toleman team. He swiftly made an impression by taking second place at Monaco in the rain – he was catching leader Alain Prost as the race was halted.

He moved to Lotus and scored his maiden win in similar conditions in Portugal. Senna made the team his own, staying there for three years before deciding his best chances of winning the championship would come with a move to McLaren.

That meant sharing a team with Prost and so began one of the most notorious rivalries the sport has ever seen.

Senna claimed the crown in 1988 as the pair won 15 of the 16 races. But unreliability knocked his title defence off-course in 1989 and Prost took the title after controversially colliding with Senna in at Suzuka.

Their feud continued in 1990 after Prost left to join Ferrari. This time the title went to Senna, who returned Prost’s favour from 1989 by crashing into him in Japan.

Senna and McLaren were under attack from a different direction in 1991 – Nigel Mansell and the increasingly formidable Williams-Renault combination. While Senna retained his crown that year he was powerless to stop Mansell dominating the 1992 championship.

Prost took over from Mansell at Williams the following year and the result was much the same – though Senna managed to take five wins.

Prost’s team mate in 1993 was Hill, who landed the seat after a few outings for Brabham the previous year. He made a halting start in the first races of his debut season, but rebounded to win three races in a row later in the year.

Senna’s time with Williams was over all too soon and it was left to Hill to carry the team’s championship chances in a car which was not the dominant force its predecessors had been.

He came close to getting the job done. But at Adelaide it was Hill’s turn to be taken out by a rival in a championship-deciding race – at the hands of Michael Schumacher.

Schumacher defeated Hill even more emphatically in 1995. But in 1996 Hill rebounded, winning the championship after a season-long battle with new team mate Jacques Villeneuve.

Even so Williams decided not to retain his services. Hill joined Arrows for a largely joyless 1997, but after changing teams he gave Jordan their first race win in 1998. He retired after one more season with them.

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.

Ayrton Senna Damon Hill
Ayrton Senna, Williams, 1994 Damon Hill, Williams, 1994
Titles 1988, 1990, 1991 1996
Second in title year/s Alain Prost, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell Jacques Villeneuve
Teams Toleman, Lotus, McLaren, Williams Brabham, Williams, Arrows, Jordan
Notable team mates Alain Prost, Gerhard Berger, Mika Hakkinen Alain Prost, David Coulthard, Jacques Villeneuve
Starts 161 115
Wins 41 (25.47%) 22 (19.13%)
Poles 65 (40.37%) 20 (17.39%)
Modern points per start1 11.68 9.49
% car failures2 20.50 14.78
Modern points per finish3 14.70 11.13
Notes Won three titles in four years with McLaren Narrowly missed 1994 title after collision with Schumacher
Controversial clash with Prost sealed second title Clinched championship in 1996 after year-long battle with Jacques Villeneuve
Killed in third race for Williams in 1994 Nearly gave Arrows their first win at Hungary in 1997, did give Jordan their first win at Belgium the following year
Bio Ayrton Senna Damon Hill

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?

  • Ayrton Senna (94%)
  • Damon Hill (7%)

Total Voters: 686

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188 comments on Ayrton Senna vs Damon Hill

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  1. McLarenFanJamm (@mclarenfanjamm) said on 13th January 2011, 8:58

    Hi Keith,

    This seems to have pulled through the poll from Raikkonen vs Vettel

  2. Oh this one’s hardly fair! Sorry Damon, much as I love ya’.

    • Andy W (@andy-w) said on 13th January 2011, 11:29

      Agreed… love Damon think he could have been a 3 or 4 times World Champion if things had gone slightly differently for him (not being crashed into), but when compared to Senna there is only one way I am voting.

      • bananarama (@bananarama) said on 13th January 2011, 12:42

        In what dream world would Hill have won more than one championship? Just not good enough, therefore before clicking on Senna I was wondering if Hill had a vote at all or if I’d see a big fat 0 behind his name.

      • miguelF1O (@) said on 14th January 2011, 4:30

        ohooho so funny damon was rubbish.

        • that’s right, he’s rubbish, so how many world championships have you won miguelf10? Of course, none… who’s more rubbish now.

        • Hare (@hare) said on 15th January 2011, 22:38

          Rubbish? He finished 3rd in his first meaningful year, and had 4 straight years in the top 3, and when his car held out and didn’t fall to pieces, he usually finished on the podium, more often than not, in 1st place.

