Ayrton Senna vs Juan Manuel Fangio

Champion of Champions

Champion of Champions: Ayrton Senna vs Jaun Manuel Fangio

Juan Manuel Fangio handed Ayrton Senna the winners’ trophy at the 1993 Brazilian Grand Prix. Senna climbed down from the top spot and embraced the Argentinian champion.

A touching moment between two of the sport’s legendary figures.

For decades, Fangio’s achievement of winning five world championship titles was the ultimate benchmark in Formula 1. Arguably, Senna and Alain Prost might have equalled him if they hadn’t had to race against each other.

Fangio’s rivals were in awe of him, to the extent of not wanting to stand in the way of the success they felt ‘the maestro’ deserved.

Compare that with the intense, bitter rivalry between Senna and Prost and you can appreciate the enormous changes in Formula 1 between the eras of Senna and Fangio.

The two were once interviewed together and the interviewer remarked that between them they had eight world championships. Fangio remarked: “Ayrton is still very good and still very young. He has still many years to keep racing.”

Sadly, he did not. We’ll never know if Senna might have matched Fangio’s five world championships. Some who knew him felt his respect for Fangio would have kept him from trying to win more.

It’s down to you to pick which of them belongs in the Champion of Champions final.

Compare their career stats below and vote for which you think was best. Tell us who you voted for and why in the comments.

Ayrton Senna Juan Manuel Fangio
Ayrton Senna, Williams, 1994 Juan Manuel Fangio, Mercedes, 1954
Titles 1988, 1990, 1991 1951, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957
Second in title year/s Alain Prost, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell Alberto Ascari, Jose Froilan Gonzalez, Stirling Moss, Stirling Moss, Stirling Moss
Teams Toleman, Lotus, McLaren, Williams Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Mercedes, Ferrari
Notable team mates Alain Prost, Gerhard Berger, Mika Hakkinen Giuseppe Farina, Peter Collins, Stirling Moss
Starts 161 51
Wins 41 (25.47%) 24 (47.06%)
Poles 65 (40.37%) 29 (56.86%)
Modern points per start1 11.68 17.12
% car failures2 20.50 17.65
Modern points per finish3 14.70 20.79
Notes Won three titles in four years with McLaren Missed 1952 season due to injury
Controversial clash with Prost sealed second title Handed 1956 title by team mate Peter Collins
Killed in third race for Williams in 1994 Record haul of five titles unequalled until 2002
Bio Ayrton Senna Juan Manuel Fangio

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

Quarter-final

Round two

Round one

Which was the better world champion driver?

  • Ayrton Senna (52%)
  • Juan Manuel Fangio (44%)

Total Voters: 710

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This poll remains open until February 4th.

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Read the F1 Fanatic Champion of Champions introduction for more information and remember to check back tomorrow for the next round.

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Images ?é?® Williams/Sutton (Senna), Daimler (Fangio)

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102 comments on Ayrton Senna vs Juan Manuel Fangio

  1. smudgersmith1 (@smudgersmith1) said on 30th January 2011, 13:06

    Senna for me, through force of personality and sheer genius we have never seen anyone like him before at the time or since, cant take away Fangios record but….swapping cars with your team mate when yours brakes down….do me a favour !

  2. smudgersmith1 (@smudgersmith1) said on 30th January 2011, 13:07

    or breaks down even !!

  3. I had a feeling it’d come down to Schumacher v Senna when this all started (brackets permitting) and once it does I know I’ll not be able to choose between the 2.

  4. Leftie (@leftie) said on 30th January 2011, 13:25

    I voted for Fangio. Fair like Moss, faster than anyone in his era and most successful ratio of races started\won ever. And considering his age as well…
    Don’t get me wrong. Senna was magic! But he was ruthless, very very very ruthless, uncompromising, not always a gentleman. He’s on a different level to Fangio in that regard and he aknowledged it himself. So did Schumacher by the way.
    But i’m sure Senna will win this and we will have a “competitive animals know no limits” (C) final of Senna vs Schumacher.

  5. rdenatale (@rdenatale) said on 30th January 2011, 13:26

    When I saw the match up, my first thought was, how do I pick.

    But the stats alone really speak for themselves. I had to vote for Fangio.

    Senna is deserving, but I’m afraid that this will turn out to be the Champion of Champion’s who raced in the last few decades.

    I’m struggling to find an analogy which would work for the international audience here, for the Americans it might be trying to compare some recent very good baseball player with Babe Ruth, and picking the new guy because Babe Ruth’s achievements were just ‘rumors.’

    While I am a little too young to have seen Fangio in action, being 5 or 6 years old when he won his last championship, I know that his accomplishments were legendary and much more than rumors.

    A big point for me in this case is that Fangio drove in the era when the “Drivers were fat and the tires were skinny.” The cars might have been high-tech for the time, but far more basic than even a basic road car today. In my mind this means that the driver’s skills were a larger component of success.

