Juan Manuel Fangio vs Emerson Fittipaldi

Champion of Champions

Champion of Champions: Juan Manuel Fangio vs Emerson Fittipaldi

One thing that unites these two multiple champions from South America is their readiness to switch teams in pursuit of their career objectives.

Juan Manuel Fangio’s status as the top driver of his time allowed him to cherry-pick the best cars of his day.

He narrowly missed out on winning the first world championship with Alfa-Romeo in 1950. He took the title with the following year then (after missing the 1952 season due to injury) moved on to Maserati.

He was head-hunted by Mercedes to lead their return to Grand Prix racing in 1954. He wrapped up his second title with them and added a third the following year before they left the sport.

Fangio entered a marriage of convenience with Ferrari, which yielded title number four in 1956. Then it was back to Maserati for his final title at the wheel of the 250F. It’s hard to image a modern F1 driver making so many changes of team in such a short space of time while enjoying sustained success.

Emerson Fittipaldi also switched from one top team to another in pursuit of the championship. Like Fangio he won the title in his second full season, driving for Lotus.

In 1974 he departed for McLaren, winning the championship in his first season with them.

Success came quickly to Fittipaldi: he was a Grand Prix winner in only his fourth start. That perhaps motivated his decision take his career in a different direction at the end of 1975, pursuing his ambition of driving for a Brazilian Formula 1 team.

His career can be split into two parts of almost equal size – 72 appearances with Lotus and McLaren, followed by 77 with his brother’s team, usually at the wheel of cars that were slow, unreliable, or both.

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.

Juan Manuel Fangio Emerson Fittipaldi
Juan Manuel Fangio, 1955 Emerson Fittipaldi
Titles 1951, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957 1972, 1974
Second in title year/s Alberto Ascari, Jose Froilan Gonzalez, Stirling Moss, Stirling Moss, Stirling Moss Jackie Stewart, Clay Regazzoni
Teams Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Mercedes, Ferrari Lotus, McLaren, Copersucar, Fittipaldi
Notable team mates Giuseppe Farina, Peter Collins, Stirling Moss Ronnie Peterson, Denny Hulme, Jochen Mass
Starts 51 144
Wins 24 (47.06%) 14 (9.72%)
Poles 29 (56.86%) 6 (4.17%)
Modern points per start1 17.12 6.90
% car failures2 17.65 25.69
Modern points per finish3 20.79 9.29
Notes Missed 1952 season due to injury Won in his fourth F1 start
Handed 1956 title by team mate Peter Collins Spent five seasons with minor teams after winning second title
Record haul of five titles unequalled until 2002 Formerly the youngest ever world champion
Bio Juan Manuel Fangio Emerson Fittipaldi

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?

  • Juan Manuel Fangio (94%)
  • Emerson Fittipaldi (6%)

Total Voters: 517

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Images ?é?® Daimler (Fangio), Gillfoto via Flickr (Fittipaldi)

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47 comments on Juan Manuel Fangio vs Emerson Fittipaldi

  1. Tom23 (@tom23) said on 21st January 2011, 11:13

    Fangio and the 250F, a jolly good combination!

  2. James_mc (@james_mc) said on 21st January 2011, 11:18

    Sadly I think I have to vote for Fangio. Ok, I’ve only seen highlights of both drivers careers but I feel that if he had made a more prudent decision Emmo could have been a 3 or 4x WDC rather than the 2 that he was.

  3. Beyond (@lello4ever) said on 21st January 2011, 11:18

    fittipaldi was a great driver, but no chances against fangio.

  4. Tom23 (@tom23) said on 21st January 2011, 11:24

    24 wins out of 51 starts, nobody is ever going to beat that I think!

    • Fixy (@fixy) said on 21st January 2011, 12:36

      And the poles too! 56.8% is more than half the races he participated in. No doubts in chosing Fangio.

      • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 21st January 2011, 13:13

        Agree, there isn’t really any escaping that, for me.

      • Stats can be tricky… I believe Fangio always had a competitive car in hands… Maybe cars were very similar then… It was the very beginning, actually.
        At least for the last 40 years, I believe most drivers started in small teams, and only after a few years could be in a decent car. This has an impact in statistics…
        And yes, Fittipaldi could have won more, but did not.
        Vote for Fangio.

        • Andy W (@andy-w) said on 23rd January 2011, 10:02

          From my understanding (my Dad is and was a huge fan of the sport back then and is a world recognised expert – in his mind at least) Fangio as a rule had the best car under him and swapped from team to team to keep the best car under him… but there was a reason why he was able to do this… because he was that damn good.

          Could you imagine Sakon going from top team to top team because he wanted the best car under him?

  5. Dougie (@f1droid) said on 21st January 2011, 11:27

    I loved Emo, he is one of my all time favourite drivers. Loved watching him battle with the best in Champ Car and particularly fighting with Mansell… and more recently again in the shortlived Master series. A great personality also.