          A Rubbish driver! Is someone who has a great car, and fails to do anything with it… mm, like Luca Badoer for example. He put’s the Bad, in Badoer. ;)

    • Architrion (@architrion) said on 13th January 2011, 11:34


      I fully agree. I fully supported Damon while he was battling against the Evil in Schumacher’s body. And I always was a Proster. But man, Senna was THE DRIVER. Absolutely.

      @Andy W

      The only ONE who put Damon out of the champions race was DAMON himself. He recently said that on an F1Racing interview, when he told us how he failed to understand Williams will never ever pay him more than he was paid, even if he was the WDC. So he had to move on, and close his bid to run multiply drivers championships.

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

      Same here Ajokay, Hill was a good racer but surely there is no comparison

    • sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 13th January 2011, 12:56

      Agreed with ajokay. This is an unfortunate lineup for Hill – because he is an underrated champion, a great driver and a great sportsman. His statistics are also a lot better than I had thought and his drive in 1997 for Arrows at hungary is the stuff of legend that Senna could also do.

      However, Senna was faster than Hill in 1994 before the accident and I think that seals it for me. Really apt lineup, quite a lot of similarities between the two – and we all know that Damon should have been a double world champion rather than a single.

    • Chippie (@chippie) said on 13th January 2011, 13:29

      Yeah, I was hoping Damon would be faced off against easier opponents and make it at least to the second round, I still maintain he is better than Schumacher.

      • DASMAN said on 13th January 2011, 13:38

        You must be the only one…

      • kowalsky (@) said on 13th January 2011, 13:53

        better than schumacher. At chess, but not as a driver. I hope you agree on this.

      • sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 13th January 2011, 14:24

        Not sure he was as good as Schumacher – perhaps because he didn’t have the same racing ruthlessness as Schumacher did. However, racing aside, on pure pace I would agree that they were evenly matched.

        *I am in no way advocating that Schumachers ruthlessness is a good thing I might add..!

      • James Whiteley said on 13th January 2011, 20:46

        he’s a better guitarist. Not a better driver!

      • David-A (@david-a) said on 13th January 2011, 21:39

        I still maintain he is better than Schumacher.

        Yeah, that’s why he lost the 1995 championship in the best car, despite ramming Schumacher twice…

      • tmfox (@tmfox) said on 15th January 2011, 3:02

        I think in those rare moments he could match Schumacher.

        What I think held Damon back a great deal was not having Williams behind him when he needed his team the most, plus Damon wasn’t always very good under pressure.

        If you removed those two disadvantages he’d have bothered Schumacher a lot more than he managed to.

        Despite always having had a huge bias towards Damon and despite him being the only driver I’ve been a fan of. I’d rate Senna over him when it comes to track skill and craft.

    • Fixy (@fixy) said on 13th January 2011, 13:31

      I never thought Hill would manage so well against Senna. Their statistics aren’t very different.
      Despite Hill could have been a 3 times WDC, Senna could have been a 6 times WDC, so the comparison is fair enough for me to vote Senna.

      • wificats (@wificats) said on 13th January 2011, 15:26

        How could Hill have been a 3 Times WDC? Although it’s possible to contend that he was robbed in 1994, Schumacher was simply leagues better than him in 1995, winning 5 more races and beating him by 33 points. Hill’s season was error strewn that year, and it would be hard to claim that he was even close to winning.

        Had he stayed on at Williams in 1997, I’m still not sure he would have won another title, because even if he’d beaten Villeneuve again, it would have made Schumacher’s task easier, as they would be taking points off each other, and Schumacher came pretty close to beating Villeneuve that year anyway.

    • TommyB (@tommyb89) said on 13th January 2011, 14:32

      Second in championship year.

      Senna: Alain Prost, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell Hill: Jacques Villeneuve

      No contest really is there?

  3. scratt (@scratt) said on 13th January 2011, 9:02

    Poor Damon. What an unfair pairing. He doesn’t stand a chance, much as I like him.

    • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 13th January 2011, 11:22

      Yeah, I liked him at the time, first having to play second fiddle to Prost, then Senna, losing him, but never really gaining the 1st driver status with Williams; that 1994 championship ending, and the brave but sad attempt with Arrows, almost winning, but not quite. I think he is a pretty nice guy.