    Comparing a 1950s era F1 driver to one today is analogous to comparing a WW I fighter pilot to the commander of the Space Shuttle. One was pretty much on his own, the closest thing to telemetry being the pit boards, no radio, no engine or suspension electronics…, while the latter has computers in the car, and a local mission control connected over the internet to the factory.

    Now I know that F1 hadn’t advanced quite as much by Senna’s day, the analogy might be closer to a WW I vs. Vietnam era fighter pilot. But the real turning point when the battle turned more towards engineering and less the driver himself was probably the mid-late 1970s between Fangio’s era and Senna’s.

    My prediction is that this will poll will come down to Senna vs. Shumi in the final. And again I think that Shumacher probably benefited from hi-tech even more than did Senna. Who actually wins that will come down to a mixture of the ‘newer’ kid syndrome, and voters personal opinions of the ‘character’ and ‘likeability’ of the two competitors.

    • sumedhvidwans (@sumedhvidwans) said on 30th January 2011, 17:06

      Brilliant post. COTD
      You should comment more often here.

    • It was entirely predicable that this poll would come down to Schumacher vs Senna from the beginning.Since they have the largest respective bases it makes sense to maintain interest that it comes down to them. Fangio is hurt by the fact that the demographic that really got to see him race have decreased in number and probably not as active on the internet as younger drivers.

      Personally I would put Schumacher, Fangio, Prost, Clark, Brabham and Stewart all ahead of Senna but there you go. It’s not that I don’t rate Senna it’s just that I do rate the others.

      On the analogy side of things I would say the cars Fangio drove were more like mid-WWII era fighter planes and modern F1 cars akin to 1980s fighter jets. Baring in mind that in some respects modern F1 cars are less advanced than their predecessors of the 80s and 90s and again less advanced than the highest spec road cars.

      The cars might have been high-tech for the time, but far more basic than even a basic road car today. In my mind this means that the driver’s skills were a larger component of success.

      This reminds me of a Mika Hakkinen interview he made after driving one of Fangio’s cars. He said words along the line of: To drive this car at it’s limit isn’t very hard technically, but psychologically it takes balls of steel.

      Anyway some Fangio love:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lx1_su9WyK0

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsGx0voy7aY&feature=related

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7Ifcgl789E&feature=related

  6. Ral (@ral) said on 30th January 2011, 13:56

    Fangio.

    Senna’s driving career was cut short, but something he was very successful in, in his short time, was publicizing himself. He was undoubtedly a very talented driver, to say the least. But, due to the unexpected ending to his life and career or not, he managed “only” 3 championships in 10 years. Which does not compare favorably versus Fangio’s 5 in the same number of years.

    But I think a lot of people will vote with their heart and go with Senna. Ah well. There are worse people to lose to, even for someone like Fangio.

  7. icemangrins (@icemangrins) said on 30th January 2011, 14:02

    Senna is a little overrated river only because of his death… With all due respects, no doubt about his talent. People mostly get into this weird illusions & talk about things which no one has the answer. What could have happened if he was alive? How many WDC he could have taken… guess what, we never know. IMO Fangio’s record overrides everything else in this contest.

  8. KaIIe (@kaiie) said on 30th January 2011, 14:11

    Senna is my probably my favourite driver, but I still voted for Fangio.

  9. xanathos (@xanathos) said on 30th January 2011, 14:20

    Fangio’s stats are simply crushing anyone else. His winning percentage will propably never be beaten by anyone and on pole positions he is beating Senna clearly, the absolute master of the pole position. And he has done this driving for many different teams! Heres another statistic:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Formula_One_driver_records#Highest_average_points_per_race_entered

    Fangio is still doing exceptionally well, even considering that the drivers in front of him today just have to finish 6th to get as many points as he got for a win…

    If it comes down to a Schumacher vs. Fangio final, I would propably have to vote for Fangio as well, despite being a Schumacher fan for more than 15 years.

  10. nillojapa (@nillojapa) said on 30th January 2011, 14:29

    “Senna” is named the best documentary in Sundance Festival
    Senna forever!

    • DeadManWoking (@deadmanwoking) said on 30th January 2011, 15:32

      Not! It did receive an Audience Award for Documentaries:

      The Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to How to Die in Oregon,directed by Peter D. Richardson. In 1994 Oregon became the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. How to Die in Oregon gently enters the lives of terminally ill Oregonians to illuminate the power of death with dignity.

