Ayrton Senna vs Jack Brabham

Champion of Champions

Champion of Champions: Ayrton Senna vs Jack Brabham

Ayrton Senna and Jack Brabham each won three world championships – but these two drivers had very different careers.

One interesting similarity is they both won the championship and then lost it to their team mate the following year. Although it happened in rather different circumstances.

Brabham’s third championship in 1966 was remarkable because he won it at the wheel of a car he’d built himself. But the following year team mate Denny Hulme took the title off him, then left the team.

The tension between Senna and Alain Prost (a fellow Champion of Champions quarter-finalist) at McLaren was on a whole other level.

Senna won the championship in 1988 but the following year Prost beat Senna to the title. The championship was decided after Prost controversially collided with his team mate at Suzuka.

It’s hard to put Brabham’s achievement of winning the title with his own entry into perspective today, when even the smallest teams have hundreds of staff. Senna’s technical abilities have sometimes been underestimated but even so its difficult to compare any driver with Brabham on this benchmark.

Senna’s career came to an end far sooner than it should have. Although Brabham started fewer races his career stretched across 16 seasons; Senna was killed in his 11th.

The superstar status Senna had in the later years of his career was not something ‘black Jack’ would have envied – he was well-known for spurning the increased attention that inevitably accompanied his success.

The engineering wizard and the master of the pole position. These are two very different thrice-champions.

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.

Ayrton Senna Jack Brabham
Ayrton Senna, Williams, 1994 Jack Braham
Titles 1988, 1990, 1991 1959, 1960, 1966
Second in title year/s Alain Prost, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell Tony Brooks, Bruce McLaren, John Surtees
Teams Toleman, Lotus, McLaren, Williams Cooper, Brabham
Notable team mates Alain Prost, Gerhard Berger, Mika Hakkinen Bruce McLaren, Dan Gurney, Denny Hulme
Starts 161 123
Wins 41 (25.47%) 14 (11.38%)
Poles 65 (40.37%) 13 (10.57%)
Modern points per start1 11.68 7.63
% car failures2 20.50 34.96
Modern points per finish3 14.70 11.74
Notes Won three titles in four years with McLaren Back-to-back titles for Cooper in 1959 and 1960
Controversial clash with Prost sealed second title Then became only driver to win a championship in his own car
Killed in third race for Williams in 1994 Runner-up in 1967 to team mate Denny Hulme
Bio Ayrton Senna Jack Brabham

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 two

Round one

Which was the better world champion driver?

  • Ayrton Senna (83%)
  • Jack Brabham (17%)

Total Voters: 524

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Images ?? Williams/Sutton (Senna), Peter Denton (Brabham)

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119 comments on Ayrton Senna vs Jack Brabham

  1. Eggry (@eggry) said on 28th January 2011, 21:41

    even though Senna is one of the greatest but also Brabham. Brabham’s long career and his own team+title is very unique. If I have to choose 4 greatest driver, I would choose Senna, Brabham, Stewart, Prost. It’s shame he’s not even close.

  2. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 28th January 2011, 22:44

    Now that the contenders are shaping up, I wonder who on earth can possibly beat Senna. I’m predictig Schumacher and Fangio to make it into the penultimate round, and it’s very likely one of them will be squaring off against him. But I still reckon Senna will win. It was almost a given since this series began; we’ve really been playing to see who comes second.

    • kowalsky (@) said on 29th January 2011, 11:12

      nobody can beat the brazilian.
      Only schumacher if he had been more decent during his career could have a chance.
      Senna paid the ultimate price, and that makes him so special in people’s minds.
      And let’s not forget how he died. From pole flat out leading the pack.

  3. Toro Stevo (@toro-stevo) said on 28th January 2011, 23:12

    It is a vote for the best driver, so it has to be Senna. However Brabham winning a world championship at 40 in a car he helped designed using an Australian made engine, it’s clear he’s one of the best in F1, and it’s hard to vote against him too.

    If it were a vote for most influential driver, most important or influential figure in F1, the most technically astute driver, or even who I prefer or who has had more successful racing family members then I would vote Brabham. However, from what I’ve read on Brabham’s racing ability (not having seen him race), he’s very good, but not quite a good a driver as Senna was. This is despite Senna’s obvious driving etiquette failings.

    • Nonsensepoll said on 28th January 2011, 23:56

      So if you didn’t see him how can you vote for smthing u didn’t see ( as 99 percent of partisans that frequent this site)

      • Digitalis (@) said on 29th January 2011, 0:07

        Very true. I was following F1 in the mid 60’s, but I didn’t actually see a race until the USGP in 1969 at the Glen. But, we *can* play the game. Seriously, the balls these older guys had to race with little or no driver protection, you might say that NONE of the modern crowd could hold a candle to them. It is one thing to drive 10/10ths in a safe modern F1 car, quite another to do it in something from the 60’s or 70’s.

