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. Roberto said on 20th January 2011, 17:03

    Ascari’s stats are a bit misleading, considering that, of his 6 seasons, he only drove 3 full seasons (all races), and of these 3, he had a great car in one (ferrari 375), and a car that was absolutely dominant in the other (Ferrari tipo 500). That was because FIA decided to run the 52 and 53 championship with F2 regulations, and Ferrari was the only team that designed a car specifically under those specs. Teams like Alfa Romeo couldn’t build a car and retired, so actually Ferrari run agains mostly F2 teams. No wonder Ascari won 6 races in 52 and 5 in 53. Of his 13 wins, 11 were on a car that was absolutely dominant.

    • Marco said on 20th January 2011, 21:23

      And? How many other drivers had dominant car?

      • Roberto said on 21st January 2011, 11:02

        4 others, but most didn’t raced the full season, except Nino Farina, which he did beat. But it was the only driver he really competed against. In 53, Fangio retired on the first 3 races, which means that his record of 9 consecutive wins was gained when Fangio was either absent or DNF.Also Farina DNF in 2 of the first 3 races. Ascari also benefited from shared drives, as first driver in Ferrari. That’s why i say his stas are misleading. Of course he was a great driver, but we should be careful with these stats. Lauda on the other hand proved himself in much varied conditions, and emerged 3 times WDC, and only lost 76 due to his accident and missing 3 races.

  2. mrgrieves (@mrgrieves) said on 20th January 2011, 17:16

    Wow this is almost impossible to split the two. Alot of what might have been’s with both drivers but after alot of thinking i’ve changed my mind from maybe voting Lauda to Ascari. His percentages were simply awesome, didnt realise how good he was during the era of the “great” Fangio. Had he lived he may have took many more titles with the Ferraris in the late 50’s.

  3. Kenny (@kenny) said on 20th January 2011, 17:41

    This one was so close I couldn’t decide, so I searched for some unique accomplishment…something special that no other driver had done…then recalled that Ascari is the only race driver ever to put his car into the harbor at Monaco. How could I not vote for a man who had managed something as spectacular as that?

    • melkurion (@melkurion) said on 20th January 2011, 22:16

      Hahaha, true that, but then, lauda had his last rites read to him on the ring after his accident, and came back to drive a couple of weeks later….show me another man who has done that…

      • Daniel said on 20th January 2011, 23:30

        Ascari’s father died Grand Prix racing, and yet he never wavered in his desire to race. That shows he wasn’t lacking in courage.

        If you want further proof, know that Ascari still holds the record for fastest lap in successive GPs, at 7. To go that fast race after race in the 50s shows courage.

        Of course he eventually died on the track at age 36, just 4 days older than his father.

    • Daniel said on 21st January 2011, 0:13

      Paul Hawkins also crashed into the harbour.

  4. Paolone (@paolone) said on 20th January 2011, 17:57

    Hard choice, but I vote for Ascari: maybe the best italian driver with Nuvolari.

  5. OmarR-Pepper (@omarr-pepper) said on 20th January 2011, 18:22

    The things are difficult because Ascari died, but you have seen how hard is to comeback to F1, so Lauda became a champion after a sabbatical. That’s incredible

  6. A tough one but I think I will have to go for Lauda.

  7. Marco said on 20th January 2011, 21:21

    Lauda ahead of Ascari in the poll? :o
    Alberto clearly belongs to top 5…

  8. Victor. (@victor) said on 20th January 2011, 21:25

    This, for me, is by far the hardest match-up yet.

    Niki Lauda is, despite my immense dislike for the man, without a doubt one of the best Grand Prix drivers ever. To win a championship, dominate the following year, then almost fatally crash and shrug it off to come back and lose the championship by one point simply due to fear is remarkable. So is winning pretty much immediately after a two year break and winning one’s third championship in a different team against a rising star.

    Alberto Ascari, on the other hand, is a legend. Considering that he only really raced for four seasons (his 1954 campaign was hardly a proper season and he was killed at the beginning of 1955) and managed to clinch the crown twice and finish second once, I fail to see how he was worse than Fangio. To win more often than every third time he entered a race is spectacular.

    For me there is something mythical about Ascari, whereas Lauda is ‘just’ another great driver. There is no reason to believe that Ascari wasn’t in the same league as Fangio. Of course, Lauda had to compete against a larger field and he managed to beat it at his comeback, but one has to remember that whilst the Austrian beat Prost by half a point, Prost absolutely decimated him the following year.

    Perhaps it’s fair to argue that Lauda’s reliability problems were hugely self-induced, as his partners did not suffer the same problems as he did. A 33% indicates that he was insanely quick, but possibly not the whole package. Ascari on the other hand managed to keep reliability issues to to a minimum in an age where reaching the checkered flag was a huge achievement.

