Alberto Ascari vs Niki Lauda

Champion of Champions

Champion of Champions: Alberto Ascari vs Niki Lauda

Champion of Champions: Alberto Ascari vs Niki Lauda

Only three drivers have won more than one world championship while driving for Ferrari – and here’s two of them.

The tricky thing about comparing Ascari’s career to other drivers is that he was often either in a position of dominance – as with the Ferrari 500 in 1952 and 1953 – or struggling with unreliable cars.

He beat Juan Manuel Fangio to the 1953 crown and it would have been fascinating to see what would have happened had the pair ended up as team mates at Ferrari in 1956. Sadly, Ascari was killed the year before.

Lauda, however, did share a berth with one of the top drivers of his day – Alain Prost, in 1984 and 1985. The result was one world championship for each of them.

Prior to that Lauda had been central to Ferrari’s revival in the 1970s. Arguably, only his dreadful Nurburgring crash prevented a hat-trick of world titles.

Lauda’s career was obviously much longer than Ascari’s. After leaving Ferrari he spent two years with Brabham, the latter season marred with so many technical problems he only finished twice.

But when he made his comeback with McLaren in 1982 after a two-year break he won in only his third race back.

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.

Alberto Ascari Niki Lauda
Alberto Ascari Niki Lauda
Titles 1952, 1953 1975. 1977, 1984
Second in title year/s Giuseppe Farina, Juan Manuel Fangio Emerson Fittipaldi, Jody Scheckter, Alain Prost
Teams Lancia, Ferrari, Maserati March, BRM, Ferrari, Brabham, McLaren
Notable team mates Luigi Villoresi, Giuseppe Farina, Mike Hawthorn Carlos Reutemann, Nelson Piquet, Alain Prost
Starts 32 171
Wins 13 (40.63%) 25 (14.62%)
Poles 14 (43.75%) 24 (14.04%)
Modern points per start1 13.94 7.85
% car failures2 18.75 34.50
Modern points per finish3 17.15 11.99
Notes Enjoyed success in several pre-championship Grands Prix Badly burned in 1976 crash, withdrew from title-deciding race in heavy rain
Won nine consecutive starts from 1952-3 Clinched second title for Ferrari in 1977 then left team
Killed during 1955 season driving a Ferrari at Monza Ended two-year retirement to return to McLaren and win third title
Bio Alberto Ascari Niki Lauda

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

Round one

Which was the better world champion driver?

  • Alberto Ascari (36%)
  • Niki Lauda (64%)

Total Voters: 490

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Images ?? Pirelli (Ascari), Patrice Tercier (Lauda)

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54 comments on Alberto Ascari vs Niki Lauda

  1. magon4 (@magon4) said on 20th January 2011, 15:15

    It’s really a shame Ascari wasn’t able to drive alongside Fangio. Lauda had more opportunities to show his staying power and talent, and that’s why i ended up voting for him.

  2. A tough one, but I plumped for Lauda – he won in both his era – and what, in effect, was the era after his! All of this done after having the Last Rites… no mean feat! I real Champion! Deserves a place in the next round!

  3. Fixy (@fixy) said on 20th January 2011, 15:23

    Ascari was very good for his era. Had he been driving when Lauda was driving, their different styles would have helped Lauda. Viceversa, Ascari would have beaten Lauda at his times. But Ascari was very dominant in his career, as show the statistics, and I voted for him. Had he survived, he may have becomen better or worse in terms of statistics, but judging from what we have I say Ascari, although Lauda was a more complete driver probably.

  4. Dougie (@f1droid) said on 20th January 2011, 15:31

    Had to give this one to Lauda… to have been given your last rites and then to comeback and win 2 more WDCs 7 years apart is something else… and, in my mind, should have been 4 x WDC.

  5. richevans123 (@richevans123) said on 20th January 2011, 15:34

    Ascari edges it for me but this could be the closest one yet.

  6. bosyber (@bosyber) said on 20th January 2011, 15:36

    I chose Lauda. I will admit that it is partly because I know him better as a racing driver, but also, as others have said already, for staying power, winning his third title soon after joining McLaren.

  7. BasCB (@bascb) said on 20th January 2011, 15:40

    My vote went to Ascari, as I think he could have acheived more if he had had more time in F1. And he did win over Fangio.

    But it is a very close cal, I could just as well have thrown a coin to decide.

  8. I voted Lauda but it was tough. I’m finding it really difficult to rate drivers from the early decades of F1. I think Ascari was incredible though. However, Niki beat Prost who I feel may be the greatest ever and that was on his comeback!