      But Senna has to win and go through, clearly.

  4. Jarred Walmsley (@jarred-walmsley) said on 13th January 2011, 9:03

    Keith, the poll on this one is the Raikkonen/Vettel poll,

  5. RIISE (@riise) said on 13th January 2011, 9:03

    Haha poor Damon.

    As much as I dislike Senna this is an easy one.

    • Can you elaborate on why you dislike Senna? Not criticising… just intrigued! :)

      • Its Hammer time said on 13th January 2011, 10:39

        Because some people actually remember what Senna was like to share a track/ race meeting with before he died:

        Bolshy, Arrogant, Self Promoting, uterly ruthless on track. He died at the top of his game and people today only remember/ romanticise about the ‘legend’.

        I was an enormous fan, just i am an enormous fan of Hamilton. Both men are very similar in their approach and execution of their participation of the sport. Senna is remebered as the best, Hamilton (currently) receives widespread criticism for his over confidence and aggressive style.

        Lewis for WDC 2011 …

        • Hamish said on 13th January 2011, 10:45

          The fact that you have turned a story about Senna and Hill to Lewis Hamilton really says a lot about you.

          Don’t expect many Xmas card this year from the readers of f1fanatic

          • Its Hammer time said on 13th January 2011, 14:21

            Correct, it does speak volumes about me. I support exciting, attacking drivers. I watched Senna race and he was enormously exciting, I was/ am a big fan.

            Ben N posed the question “why anyone would dislike Senna” and I gave an answer for the benefit of those who perhaps won’t around back then to watch him race, to give a balanced view of him.

            That you picked up on me mentioning Hamilton in this thread and discredit my comments as a result, says alot about you.

            Try drinking your lager through a straw, you won’t spill as much of it down your shirt…Simpleton

          • mfDB (@mfdb) said on 13th January 2011, 14:30

            Hammer time does have a point, especially about their off track attitudes, only I think that Senna was more brash and maybe more interesting. I think Hamilton has a long way to go to even come close to being compared to Senna. I’m not saying he won’t get there, but at this point his aggressive driving seems to cause too many mistakes (compared to Senna) to be considered masterful.

          • jimscreechy said on 13th January 2011, 14:32

            Wow Hamish, that is a bit harsh isn’t it? Will I come under similar levels of criticism if I make a comparison? And! indicating this is a character flaw is quite underhanded… don’t you think?

            Why not just decomplile his argument concerning Ayrton… if indeed you deem it necessary to undermine him, rather than attack him personally.

          • Hamish said on 13th January 2011, 21:32

            Not harsh at all. If you can’t take feedback from someone on the net (therefore someone you have never met, will never meet) you are a very very complex individual.

            I stand by what I say, and a lot will agree that the quality of posts went seriously downhill with the arrival of Hamilton. I mean seriously, this is Senna vs Hill and we start talking about Hamilton for the 2011 title…..and people wonder why there are complaints about this being a British site.

            Hes nothing special, hes never not been in a fast car so of course hes going to look quick.

            Jesus rested on the 7th day, he didn’t create Lewis Hamilton.

          • newskiller (@newskiller) said on 14th January 2011, 9:45

            Actually you are turning this into a thread about Hamilton with your personal attack. The other guy was just making a comparison to illustrate his point, which is far more appropriate in this context.

        • I am brazilian and I totally agree.

      • kowalsky (@) said on 13th January 2011, 11:04

        yes. how can you dislike senna?!!! were you a f1 follower when he was racing, or just saw him and read about him afterwards?

        • sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 13th January 2011, 12:58

          Senna has his faults. He was not the saint that everyone nowadays makes him out to be and is likely also to be overrated – but on the basis of this pairing, he is still the greater driver than Hill.

          • kowalsky (@) said on 13th January 2011, 13:57

            Alonso could be overrated, but not senna.
            If you had seen a qualy lap live, and still get goosebumps after 25 years. That i wouldn’t consider to be overrated.

          • sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 13th January 2011, 14:32

            well, stating that Senna cannot be overrated is rather a sign of a Senna fan. Objectively, anyone can be overrated – and i’m approaching the subject in this way.