        But then there’s Senna …

        So … no vote from me, though I’m never shy for a comment!

      • Toro Stevo (@toro-stevo) said on 29th January 2011, 3:55

        Well, in this case I didn’t vote.

      • LuvinF1 said on 29th January 2011, 4:18

        The first race I saw was the USGP in 1970 at the Glen. But I sincerely question whether I can scientifically and unequivically state that Fittipaldi was the best driver that race – and I saw him win. I enjoy watching old clips because you “see” a lot more than you can see at the track. Being at the right place at the right time in real time is lucky, as well as tricky.

        I read columns and blogs from guys who have been to every race and have to wonder how they possibly come to their conclusions.

        Keith has provided some links in previous round-ups to Peter Windsor’s column, where Peter writes about Patrick O’Brien, his method for comparing drivers, and his 1994 book “Grand Prix: A Century of Racing”. Peter’s posts on that system are very interesting reads – if you’ve got some time. Even though it’s based on a helluva lot more data than I’ve got or will ever have, I believe in my picks – even though I have never seen Clark, Fangio, Ascari, Rindt in person.

      • kowalsky (@) said on 29th January 2011, 11:19

        that what is happening. Driver for earlier eras don’t get the same number of votes because they are not well known to us.
        But even if this is true, i am impressed how efective this coming out.
        When a journalist does one of these lists, i always considered it to be so personal, and very much influenced by his own experiences. On the other hand this one takes that out of the ecuation.
        And there are some fans here that know a lot about f1.

    • Kenny said on 29th January 2011, 6:50

      The original Repcos (in the BT19) were built on Oldsmobile blocks shipped in from the good ol’ USA. Later versions (in the BT20 and BT24) were 100% home grown.

  4. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 29th January 2011, 1:45

    If Senna been not be killed I believe he would have end up beating Prost in every category.

    • Alistair said on 29th January 2011, 17:47

      If Senna had not died, he might be statistically better than Schumacher, even in absolute terms – number of wins, WDCs, etc.

      But, sadly, by dying, the legend of Senna became greater than anything he could have achieved in life.

  5. BROOKSY007 (@brooksy007) said on 29th January 2011, 4:55

    Champion of champions, well if it is solely based on driving you can’t beat the great Senna. But if it is based more on overall racing, which should involve design, engineering and the pursuit of racing foundations; then good old jack is the king! Either way they both represent what a true racing champ is!

  6. Senna, but with a special mention for ‘Black Jack’ for building his own car.

    Why is it that you can still feel the hatred from certain members? Surely they never believed that Hamilton would make it this far, even by cheating?

  7. Hard call as they almost need to be measured on different criteria. But I’d have to go Senna.

  8. Dan Newton (@dan-newton) said on 29th January 2011, 13:37

    Couldn’t make my mind up on this one as it’s such an even call……so I flipped a coin.

    Head= Brabham, Tails= Senna

    Brabham won. But by the looks of it he only won the coin round!

  9. Gubstar said on 29th January 2011, 14:06

    Brabham is an absolute racing legend, who’s position within the annuls of the sports history is cemented forever. A true Champion, an inspiration for anyone in motorsport.

    But Ayrton was the fastest man who ever lived.
    A great driver
    A great champion
    A great humanitarian

    Had he not been killed he would be even more reveered than he is today. And the record books would look a lot different too. Everyone knows it no matter who you are a fanboy of. He would also be most likely running his country too.

    • Nonsensepoll said on 29th January 2011, 14:19

      faster then Usain Bolt?

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 29th January 2011, 16:46

      Possibly, although I feel that the mantle of best F1 current F1 driver was being passed over to MSC in 1994 just as MSC passed it onto Alonso in 2006.

      • Alistair said on 29th January 2011, 17:42

        Who then had it taken off him by a rookie with his mother’s milk still wet on his face.

        Would Schumi have allowed a rookie to beat him? I would have loved to have seen that.

    • Alistair said on 29th January 2011, 17:45

      We can decide the Champion of Champions rather easily. Which driver is held out by his peers, past and present, as the best of all time? Which driver is most loved by the fans? Which F1 driver is the most famous and legendary of them all?


  10. Alistair said on 29th January 2011, 17:40

    Well, now – to be consistent, all those who voted for Brabham over Lewis (supposedly) because the former raced his own car, they have to knock Senna out, and every other driver, for that same reason. After all, it would be entirely abritary to apply that criteria to just one comparison. It would make people think that there was a personal agenda against Lewis….

    Brabham was beaten by many of his teammates. For this, and other, clear reasons, Lewis is better.

    And Senna is better. Senna should win this. Although, I really do wonder how many posters on this site actually saw Senna and others race. It’s really just the myth, the legend, and not the driver, for many.

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