    He arguably gave a title to Hunt but he’d been magnificent on his return and I’m not going to count that against Lauda after what he went through. He wasn’t scared he was smart. The fact he still pushed Hunt so far for the title is remarkable.

    3 titles with two different teams, a stunning comeback from injury and an unbelievable comeback from retirement means he gets my vote. If Ascari had lived I imagine it would be a much tougher decisions and his statistics are mind blowing but I had to vote Lauda.

  9. David B said on 20th January 2011, 15:50

    The hardest of all the pairs!
    What would Ascari have done if he hadn’t died? And what about ’76 championship without the crash?

    I wasn’t able to know much about Ascari, but saw his wonderful score during his winning seasons. Regarding Niki who can forget his superior strategical skills (remember so many recoveries from back positions to the rostrum…) paired with rare speed?

    I say Lauda, by hair’s breadth.

  10. debaser91 said on 20th January 2011, 15:57

    Lauda is the only man to beat Prost on points over a season which says everything about his racecraft and knowledge of how to win championships(yes Senna beat Prost in ’88 but was helped by the 11 best scores only count rule). And this when he was past his prime, after his life threatening crash and a couple of years out of the sport. Ascari was undoubtedly a great driver but Lauda for me.

  11. craig-o (@craig-o) said on 20th January 2011, 16:02

    Fantastic driver, fantastic story, fantastic ambassador for the sport, outspoken, rude, but fantastic. So I voted for Lauda.

    • bananarama (@bananarama) said on 20th January 2011, 21:58

      fantastic ambassador for the sport

      I beg to differ, having endured his commentary for years on german tv and motorsport magazines.

      Nevertheless, he was an amazing driver. The 84 title was partly due to luck in Monaco (the Senna premiere .. god he was good in that race). I’m not saying he shouldn’t have been WDC, just that Prost was a bit unlucky there.

      I think I’ll vote Lauda, but I’m just not sure yet.

  12. Dan Thorn (@dan-thorn) said on 20th January 2011, 16:04

    Lauda had a rollercoaster F1 career. Before his crash he had raw speed, but after the crash he became much cannier and became amazingly an even better driver. That he still almost won the ’76 championship is remarkable.

    His return in 82 was just as brilliant, winning his 3rd race back and then outsmarting Prost of all people to the ’84 Championship. He’s a brilliant driver who often gets overlooked in terms of great champions.

    Ascari dominated the two championships he won, but they were ultimately against second rate machinery and drivers. Fangio was out of it for 1952 with a neck injury and spent most of 1953 recovering from it.

    As good as Ascari was, his untimely death stopped him from showing if he could have taken it to Fangio and I don’t think he can win this round. I voted Lauda.

    • “His return in 82 was just as brilliant, winning his 3rd race back and then outsmarting Prost of all people to the ’84 Championship.”

      That’s what seals it for me. His comeback and then beating Prost to the title in 84. He gets overlooked but I really don’t know why. He was a really great driver.

  13. olivier (@olivier) said on 20th January 2011, 16:16

    Ascari was probably faster than Fangio, they really didn’t pit against the other with competitive equipment. Lauda, the ultimate car developer (in fact team developer as Ferrari, Brabham and McLaren own him their succesful big time). I chose Lauda because of the superhuman effort to come back from hell (as he put it) and win 2 Championships more.

  14. LuvinF1 (@luvinf1) said on 20th January 2011, 16:20

    I liken “extrapolating data” to “walking out on a diving board blindfolded”. If you know what you’re doing – okay. If you don’t – watch out. As good as his results are per drive, there is just not enough data on 32 drives to justify Ascari as a “better driver” than Lauda.

  15. melkurion (@melkurion) said on 20th January 2011, 16:26

    This is the hardest one yet….I was expecting this to go to Ascari…but by the comments, Lauda is ahead…haven’t voted yet….Ascari is an al time great, but so is Lauda….and Lauda, to come back after all that and win…

    think think think……………..

    • Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 20th January 2011, 16:51

      I was just about to say that. This is a real tough one.

      I think I need some time to decide I’m just hanging around for a while reading comments and arguments.

      Maybe I’ll vote tomorrow.

      • Sush Meerkat said on 20th January 2011, 20:42

        I was just about to say that. This is a real tough one.

        I just asked my mother, she’s seen both of them, she says Lauda.

        Easy decision for me, mother says so.

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