            It’s Hammer time actually posted a really good summary of why people might dislike Senna – but also of why people idolise him. I’m not really sure where I stand. I never got to see him race, but I have watched videos etc. They are great – and the man himself clearly was as well – but I can see his flaws as well. He was not a gentleman racer in the same was as Hill for example.

    • sato113 (@sato113) said on 13th January 2011, 11:17

      prost fan? i am!

  6. Andy92 (@andy92) said on 13th January 2011, 9:06

    Hmm, no question. I’m 18 and have only been into F1 for a couple of years but what I’ve seen of Senna – the guy is a legend. Spend some time with youtube yesterday – man, that 1994 Donnington GP just wow!

  7. SennaNmbr1 (@) said on 13th January 2011, 9:07

    Sorry Damon :D

  8. spawinte said on 13th January 2011, 9:12

    Why you do this to Damon ;_;

  9. Paolone (@paolone) said on 13th January 2011, 9:12

    40% of poles, in those years, fighting with Prost, Mansell, Piquet, spending at least 4 seasons without the best car is unbelivable!
    I think the fastest driver ever

    • magon4 (@magon4) said on 13th January 2011, 12:43

      but senna only won championships when he had the best car. that’s the truth!

      • wificats (@wificats) said on 13th January 2011, 15:31

        But to be able to maintain a pole average that high, despite spending 4 years in cars that were not good enough to win the championship (and in some cases simply outclassed), is very impressive.

      • Paolo said on 14th January 2011, 17:49

        Only in 1988 he had the best cars, but Prost as teammate.
        in 1990 and 91 Mclaren wasn’t better than Ferrari (90) and Williams (91)

        Anyway I was talking about the pole average that means he was the fastest on a single lap and able to find always the right set-up

  10. I think the story that Prost crashed into Senna intentionally in ’89, and Senna was merely returning the favour in ’90, is at least half myth.

    The collision in ’89 looked, at the time, like a racing incident, and one for which Senna had more of the blame (it was an impossible overtake). Senna, of course, as good as admitted that the crash in ’90 was intentional, but the factor that drove him to it was Balestre’s pig-headed governance, not anything Prost had done.

    The myth makes an attractive story, having a mirror-image, yin-yan quality to it that makes for a satisfying narrative. I’m just not convinced it’s true.

    (That aside, sorry Damon, it’s Ayrton all the way!)

    • Hamish said on 13th January 2011, 10:42

      1) Senna is hit before he even reaches the apex of the chicane, yet he is to blame? If someone is hit before an apex this clearly shows someone turned into someone. Have a look at the in car footage.

      2) Where did Prost go straight after the accident? Well at least in one of the two versions to come out of his mouth.

      3) Given points 1 & 2 Prost had done something. Yes Balestre didn’t help the situation at all but if you were in Senna’s position, what would you do to achieve victory given what the man in front of you did the previous year to deprive you of victory? If anything I saw it as natural justice and put Balestre in a position he previously never was in regards to Senna – powerless. The precedent had been set.

      • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 13th January 2011, 10:47

        Hamish, Senna had established himself as having an incredibly ruthless reputation. He would dive down gaps and it was up to you whether you wanted to crash or not. Not lose position, crash.

        Prost was tired of Senna’s antics when they were racing wheel to wheel. He very publicly said before the race that if Senna tried to dive on the inside like that again, he would not yield. If you look at the replay of the incident, Senna did indeed come from a long way behind in the hope Prost would yield, as so many other had done. He did not know his man that day and it was his own fault for leaving himself there and believing he could bully Prost.

        • Hamish said on 13th January 2011, 11:10

          Um, read what I wrote, then read what you wrote.

          I can see what your trying to say but you’ve basically supported what I’ve said in point one, albeit probably unintentionally.

        • David B (@david-b) said on 13th January 2011, 11:15

          If you continue the line of Prost (Suzuka 89) this goes well before the apex of the chicane. Prost hit Senna on purpose, that time, as Senna did the year after.
          I think both was even worse than what most of you use to address to Schumacher incorrect driving habits.
          I mean, all the three have been great champions, doesn’t mean they didn’t play dirty, at some points.

