Champion of Champions: Jack Brabham vs Phil Hill

Jack Brabham vs Phil Hill

Champion of Champions

Champion of Champions: Jack Brabham vs Phil Hill

Jack Brabham showed F1 the future was rear-engined when he won two world championships with Cooper in 1959 and 1960.

At that time Phil Hill was on the other side of the technical divide and scored the final Grand Prix victory for a front-engined car, before going on to succeed Brabham as champion.

Hill drove for Ferrari’s sports car team but was eager to make the switch to F1 – so much so that he borrowed a Maserati belonging to Jo Bonnier to make his debut at Reims in 1958.

Ferrari took note and gave him a shot in the race team. Hill paid that back by helping Mike Hawthorn to the 1958 title by pulling over for him in the last race of the season.

Brabham spent the early part of his career developing the rear-engined Cooper. By 1959 the writing was on the wall for the front-engined Ferraris as Brabham won the first of his titles. He made it back-to-back championships the following year after a string of five consecutive wins.

Hill scored his first F1 win at Monza that year in a last hurrah for Ferrari’s 246, though it came as several rival entries boycotted the race, including Brabham’s Cooper.

Ferrari were well-prepared for the switch to smaller-capacity engines in 1961 and Hill finished on the podium six times out of seven as he and team mate Wolfgang von Trips challenged for the title. Sadly, it was decided when von Trips was killed at Monza.

Both drivers made ambitious career changes after winning their titles – with radically different results.

Hill and a group of mechanics left Ferrari en masse to set up a new team, ATS, for the 1963 season. This was a disastrous move for his career – the car was uncompetitive and unreliable, and after a further season with Cooper his Grand Prix career was effectively finished.

Brabham took the ambitious step of setting up his own team. Through the 1.5-litre engine era the car picked up points and podium finishes but was plagued by unreliability.

That all changed with the arrival of the Repco-engined BT19 in 1966 in time for the new 3.0-litre engine Formula. Brabham reeled off four wins and made history by becoming the first and so far only driver to win the championship in his own car.

The following year team mate Denny Hulme took the title off him. Now in his forties, Brabham continued racing until 1970. He won the first race of his final season at Kyalami and lost the lead on the last lap of two other races at Monaco and Brands Hatch.

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.

Jack Brabham Phil Hill
Jack Brabham Phil Hill
Titles 1959, 1960, 1966 1961
Second in title year/s Tony Brooks, Bruce McLaren, John Surtees Wolfgang von Trips
Teams Cooper, Brabham Maserati, Ferrari, Yeoman Credit, ATS, Cooper
Notable team mates Bruce McLaren, Dan Gurney, Denny Hulme Wolfgang von Trips, Richie Ginther, Tony Brooks
Starts 123 47
Wins 14 (11.38%) 3 (6.38%)
Poles 13 (10.57%) 6 (12.77%)
Modern points per start1 7.63 7.77
% car failures2 34.96 27.66
Modern points per finish3 11.74 10.74
Notes Back-to-back titles for Cooper in 1959 and 1960 Won championship in tragic circumstances when team mate von Trips was killed at Monza
Then becaqme only driver to win a championship in his own car Left Ferrari to join breakaway ATS team
Runner-up in 1967 to team mate Denny Hulme Never won another race after his championship season
Bio Jack Brabham Phil 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?

  • Jack Brabham (98%)
  • Phil Hill (2%)

Total Voters: 521

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50 comments on “Jack Brabham vs Phil Hill”

        1. Well, percentages for points per finish and points per start are rather close, and poles aren’t widely different either.

          I guess maybe Hill stopped too early, but Brabham is such an iconic F1 driver and team-owner, he has my vote.

          1. I agree with that. Hill made the same sort of desicion as JV and Fittipaldi when going to their own/family teams that did not work out. Brabham did a lot better there.

  1. I think this is perhaps the easiest one so far. Patriotism aside, the numbers alone are enough to ensure Jack gets my vote. My grandparents knew the pair of them when they were racing, and have even had the pleasure of dining with them on occasions. Eventually, my grandfather acquired one of Jack’s Repco Brabhams and had it on display in his museum. The only problem is, I never got to see it! Stories like this really make me feel I was born into the wrong generation.

  2. Beyond being a great driver we also need to recognise Jack’s unbelievable talents as an engineer. During his time with Cooper he was extremely active in the design and development of the car, even going as far as designing and machining new gearboxes after a visit to the factory which he was completely unimpressed by. He was also very involved in the conceptualisation and design of the Coopers, often arguing against the in-house designer (and guess who was ultimately proven right – Jack).

    He also was instrumental in Denny Hulme and Bruce McLaren’s careers, firstly in getting them over to Europe and then mentoring them.

