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. 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.

  2. 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.

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

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. i really feel sick reading all these comments from people who never lived his era how he could have killed people the way he was driving…

    Ayrton Senna da Silva is the only driver-athlete-sportsman on this planet who has saved a life on track…Eric Comas life…. here is what Eric has to say about this…no other athlete has the privilege to be thanked for saving a life.!!!!

    Ayrton saved my life!!! is the title of the video

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUyXHG55xQ8

    • kowalsky (@) said on 13th January 2011, 14:17

      i agree. It’s just the way society has turned into. It sucks but that’s the way it is. The same people that use this argument, are the ones that don’t say anything against f1 going to 4 cilinder engines, with 600 bhp. Real fans should scream about it.
      They don’t have a way to compare, because the weren’t there in the 80’s and 90’s.
      Senna was the best pilot that i have seen, and a much better person than prost. He was very concerned about kids in brazil, and created an ong to help.
      Prost on the other hand, when he was the owner of the f1 team, had the chance to sell it to a middle east millioner, and save the worker’s jobs, but he let it go bankrupt, because it suited him better.

    • sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 13th January 2011, 16:54

      i’m afraid thats just not true, nor remotely close to being true. Drivers dragged their compatriots free from wreckages throughout the 50’s until the 90’s when cars become safe and there were proper marshals. Yes, Senna saved Eric Comas, but he was not the only one who saved lives like this.

      Roger Williamson died in his accident, but just look at what David Purley did to try to save him. Youtube it, its a slightly shocking video so be warned, but it shows how ridiculous your statement is.

      Now had you clarified it to the modern era, you’d probably be right, but even then I’m not so sure. What is true is that while Senna did save a life, he also caused accidents. No-one was seriously hurt from those however.

      • sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 13th January 2011, 16:58

        And on the subject of saving lives, Stewart almost certainly saved more lives than anyone else in F1 by introducing all the safety measures that we now take for granted.

      • kowalsky (@) said on 13th January 2011, 18:34

        you are another of those fans that try to take away merit where it’s due.
        The fact that in the earlier decades there was camaradery between drivers, doesn’t take anything away from senna saving a fellow driver. He was very human outside the cockpit, and ruthless inside. That’s the way we liked him.
        And that’s the problem with contemporary fans. They judge him with todays mentality, because they weren’t there. And history has to be judged knowing the circumstances at the time.

        • sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 13th January 2011, 20:08

          I never said merit wasn’t due – far from it. I struggle to understand how you read that into my post at all. What I said, plainly, was that the original comment of Senna being the only driver to save someones life is false. And i’m right about that, because its fact that other drivers were saved. Thus calling me ‘one of those fans’ i.e. name calling seems rather ironic.

          • lol, one of those guys again…mr SW6569 i would like to inform you that Senna’s death is the reason for the safety measures in F1 and not Stewart…he saved lives dead or alive…

            he never caused an accident except Suzuka 1990, one colission in 10 years is fair enough.

            isn’t it a bit ironic that the only example of a saved life that comes in your mind is when the driver (Roger Williamson) died ?!!! i mean think about it

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 14th January 2011, 15:28

            isn’t it a bit ironic that the only example of a saved life that comes in your mind is when the driver (Roger Williamson) died ?!!! i mean think about it

            The fact that Williamson didn’t survive doesn’t make Purley’s efforts to try and save him any less brave for risking his life to save a fellow driver. And how about Guy Edwards and Brett Lunger saving Niki Lauda from the flames at the Nurburgring? Or even your friend Michael Schumacher helping to save James Courtney?

            You’ve just got to accept that like me and everyone else, that not everything you say, type or think is correct.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 14th January 2011, 16:42

      There were a lot more accounts of drivers saving others or trying to do so on track in the history of F1.

      Have a look at this article and the links included. That is about guys knowing a far more dangerous time in F1.
      http://www.grandprix.com/columns/maurice-hamilton/champions-forever.html
      http://vimeo.com/17632646

    • Dipak T said on 15th January 2011, 17:37

      Seriously mate, Ayrton was not the only person to save a fellow drivers life, and his death is not the sole reson for improved saftey standars. Ratzenberger also died the day before Senna.

      And Jackie Stewart, who did so much for safety in F1, had his life saved by Graham Hill and Bob Bondurant. He was stuck in a in an overturned car in Spa in 1966, and was lucky he was extracted before the car could set alight.

  7. George said on 13th January 2011, 14:26

    Senna was ruthless, but he was one of the best, here in battling prost in the bercy kart race

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0Sg8it4ZbY

  8. schooner (@schooner) said on 13th January 2011, 14:43

    I can’t say that I was ever in awe of Damon Hill’s talent, but as an F1 champion with 22 wins to his credit, he was certainly no slouch. Not in the same league as Senna, though.

  9. djdaveyp85 (@djdaveyp87) said on 13th January 2011, 14:50

    Contrary to popular belief I think Damon Hill was a brilliant driver, but you’ve put him up against the best legend in the history of the sport, so there is only one way my vote can go.