      The World Cinema Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to Hell and Back Again, directed by Danfung Dennis. Told through the eyes of one Marine from the start of his 2009 Afghanistan tour to his distressing return and rehabilitation in the U.S., we witness what modern “unconventional” warfare really means to the men who are fighting it. U.S.A./United Kingdom

      The World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary was presented to Senna,directed by Asif Kapadia; written by Manish Pandey, about legendary racing driver and Brazilian hero Ayrton Senna, taking us on the ultimate journey of what it means to become the greatest when faced with the constant possibility of death. United Kingdom

  11. Alec (@alec) said on 30th January 2011, 15:16

    Since I wasn’t alive to see Fangio race, all I can go on are the statistics. To me, the ones that really count are the percent stats, since all sorts of extraneous factors influenced the length of each driver’s career. Senna might well have gone on to win more championships than Fangio, as could Clark, if it weren’t for a fatal crash. Schumacher might have won less if he had driven in the more dangerous earlier years and come to a sticky end. Fangio could have gone on to win many more if he had not started his career already in his forties due to WWII. All these uncertainties keep leading me back to the “percentage” stats. So amazing though it was to see Senna drive, on a percentage basis Fangio has a pretty clear lead in the statistics over anyone else — even Senna.

  12. As stated here, Fangio was so respected that even his teammate gave him his own car to permit Fangio have a good car (I don’t remember the whole story). On the other hand, Senna was always under Prost and Mansell’s pressure. So he got 3 championships under those conditions. My vote is for him and I hope he ‘ll get the Champion of Champions crown, as a final title he could never get.

    • Roberto said on 30th January 2011, 23:27

      Fangio, or any other driver, could only get a teammate car in special circunstances, and it rarely happened. Fangio had a lot of pressure from other talented drivers, like Mike Hawthorn and Stirling Moss.

      But you’re right when you say he was respected by his peers. In his last race Hawthorn slowed down to avoid lapping Fangio before the chequered flag. Everyone of those drivers considered Fangio the best.

      Senna, on the other hand, became a legend to the new generations, but he didn’t got much admiration from his peers, like Prost, Mansell and Piquet, due to his lack of sportsmanship

      • Kenny (@kenny) said on 31st January 2011, 4:32

        Admiration no…respect yes. Prost has said that Senna was the best he ever raced against.

        • Roberto said on 31st January 2011, 11:08

          That’s ambiguous:

          Prost:

          “Ayrton was certainly the best driver I ever raced against, by a long, long way. He was, by far, the most committed driver I ever saw. To be honest, I think maybe the best race driver – in terms of really applying intelligence – was Niki, but overall Ayrton was the best, by far. He was very successful in everything that mattered to him, everything that he set out to achieve for himself.”

        • Roberto said on 31st January 2011, 11:09

          But my point was that other drivers disliked him because of his lack of sportsmanship, which is totally the opposite on Fangio

  13. frood19 (@frood19) said on 30th January 2011, 16:20

    when I can’t decide i go for the one with the most points per finish.

  14. melkurion (@melkurion) said on 30th January 2011, 17:42

    This is kind of a rock-paper-scissors thing for me…previous round I voted Jackie Steward over Fangio, so jackie beast fangio, I would have chosen senne aver stewarrt, because senna beats stewart, but in my mind’s eye, fangio beats senna….

    so fangio it is

  15. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 30th January 2011, 18:17

    It is fitting that yesterday the two most successful F1 drivers ever squared off and today the two drivers most often hailed as the greatest finally meet.

    Many will vote who saw neither of them race, almost none both (you lucky, lucky few) and I am one of them. So how to vote, when I’ve been more critical of these two than perhaps a lot of people?

    Looking at the stats, Fangio beat Senna at his own game, in his own specialties. Many people also say how exciting Senna was to watch; Fangio used to literally drift around the corners.

    It has to be Fangio then. Sadly I can only see one actual winner.

    Stirling Moss, so good they named him thrice, Keith?

  16. Hi F1 Fans,

    Can you please just click on The Movie Ayrton Senna fan page like button on the following link.

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Movie-Ayrton-Senna/175767165792517

    I appreciate you kind cooperation.

    with loads love
    Anish

  17. James_mc (@james_mc) said on 30th January 2011, 21:36

    I believe that Fangio was the better champion. But I voted Senna. Why? Because I believe that in a straight vote Senna would beat Schumacher, but Fangio wouldn’t. It pained me to see my no. 5 eliminate No. 3 and No. 2, likewise No. 6 to No1.

    I accept that my voting is purely tactical but as three of my top four have been eliminated thus far, I feel the need to choose my no. 4 over my no.6 in the hope that 4 beats 5.

    • vjanik said on 31st January 2011, 12:32

      ok im confused a bit from your comment but i gather you do not want schumacher to win. i am afraid there is no way of stopping that.

  18. Alex Bkk (@alex-bkk) said on 30th January 2011, 21:54

    I loathed Senna because I was a Prost fan… of course the reason was he (Senna) was just that good. So I went for Senna on this one.

    Not an easy vote…

  19. SennaTheG.O.A.T said on 31st January 2011, 0:29

    I have so much respect for Fangio but Senna is just the Greatest driver ever..
    His talent was unreal.In my opinion Senna is the GOAT and Gilles Villeneuve the 2nd.But Fangio did special things also….

  20. Robert said on 31st January 2011, 1:02

    Yawn. None of this matters one damn bit.

    And Senna will win. Previously undiscovered tribes of the Amazon could tell you that.

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