    Then to go on and start his own team with Ron Tauranac, and again helping in the design and engineering of everything from Formula Vee cars to sports cars to Formula 1 cars.

    And when the drivers were rebelling against Jackie Stewart before the Spa GP (I think), it was Jack who basically shut everyone up by siding with Jackie during a drivers meeting which led to a large sway in the voting towards Stewart’s arguments.

    Speaking of Jackie Stewart, on Jcak Brabham he once said somehting along the lines that he was unbelievable and could determine exactly what component of the car needed to be modified after driving it around 2 corners.

    Jack was the complete package, fantastic driver, extremely tenacious and tough behind the wheel, unbelievable engineer, and having extremely good vision of what was required for the future. There are very very few drivers who can compare to Jack taking everything into account.

    1. That he was the only driver to win a championship in his own car, ever, tells the whole story. Unbelievable combination of driving and engineering talent. Also interesting to hear of how highly he was regarded by his fellow drivers.

  3. I voted for Brabham due to the fact that his legacy stands 5 decades in the sport. Winning the title as a driver is an amazing achievement but winning in your own car solidifies his place as a great of formula 1. I fear Hill may never have been champion had it not been for the Ferrari and/or the death of von Trips. Jack Brabham is a legend of the sport and his achievements stand the test of time. Let me know your thoughts.

    1. That is pretty much what I thought. Brabham was just pretty great, he was able to do it without luck, he was the master of his own F1 destiny. Hill I feel only won because the only real opponent that year was his team mate .. who died. I might be biased since I’m German, but I feel like Trips was on top of it that year.

      1. At the risk of sounding callous, but in defense of Hill, von Trips had a lousy start at Monza dropping back to fourth from pole, then turned into Clark on the second lap. Hill, meanwhile, drove a flawless race and won, the race and the championship. Sounds like good driving vs. bad driving to me, not luck.

          1. Yeah, crashing to death is really bad driving. And I know Hill was good outside F1 (the luck part of my comment wasn’t directed at him), I just think without Trips death he wouldn’t be in this Champion of Champions competition.
            Also I woud have expected Hill to have a lot more votes than he does.

          2. @bananarama

            Are you serious? “Crashing to death is really bad driving”? Those were the times; there was no safety for anybody, drivers or fans. Death was a part of racing. The number of brilliant racers who died behind the wheel is amazing, that so many would risk their lives for sport. To claim that crashing to death is bad driving is at once insensitive to the risks drivers faced and insensitive to those who perished in the early days of motor racing. I hope you were not serious

          3. @ Kenny

            Oh lol. I just finished reading Cars At Speed and it really emphasizes the risks and dangers of early motor sport, hence my little rant. Very eye opening book

  4. jack brabham won 3 wdc, and as a team owner i imagine some constructors championships. His team went on for many years winning two more with nelson piquet.
    He is one of the greats without a doubt.
    On the other hand, hill was the first north american champion. That’s an achievment, but not at the same level.

      1. thnks for the info.
        But the same as mclaren nowadays his racing filosofy was still there.
        And having your name in a racing car long afert you retire must count for something. Don’t you think? Or is your name in a f1 team? I didn’t think so.

  5. The old Jack has been “hystory”. Three crowns are a great achievement, in front of so many great competitors…
    Phil HIll career has been too short, and, not for his cause, unfortunately his best result was connected to one of the worst tragedies ever.

    Voted for Brabham.

  6. Jack Brabham has been a hero of mine since I was a kid when he was winning for Cooper. The first GP I attended was at Brands in 1966 – Jack won in his own car – brilliant! I was at Brands again 4 years later (not Silverstone, Keith) when, on the last lap Jack, coming into Clearways where I was spectating, ran out of fuel and was passed by Jochen Rindt – heartbreaking! It was my birthday too!!

    Jack wins this vote hands down for me.

    I worry that one day some super-rich F1 driver will buy a successful team, give it his name and winning the championship will claim to have equalled Brabham’s achievement without dirtying his hands.

  7. Its an easy choice, not because Phil Hill wasnt a great Driver and Champion, but because Jack was such a legend. Anyone who won 3 WDCs, 1 of which in a car he drove & designed and carried his name will always be a hard act to beat. Says a lot about the man, the worlds oldest WDC, that he competed through 3 decades of the sport when you had a 2/3 chance of dying in a 5year F1 career.

    1. Did you hear about the “new” driver for next year; an Aussie named Mark Alan Hill… formally Webber.

      Voted for Brabham, more than a driver, more than a champion… enjoyed reading some of the informative comments.

  8. There’s no way I would be able to bring myself to voting for Hill on this one, not that I don’t like Hill, but because Jack Brabham is an absolute legend of Formula One.

    Has there been any driver who has won a championship then founded a team that won championships.

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