    However, statistically, Fangio walks this.

  6. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 21st January 2011, 11:49

    I abstain. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the “Fangio easily” school of thought because he did make so many moves to get his world championships and I do feel that if he had had only 2 or 3 he wouldn’t be regarded by so many today as being the unchallenged superior of Moss, Ascari, etc. But then I have nothing to suggest Fittipaldi was any better. So I might just skip this one.

    • sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 21st January 2011, 15:06

      I feel similarly – but also that Fittipaldi is another underrated champion. Beating Stewart was no mean feat and his stats are rather confused by his later years. For that reason, I’ve voted for Fittipaldi – although he won’t win.

    • Kenny (@kenny) said on 21st January 2011, 16:25

      What’s wrong with making moves? You can count Fangio’s ability to identify the winning car each year as one of his many talents.

      • Sasquatsch (@sasquatsch) said on 24th January 2011, 11:30

        Fangio left Ferrari because he couldn’t get along with Enzo Ferrari. The Maserati in 1957 certainly wasn’t the best car, which was undoubtly the Ferrari. Only Fangio’s skills made him world champion, not the best car. I think his performance on the Nurburgring in 1957 was proof of that.

    • Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 21st January 2011, 16:31

      he didn’t do many moves to get his world championships. The teams made the moves to get a championship with him.

  7. kowalsky said on 21st January 2011, 11:52

    now we are in front of one driver with a very big chance to become the champion of champions. The only problem i see is that he is from an era when the vast mayority of voters don’t have a clear view. He is not british either, and that’s going to cost him too.
    Moss said he was the best in his era, and he knows what he is talking about.
    He won 5 straight titles in diferent cars. That has to be the most impresive achievement in motorsport history.
    Today i consider him the best. I don’t know what is going to happen when senna goes against him. The memories are still too vivid.

    • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 21st January 2011, 13:08

      I disagree. Because he’s the dominant driver of an era long gone, it will work in his favour. There are very few hardcore fans of Moss or Ascari to challenge the conventional wisdom of Fangio’s greatness. Arguably the only two Fangio has to fear anything from are Schumacher and Senna. And give me a break, most of this site isn’t British and half of them seem to support foreign drivers/teams anyway.

      • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 21st January 2011, 13:16

        I agree with what you say here. I only need to check my own opinion and vote to get it confirmed. In the absence of having seen a lot of him, I don’t have good reasons to doubt or question Fangio – Fittipaldi is a much better known driver for me, even if his F1 career was more or less before my time.

    • I think you’ll find that most of the top drivers of all time are not British! Schumacher, Clark, Senna, Prost, Fangio are amongst the main drivers being tipped for the top 4/5 of this series – only one is British and I’ll bet he doesn’t win!

      I don’t understand people on here that claim there is a bias towards the British. I am British and, though I respect the talents of Hamilton and Button, I am actually a fan of racing… I don’t support a particular driver, more the underdog, whoever it may be. I think you’ll find many Brits share the same view.

      • kowalsky said on 21st January 2011, 13:50

        i don’t say it in a negative way. I consider that the nationality is a draw not only for british fans. I am not british but i am writing in english, and this is an english site.
        If there is a finale between let’s say senna and clark, thing highly possible, don’t you think that’s going to affect the outcome somehow?!!
        Nothing to be ashamed of. Nationality is part of the sport as well.

        • Personally, I admit not to really know enough about Clark to vote for him. I would go for Senna in the example you give!

          I see what you mean though. Nationality is of course a massive part of sport… I’ll support England at the World Cup until the very end. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think Germany played better than us in 2010…

          • kowalsky said on 21st January 2011, 18:09

            but there is not much between senna and clark. Both were the best in there respective eras.
            What do you think the brazilian fans would choose between them?

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd January 2011, 10:21

          and this is an english site.

          No it isn’t. See my other comment below for the usual link.

  8. McLarenFanJamm (@mclarenfanjamm) said on 21st January 2011, 12:00

    Log in problems again. For the record I would vote for Fangio

  9. JohnGreen (@johngreen) said on 21st January 2011, 12:13

    Fangio Gets My Vote!!

  10. melkurion (@melkurion) said on 21st January 2011, 12:25

    Can anyone spell “landslide”

    Fangio all the way

  11. I voted Fangio – but I do mirror Icthyes sentiments a few posts above. Fangio made so many moves. Him winning the championships he did is the modern day equivalent of Hamilton jumping from the 2007 McLaren to the 2008 Ferrari into the 2009 Brawn straight to the 2010 Red Bull – I know this is a bit extreme, and full respect to Fangio for anticipating where the good cars were going to be. But, as a driver, I think the acheivements of say, Schumacher, Prost, Clark and Senna are of higher regard to me, because they stuck loyal to teams (I know most moved at some point).