        • kowalsky (@) said on 13th January 2011, 11:16

          you are right. But senna never complained about prost’s driving that day. He regained the track and went on to win the race. By the way, prost’s engine was still on and he didn’t have the front wing broken, but he didn’t continue. The race win would have been his for sure if he had.
          It was balestre the one that messed up the hole race and the championship.
          Balestre was so full of himself that didn’t care about the fans, the same as mosley.

    • …how many points would Prost make had he finished 2nd in Suzuka 1989?

      you don’t have to answer i ll do it for you…0 POINTS!!!

      is it motiv enough for you?

      why should Senna take Prost out ?

      give me a good reason please

      • kowalsky (@) said on 13th January 2011, 14:06

        i am not realy sure what you mean. You either used a 0 instead of a 6, or you are talking about the points system, that dicarded the worst results.
        Let’s not forget that prost, as senna did, said that he collided with senna, because he wasn’t going to yield again, like always used to do. It was in a slow corner, because he was very afraid of having a fast accident having seen the one villeneuve had at zolder, when he was in an internal war with his teammate.

    • Kenny said on 14th January 2011, 8:19

      Watch the film- Prost looks at Senna, then turns into him…

  11. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 13th January 2011, 9:24

    I’m going to vote for Damon Hill. Because … well, somebody has to.

    • jihelle (@jihelle) said on 13th January 2011, 10:14

      that will make two of us… Purely on emotional grounds and because Senna will win anyway. I was watching not too long ago the “Driven” BBC program on Graham Hill and to see the young Damon next top his dad and Graham saying that he wouldn’t like his son to become a racing driver; I am a very emotional guy…

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 13th January 2011, 10:55

        Good to see Damon has some support. For me, I liked him and he was pretty good to be the first 2nd generation of a F1 WDC family to get the title himself.

        That said, I do think Senna was a lot closer to being THE champion of champoins, so my vote goes to him.

        • frood19 (@frood19) said on 13th January 2011, 12:26

          i voted senna but i really don’t think he should win overall. it’s very hard to highly rate a driver who was so over-aggresive with others. if he’d been racing 10 or 20 years earlier he would have killed people. you can say the same thing about schumacher but aside from the incident with barrichello at hungary, his antics have been nowhere near as ruthless and downright dangerous as some of senna’s.

          it’s hard to say if damon is a deserving champion. he got destroyed by coulthard in the second half of 1995 (that Williams was clearly the fastest car) and again by villeneuve in the second part of 1996. i think if williams had kept clothead for ’96 we would have a different champion now. you could say 1994 was his best year but he was aided by schumacher forfeiting at least 40 points in penalties.

          • antifia (@antifia) said on 13th January 2011, 15:50

            You must be kidding. What passes for normal defending behaviour these days would probably have a driver banned in the 80’s and beginning of the 90’s. Compared to what is ok today, those guys were absolut getlemen. Compare Schumacher move in Hungary this year with Senna’s squeeze of Prost in Estoril 88 (you can find both on you tube). The latter is still mentioned as an example how ruthless Senna was. Boy you see these things being done at every race nowadays. By the way: Beating Mansel does not automaticaly qualify as dirty moves, no matter how painful these moves were.

  12. oweng (@oweng) said on 13th January 2011, 9:34

    I really like Damon Hill, seems like a great guy and to win the title with the pressure of being a World Champion’s son is a great achievement. Especially after the despair of 94 and getting his head sorted after 95.

    But, unfortunately he’s up against Senna who seemed like he drove in a trance – a pure racer.

    The latter rounds of this comp are going to be very interesting!

  13. David B (@david-b) said on 13th January 2011, 9:38

    Always thought Damon was quick, even if not very quick, brave and…good. And also a bit unlucky.
    This pair confirm he was unlucky! :-)

  14. Oh dear…

  15. Sasquatsch (@sasquatsch) said on 13th January 2011, 9:39

    This choice is easy based on stats alone, but still, to compare both drivers, the best way is when they drive in the same car in the same season, having equal material.

    Then only one race is enough for me to choose Senna. The first race of 1994. In this race he crushed Hill. He managed to stay close to Schumacher in a (then) difficult to drive Williams (only later that year the Williams became the best car of the season), while Damon was lapped by both of them, before Senna drove his car over the limit to keep up with Schumacher and spun.

    A shame that the next race ended the life of a legend, which he already was in his lifetime. For me he was one of the best ever.

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