Ayrton Senna vs Graham Hill

Champion of Champions

Champion of Champions: Ayrton Senna vs Graham Hill

Ayrton Senna and Graham Hill not only won the world championship on more than one occasion, they were also runner-up several times too.

Senna won the title three times and was runner-up twice, whereas Hill won the championship twice and placed second in three consecutive years, from 1963 to 1965.

But while Hill set a record for competing in 18 seasons – a record equalled last year by Rubens Barrichello – Senna’s was tragically curtailed when he was killed at Imola.

However the final years of Hill’s career came after he was badly injured in a crash at Watkins Glen in 1969. It clearly impaired his later performances and his days of driving for top teams like BRM and Lotus were soon over.

Both Senna and Hill also shared a team with another of the great drivers of their day.

Senna was partnered with Alain Prost at McLaren in 1988 and 1989, winning a title apiece. Hill joined Jim Clark at Lotus in 1967. That partnership was brought to an end by Clark’s untimely death in 1968.

In 1969 Hill won the Monaco Grand Prix for the fifth time – a record, until Senna scored his sixth Monaco victory in 1993.

Coincidentally, Senna’s final team mate was Graham’s son Damon – his opponent in the first round of Champion of Champions.

But which of these drivers should go through to the quarter-finals? Vote for which you think was best below and explain who you voted for and why in the comments.

Ayrton Senna Graham Hill
Ayrton Senna, Williams, 1994 Graham Hill
Titles 1988, 1990, 1991 1962, 1968
Second in title year/s Alain Prost, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart
Teams Toleman, Lotus, McLaren, Williams Lotus, BRM, Brabham, Embassy
Notable team mates Alain Prost, Gerhard Berger, Mika Hakkinen Richie Ginther, Jackie Stewart, Jim Clark
Starts 161 175
Wins 41 (25.47%) 14 (8.00%)
Poles 65 (40.37%) 13 (7.43%)
Modern points per start1 11.68 6.02
% car failures2 20.50 33.14
Modern points per finish3 14.70 9.00
Notes Won three titles in four years with McLaren Narrowly lost 1964 title to John Surtees after being hit by Lorenzo Bandini
Controversial clash with Prost sealed second title Won second title in 1968 following team mate Jim Clark’s death
Killed in third race for Williams in 1994 Died in a light aircraft accident shortly after concluding then-record 176-race career
Bio Ayrton Senna Graham 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

Round one

Which was the better world champion driver?

  • Ayrton Senna (89%)
  • Graham Hill (11%)

Total Voters: 538

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Images ?? Williams/Sutton (Senna), Brian Waddell (Hill)

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68 comments on Ayrton Senna vs Graham Hill

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  1. GeeMac (@geemac) said on 23rd January 2011, 11:50

    Me thinks this will be Senna 2 Hills 0.

  2. sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 23rd January 2011, 12:02

    They are surprisingly similar in their achievements and statistics. Hill very much faded in his later years though – we never got to see if Senna would do the same, but gut feeling says that he wouldn’t have.

    Hill is the only driver to have won the triple crown of motorsport though.

    The decision is more difficult than people let on. Senna will obviously win, but its closer than you’d think. My vote goes for Senna

    • Tom23 (@tom23) said on 23rd January 2011, 12:09

      I agree in the fact that it’s closer than you’d think at first glance, although my vote goes for Senna as well.

    • sennaboy3 (@sennaboy3) said on 23rd January 2011, 12:14

      I’m going to have to disagree with this: Senna has less starts but 3x as many wins & 5x as many poles…plus an extra championship & 1 more win @ Monaco ;) (who is the real Mr. Monaco?)

      • sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 23rd January 2011, 12:51

        to counter that – Hill has a lot more car failures and raced well beyond his prime in cars that weren’t capable of points finishes, let alone wins.

        Hill only finished 6 races in his first 3 seasons.

        Senna had championship winning cars for the majority of his career.

        Remember that seasons were much shorter in Hills career – he has so many starts because he competed in so many seasons. I’m not trying to say that Hill is greater than Senna, as I voted the other way, but the statistics presented are simply statistics – and not a genuine reflection of what it was like to race in that era/the comparative difficulty of getting a car that would finish the race, let alone in the points.

        For those who haven’t seen it, there is a great documentary on Graham Hill called Driven (there was a series of them, one about Clark, one about Hill and one about Stewart). I’m sure its now on youtube in various different parts – do look it up and watch it. Really shows some insight into his career, and also, in my opinion, justifies why this is such a close comparison.

        • Bullfrog (@bullfrog) said on 23rd January 2011, 13:38


          Great film isn’t it, my favourite one out of the Driven series.

          Is “Embassy” the right name for his team – isn’t that like calling a Renault a “Lotus”?!

        • melkurion (@melkurion) said on 23rd January 2011, 14:59

          Just watched it, really worth it :D

        • Mark Hitchcock (@mark-hitchcock) said on 23rd January 2011, 16:30

          I’ll third the recommendation of Driven. Really good documentary.