    Hope that makes sense. I still voted Fangio as he’s better than Fittipaldi in my mind!

    • Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 21st January 2011, 13:21

      If you want to win, get Fangio. Wasn’t that the way it worked in those years?.

      They didn’t have epic 5 years long contracts either in that era. It was different, just that.

      • There is that, a very valid point. I confess I’m not sure whether it was Fangio moving, or the teams moving Fangio!

        Whichever way, I think there is more credit in someone like Schumacher – developing one team into massive winners.

        • kowalsky said on 21st January 2011, 13:54

          credit to develop the team, but once it’s done, the title came too easy.
          Schumacher a top five for me, but not the champion of champions.

          • I agree that Schumacher is not the Champion of Champions… but I don’t know who is… Senna and Clark are viewed through rose-tinted glasses because of their early deaths. Prost I think is my choice. Although I always prefered Senna!

          • Dougie (@f1droid) said on 21st January 2011, 14:29

            This is an interesting comment thread which is generating a line of thought in me.

            So, Champion of Champions, and who delivered championships by jumping into a already championship winning car.

            Fangio, either his choice or head-hunted, would appear to have jumped into the most likely to win car each time.

            Senna, arrived at McLaren with an already developed championship winning car, taking 3 WDCs in the process.

            Prost likewise, though its harder to argue, arrived into McLaren with an already developed Championship winning car… he finished 2nd to Piquet in ’83, teammate Lauda won in ’84, Prost in ’85 & 86, lost out to Piquet again in ’87, then Senna ’88 and Prost ’89. Prost then moved to the dominant Williams team in ’93 after a non-WDC spell at Ferrari.

            That leaves Schumacher, who arrived in Benetton during ’92, Benetton were race winning (through attrition) but not Championship contenders then, Schumacher stayed to take the title in ’94 & ’95. Moving to a stale Ferrari to develop them and take 5 further WDCs.

            I’m not saying this is how I’m going to vote, or that I favour one of these over the other, Senna is my “heartfelt” favourite though, but it’s an interesting thought… I thought :-)

          • Dougie (@f1droid) said on 21st January 2011, 14:55

            Oops… make that 1991 Schumacher arrived at Benetton, after a single start (I would say race, but he didn’t really get far from the grid) with Jordan.

          • Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 21st January 2011, 16:28

            I doubt Fangio got into the car and did nothing in terms of development.

            He was a mechanic too. He worked on his car while racing in Argentina…

  12. Paul A (@paul-a) said on 21st January 2011, 15:01

    A couple of comments/questions on postings so far:

    “most of this site isn’t British”
    Actually it is – the .co.uk in the URL is clear. However, maybe Keith can give us some idea (without breaching privacy laws) into the nationality of “members”?

    “I think there is more credit in … developing one team into massive winners.”
    I had interpreted “Champion of Champions” to mean drivers and their driving skills and results. Maybe legendary team developers (Chapman, Williams, etc) should be included?

    Best – Paul

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st January 2011, 18:06

      “most of this site isn’t British”
      Actually it is – the .co.uk in the URL is clear.

      The domain suffix does not make the site British. It makes it a site hosted on a domain with a British suffix.

      However, maybe Keith can give us some idea (without breaching privacy laws) into the nationality of “members”?

      Already done: Where F1 Fanatic readers are from

  13. LuvinF1 (@luvinf1) said on 21st January 2011, 15:38

    My very first attendance at a Grand Prix was at the 1970 Watkins Glen USGP, where I saw Fittipaldi win his first race. Exciting for me to see Lotus pull it out, but sad that it wasn’t Rindt to do it. But I still voted for Fangio – an incredible driver with fantastic statistics. Yes, he was sought after by teams with winning cars, but he also knew how to win. He had 29 poles, but even more amazing 48 races on the front row. Definitely in the top eight for me.

  14. Marco said on 21st January 2011, 15:40

    Hehe, a tough competition for Mr. Fittipaldi! :D
    Fangio is one of the best, if you follow the official statistics or not… 3rd place overall for him from me, Fittipaldi made it maybe to top 30, but don t rate him very high as in era of mechanical retirements it wasn t that difficult to score with a good car… Luck was a big part of game… Stewart was better in 1972 even with his health problems, so was Lauda in 1974…

  15. congealedmeat (@congealedmeat) said on 21st January 2011, 17:01

    This one is a no-brainer for me. Fangio all the way!

    Juan Manuel’s statistics of car failures is about 8% better(17.65 vs 25.69), yet the points per finish is way off(17.12 vs 6.90).

    As well Fangio started only 1/3 as many GPs as Fittipaldi, but had nearly twice as many wins and 5 times as many pole positions.

    Fittipaldi’s stats are obviously harmed by his career choices, but that is all part of being the greatest champion ever in my opinion.

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