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

  1. vermaden (@vermaden) said on 13th January 2011, 10:41

    That one was easy, who would put Damon Hill in front of Ayrton Senna da Silva? ;p

  2. melkurion (@melkurion) said on 13th January 2011, 10:49

    Damon was good, but not great, senna was senna, enough said

  3. Michael Griffin said on 13th January 2011, 10:50

    Probably the most stupid pairing yet. Best driver ever, vs. Damon Hill.


    I voted for Damon, somebody had to.

  4. Cyclops_PL (@cyclops_pl) said on 13th January 2011, 10:53

    Senna, no contest. Although Damon always was one of my favorites. Simply like the guy.

  5. Marco said on 13th January 2011, 11:30

    It has to be Senna but one very small point on Hill.

    It is a shame that Keith has written ‘Hill joined Arrows for a largely joyless 1997′. It was indeed a poor season but I remember the Hungarian GP. Even though he had a Bridgestone advantage, Hill was the class of the field in a poor car. This was the day I considered Hill to be driver of note. Qualifying his woeful Arrows in 3rd, he passed Schumacher out on track into the first corner and only lost the lead when his hydraulics issue arose nursing his car to second behind JV.

    Damon was a true champion and it is shame he has been paired against one of the greats.

  6. Chalky (@chalky) said on 13th January 2011, 11:38

    I love Hill and I love Senna.
    But when you still have vivid memories of onboard footage of Senna’s qualifying laps years later, that’s something else.

  7. Dougie (@f1droid) said on 13th January 2011, 11:43

    No disrespect to Damon Hill, but I laughed when I saw the competition for Senna.

    Well that was easy.

    Next ;-)

  8. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 13th January 2011, 12:03

    One of the most anticipated poll I was waiting for as who will Senna pair up with? Feels bad for Damon.As far I have seen F1 Senna have set the benchmark of Ruthless driving a feat that we see from current champions like Schumacher, Alonso & Hamilton & asked them where did they learned all this? There will be one answer.He was a legend,before I used to hear about him I thought that because his dead was so fatal people overrated him but for the last 2 years after seeing some old GP from the 90’s I have to eat my words.He was the best driver of his time alongside Prost,surely we will never know where would have been his F1 career would have ended if not he have died.For many people including me he is one of the Top 3 F1 drivers of all time.

    • Chotazas said on 13th January 2011, 22:43

      I was born in Spain in 1985, so i was a kid when Senna died. I remember the announcement of his dead perfectly. I knew nothing about F1 then and my family, friends, almost everybody in Spain knew nothing about F1 in 1994. But his death was a shock in a country with zero F1 tradition like Spain. The fact that a 9 years old spanish kid can remember that day in 2010 is the proof that he was a legend when he was still alive and become bigger then. And I am not not fan of Senna but I can´t deny he is one of the best racers ever. As i wrote down this post in my opinion he was the fastest even he was not the best racer. 65 poles. The record is 68. Woa! O_O

  9. Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 13th January 2011, 12:06

    Aww the Senna vs. Damon. I told you so. ;)

    • Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 13th January 2011, 12:12

      To contribute something to the actual question as well: Senna’s pole ratio is unbelievably impressive. 40% means he almost started every second race from pole position. Nobody was quicker than him on one lap. Often beat the opposition by a second or so. He somehow managed to concentrate so hard that every inch of those laps were perfect.

      Senna was aiming for perfection in every moment of his racing career – including his team changes – and personally I think he was one of the few (four?) who came closest.

      • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 13th January 2011, 13:18

        To be fair, a lot of the time Prost knew he would be at least second so concentrated on the race ahead, Senna wanted the glory of pole. It just so helped he was so bloody brilliant at getting it.

        • Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 13th January 2011, 14:07

          As far as I know at that time you could change setups after quali and before race therefore developing AND using individual setups for them. So I can’t even think Prost would set up his car for race during qualifying as a mean of ‘concentrating on the race’.

          Of course mental concentration is another thing…

          One thing I could say was probably Senna’s weak spot was actually setting up his car. At least in his early years. It stems from the mentioned setting up procedure: I read in Christopher Hilton’s book he often copied setups of Alain – and went quicker with them. He had an acute sense of getting the very best out of a given car (like Fangio, or Clark), but may have had problems finding that particular best car setup.

          Probably this argument would fit better into a Senna-Prost Champion of Champions final – they could only meet there – but whatever. Maybe they won’t.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 13th January 2011, 12:34

      Indeed you did! :-)

  10. tobinen said on 13th January 2011, 12:28

    Strange choice of comparison! Senna vs Anyone would be pretty one-sided, but to choose Hill?

    Oh well, it’s up to Keith!

  11. Bleu (@bleu) said on 13th January 2011, 12:38

    First of all, disappointing to see that father and son Hill were not paired. Then, I would have paired Senna with Rindt, both being drivers who died prematurely.

    In this battle, there’s no contest really. Senna takes this one easily, and I don’t think I need explaining why.

  12. Speckled Jim (@) said on 13th January 2011, 12:39

    Imagine if you will Senna and Hill in.. say two equally slow road going cars. Both sat on an empty grid side by side at any circuit of your choice. Green light…. I like Hill but he is not on the same page as Senna in terms of talent. Hell of a guy though, and I have to say worthy of his championship.

  13. Paper Tiger said on 13th January 2011, 13:03

    I personally think Damon Hill was underrated, but this is only going one way.

  14. taurus (@taurus) said on 13th January 2011, 13:08

    Damon. Hugely underrated.

    In his defence, when pointed out that Senna mullered him in Brazil ’94, remember Senna was in his 11th F1 season, Damon had one year in a Williams and about two races in a bathtub on wheels they were calling a Brabham. Plus he would have been a lot closer to the ’93 title if he hadn’t blown up at Silverstone and got the puncture in Germany.

    Never understood why he gets such a bad press in the UK, 22 wins and a World Championship says he’s no mug.

    • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 13th January 2011, 13:22

      To put it in perspective, Alonso has only won 4 more. Hill is in fact the 11th most successful race winner. It’s true he was often only competing against one other driver for wins in every season, but Schumacher and Villeneuve were no slouches.

  15. Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 13th January 2011, 13:23

    One more thing although everybody seems to agree on Senna being better.

    As they were teammates for three races we can compare them directly. In Hill’s favour there’s the fact that he had ony one year of experience when settled into an uncomfortable FW16 while Senna had ten.

    Even then what Senna did with THAT car on the first three race was magnificient although the results does not reflect it. Snatched pole all three times – I spoke about his one lap performances earlier. He was chasing Schumacher by 5 seconds when almost everyone else was going to be lapped including his teammate Hill – in the same nervous car in Brazil. Even led the German before the pit stops and he did so in Imola.

    Just imagine what would have he done after the FW16 became REALLY competitive – say from Spain, Canada, or France. I think he would have been world champion in 1994 no matter how big his point deficit was after Imola.

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