        • Ayrton (@ayrton) said on 24th January 2011, 4:15

          Of course I voted for Senna on this occasion but I do feel Hill was an overall under-rated champion….but just to pick up on a point made by sw6569…. I am not sure you can say that Senna had championship winning cars for the majority of his career:
          1984: Toleman
          1985-1987: Lotus
          1988 – 1990 – Mclaren and Championship winning cars.
          1991 – 1993 – Mclaren and not championship winning cars (williams best car out there)
          1994: Never had a chance to see but overall Bennetton considered the best of the field.

          So all in all he had three years out of 10 of clear championship winning cars. That is not the majority.

          • sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 24th January 2011, 7:49

            1991 was a championship winning car – hence, he won the championship. 1994 likely was as well, it was at least on a par with Bennetton. To clarify – my definition was meaning a car that was capable of winning the championship, which doesn’t necessarily mean that it was the best car (because otherwise Senna only won his championships while he had the best car, something that Senna fans wouldn’t be happy with as thats a criticism of Button too).

            Certainly, he was in cars capable of winning for the majority of his career, though i’ll concede that 4 years out of 10 (or 5/11 if you count 94) for championship winning cars isn’t quite a majority. I admit to hyperbole.

  3. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 23rd January 2011, 12:21

    Wow, by the end of this, Senna is going to have a matching pair of Hill-shaped notches in his holster.

  4. melkurion (@melkurion) said on 23rd January 2011, 12:24

    Agreed, Senna will win, but dispite the statistics showing otherwise , it is actually closer then most people will think.

    Hill won the triple crown, drove in one of the most competative era’s of the sport. But then again, so did Senna, but I’ve always felt Hill was an underappreciated champion. His reputation marred by his drop in form after is accident, and his (too) long stay in the sport.

    Nevertheless, I must vote for Senna

    • DavidS (@davids) said on 23rd January 2011, 12:54

      It’s a subjective way of picking a winner, there is no way of getting a definitive answer to the question of who is the greatest world champion.

      I think Senna will comfortably win overall, because fans like him. Eventually, he will have to face Schumacher, Stewart, Fangio or Prost (that’ll be a good one). Schumacher has a lot of people who dislike him, Stewart and Fangio’s careers were too long ago, and Prost always seemed to be the villain in their rivalry.

      One thing I would like to see is a tournament draw table so we can see future matches.

      • kowalsky said on 23rd January 2011, 14:07

        don’t forget clark, DavidS.
        And i agree with you that prost was the villian of the two at the time, but nowadays the younger generation of fans, based on what schumacher did a few times, have the perception that was the other way around.
        I vote for senna on this one, even though i have the upmost respect for graham.
        But this is senna we are talking about. For me his agresive way of driving, that some fans consider a flaw, i consider an asset. Only used when it was necesary, with more decency than the german.

      • JonesyUK (@jonesyuk) said on 24th January 2011, 13:26

        Stewart and Fangio’s careers were too long ago

        Stewarts career too long? He retired as champion age 34

  5. Although my vote goes to Senna and I think he will easily win this round, I agree with some previous comments in that it is closer than the final results will probably show.

  6. SennaNmbr1 (@sennanmbr1) said on 23rd January 2011, 12:36

    This is where not seeing one of the guys race really does force the decision. My vote goes to Senna.

  7. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 23rd January 2011, 12:38

    Keith, just out of curiosity, when do you close voting for a poll in this series? Raikkonen vs. Stewart is currently the third article on the blog, and given that it’s a Sunday, it will probably stay up in the queue for some time. Does voting close when the next round of Champion of Champions opens, or does it close when we’ve gone through the set of eight match-ups?

  8. Sutil-M (@) said on 23rd January 2011, 12:41

    I voted Senna.

  9. dbkreling (@dbkreling) said on 23rd January 2011, 13:02

    Hey, you’re kidding right?

    Just because their stories sound similar, the numbers crush Hill. Not fair, even though I believe will reach the finals anyway.

  10. RIISE (@riise) said on 23rd January 2011, 13:12

    Argh, dammit I have to go with Senna as much as it pains me.

  11. vermaden (@vermaden) said on 23rd January 2011, 13:12

    The only fact that wants me to vote for Graham is that he is the only man on earth with the Crown of Motorsport [*], all others say vote for da Silva (which I have done) ;p

    [*] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triple_Crown_of_Motorsport

  12. You might have noticed this by the time I post this comment, but the banner at the top of the page is the one for Round 1 – Senna vs. Damon Hill.

  13. Atticus (@atticus-2) said on 23rd January 2011, 13:31

    Poor Hills. :) Ayrton anyway.

  14. Kenny (@kenny) said on 23rd January 2011, 13:31

    For me, this is similar to the Andretti-Stewart match up, ie, IMHO one rates better overall (Andretti and Hill) while the other rates better in F1 (Stewart and Senna). As I did before, I voted for the one who rates better in F1- Senna.

  15. debaser91 said on 23rd January 2011, 13:46

    Senna wins this round. Hill was a brilliant driver, finishing in the top two of the championship 5 times against great opposition is no mean feat, particularly as he came to racing in Grand Prix comparatively late (much like his son); as well as winning the Indy 500 and Le Mans too.

    I would probably rate Hill in the top 10-12 of all time, but unfortunately Senna is definitely top 5 (probably top 3 in a lot of people’s book) and is consistently mentioned as one of the candidates for greatest ever. So there can only be one winner here.

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