    Aryton Senna was the most exciting driver to watch ever, and I’ve only seen snippets of him on youtube and the old races on BBC. He was pure talent and his death was the biggest tragedy ever in F1, his death was unfortunately in the first ever f1 race I watched so sadly I missed alot of his career.

    I can’t wait to see the Senna movie as I’ve read so much about him.

    Damon Hill continues to be a fantastic ambassador for British Motorsport.

  10. kowalsky (@) said on 13th January 2011, 15:19

    i was at jerez in 1986. i remember watching qualy at the last, very fast right hander where martin donelly had the career ending crash. It was the last minutes of the qualifying, and i saw senna flat out with the lotus, totaly commited on that corner, and was hard to believe how fast he was going.
    Years later i read a book when his chief mechanic, bob dance, was talking about that day. And he did two qualy laps good for pole. The second was not necesary, but he did it because he knew he could improve two tenths. he came back with those two tenths in the pocket. I don’t know wich of those laps it was, but i am sure i saw one of them.

  11. jimscreechy said on 13th January 2011, 15:23

    I am also of the opinion (like djdave) that Hill is a largely underatted driver. I think he was far better that people tend to give him credit for, and I often think this is because of his character back then (as he has come on leaps and bounds from the demure individual of 15,20 years ago) rather than his abilities.

    I also think that Manu’s point about these ‘Jonhnny come latelys’ not having lived in Ayrton’s era is unfortunate but irrelevant.

    It is always prudent to have some knowledge of the past in the area of interest you choose to devote your fanatisism, but it is not mandatory to do so. I think it will always give you a better appreciation of your sport, and in particular, ‘what exists in your sport now!’ if you have a knowledge of the history, but it should never be a requirement to have this knowledge before you get your training wheels removed.

    My son is not interested in what came before the IPOD, his Mac/PC and downloadable content. His appreciation is based soley on what facilities it delivers today,and that is how his comaparisons are made. For the most part that is very much in line with my own opinions and expectations being 26 years older. It is futile to compare one era to another in such a linear manner without making allowances for developments – technological, cultural, and principled. I will simply say that 20 years ago we could not have the grid we have today, and leave it at that. I love F1 even more for the progres it has made.

    Having come from the vynyl cassette tape era, I have a good appreciation for MP3 & FLAC as they stand today. It is enough for me to appreciate that there were no washing machines during my parents era, to appreciate the combo unit in my kitchen.

  12. Eggry (@eggry) said on 13th January 2011, 16:06

    I am a big fan of Damon Hill, but this one is no-brainer.(shy)

  13. East Londoner said on 13th January 2011, 16:18

    Oh, flip! Hill is one of my favourite drivers, but I’m afraid it just has to be Senna going through.

  14. slowhand (@slowhand) said on 13th January 2011, 16:25

    Would rather have seen Damon Hill against Alan Jones.

  15. Comparing Hill to Senna to me is like comparing Chandhok to Vettel. Senna was a great man. No driver before or since has been able to push their car to the limits Senna did. His qualifying performances were nothing short of outstanding as proven by his 65 poles. He managed to outqualify Prost by over a second at Monaco ’88 in an identical Mclaren. And his most amazing performances really sum up his career. Monaco ’84, Estoril ’85 and of course Donington ’93 where he beat the rest of the field by a lap(except Hill who was behind by over a minute) in an underpowered Mclaren. Damon Hill is a great driver but Ayrton Senna was a master of motor racing comparable to Fangio.

  16. People voted for Hill?

  17. 0634 (@) said on 13th January 2011, 17:46

    No match off course. I like Damon, but Ayrton was in a different league.

  18. The Limit said on 13th January 2011, 18:23

    Although Aryton Senna achieved more during his career, I always felt that Damon Hill was underrated as a champion. The way he carried the Williams team through 1994, in the aftermath of Senna getting killed, impressed the hell out of me. It made the events of Adelaide that year all the more harder to take, but Hill walked away with the prize in 1996 and it was deserved.
    Senna had achieved legendary status even before his death at Imola, but the events of that afternoon really were a nadir for the sport. The great era of Mansell, Prost, and Senna was gone forever to be replaced by Schumacher, Villeneuve, Hakkinen and others. But with Senna gone, everybody looked to any driver that could seriously take on Schumacher. For a few years, Damon Hill had a awfull lot resting on his shoulders in terms of expectation, but he handled himself always in an admirable way.
    I have always believed that if the events of Imola had not have happened, then it would have been Aryton taking the fight to Schumacher in 1994, 1995, and 1996. When we look at those three seasons, they were all seasons in which Williams had drivers in positions to win championships. 1996 and 1997 aswell, were both years inwhich the Williams cars were very dominant, circumstances I am sure that would have suited Senna to a T. Alas, sadly we will never know will we!

  19. Why Senna vs Hill? Don’t you like “our” Damon?

  20. Dan83 (@dan83) said on 13th January 2011, 19:10

    The stats between the two drivers are closer than I expected. Still and easy choice though.

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