    Although I didn’t live when either of them drove, Ascari, alongside Fangio, defines the early days of Formula 1 for me. On the flipside, I don’t consider Lauda to be a legend of Formula – he might very well have been Stewart’s successor and Prost’s predecessor on track, but he just doesn’t seem to have that same spark in general.

  9. Old_boy_racer (@) said on 20th January 2011, 22:51

    Both these drivers were daring! Lauda to come back from that accident, and Ascari to even start Grand Prix racing after his father died in the sport when he was just a boy.

    Ascari’s high finishing rate I put down to his strategy of trying always to build an early lead. Building an early lead was something his father did too. From there if the car developed problems he could nurse it or drive around them and still be very hard to catch. I’m sure I saw him doing that on occasion.

    Lauda was dogged. He would fight very hard and he had what they call these days the ‘mental toughness’ but for pure speed it has to be Ascari who gets my vote.

  10. skodarap (@skodarap) said on 20th January 2011, 23:25

    Ascari for me, though if I had two votes, I’d give one to each of them.

  11. kowalsky said on 20th January 2011, 23:49

    ascari was the king of the ring. 100,000 fans went to watch him at monza in the early 50’s. He was a god for the italians then. But i wasn’t there. He seems too far away.
    On the other hand, lauda was my hero when i was a child. he came back from the dead. He was so brave… it’s almost impossible to understand. And then he beat prost fair abd square.
    I have to vote for the rat, even though i might have done otherwise if i was borne 40 years earlier.

    • Daniel said on 21st January 2011, 0:09

      I think your response is indicative of this sort of thing. People always rate those they have more memory of more highly.

      I almost think there should be an age multiplier to take account of the effect.

      • kowalsky said on 21st January 2011, 8:57

        of course. You can’t judge what you didn’t see.
        But as far as i can see in the poll, everything is right. The best drivers are passing to the next level. There are some confrontations coming that might be otherwise. We’ll see.

        • Daniel said on 21st January 2011, 10:22

          That just means you have made all the popular choices. Some of us disagree with the popular opinion. The name Ascari has always had a kind of mythical significance for me. His name is synonomous with early Ferrari. As brave and resolute as Lauda was I think Ascari is the correct choice. 7 Fastest laps in consecutive GPs is a record that still stands, but I’ve done a lot of reading about the early days, and others haven’t and I think that is where the difference is here.

          • Roberto said on 21st January 2011, 11:32

            If you’ve done a lot of reading about the early days you know that the Ferrari Tipo 500 which Ascari drove in 52 and 53 was pretty much like the Williams FW14 that Mansell drove in 94. That puts his records of 7 fastest laps in perspective (also Fangio was absent or DNF all these races). Compare that to Kimi Raikkonen who scored 6 consecutive fastest laps in a car that wasn’t the fastest

          • Daniel said on 21st January 2011, 20:11

            Yes, it was a dominant car, but he had team mates (yes, plural), and you don’t have to finish to get fastest lap, so where a lot of people talk about how so many drivers DNFed in this season, that’s not an issue for this record.

            Think of all the dominant cars there have been since then, and how much longer the seasons have become. Why didn’t Mansell beat this record in the FW14, or Schumacher at any point, or Button in 2009, etc?

          • Roberto said on 22nd January 2011, 20:43

            Most teammates didn’t competed all races, so it would be impossible for them to had a string of 9 fastest laps. The only one who did compete was Nino Farina, and Ascari was faster than him. Mansell didn’t beat this record because he wasn’t as fast a driver as Ascari, so even driving a rocket he couldn’t do it. As for Schummy, he never had a car that was so much better than the competition, though he did had a dominant car in 2002 and 2004. However, if you look at the percentage of fastest laps, Ascari has a respectable 36%, but compare that to Fangio’s 45%. The bottom line is: Ascari was one of the fastest in history, but some of his stats, like fastest laps, are due to Fangio’s absence

  12. rdenatale (@rdenatale) said on 22nd January 2011, 13:49

    I pondered this more than usual, and finally voted for Ascari.

    This is despite the fact that Lauda was at his peak right when I really started to get interested in F1, and Ascari’s championships came when I was not quite 1 and 2 years old.

    But the stats convinced me, and I think I’d also like to see a few drivers from the era when “the tires were skinny, and the drivers were fat” go into the next round.

  13. Sasquatsch (@sasquatsch) said on 24th January 2011, 11:16

    Ascari was probably the only one who could have beaten Fangio (the best of all imo), if it wasn’t for his fatal accident. So Ascari it is.

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