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


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. mrgrieves (@mrgrieves) said on 30th January 2011, 12:34

    This is the harder of the Semi finals but Senna has it for me. Was the best driver in the best era of racers

  2. Solo (@solo) said on 30th January 2011, 12:35

    I will go for Senna. I know Senna was awesome but i can’t be that certain about Fangio. For me a driver is more than just number and statistics. I loved Senna because i loved the way he was driving.
    Fangio is kind of an unknown, is just a vote that is based on rumors. And anyway his time might seem harder because it was so old but the truth is his time was easier. More probability to die for sure but not as hard to win especially considering how he was kind of favored by his rivals at that time.

    • matt90 (@matt90) said on 30th January 2011, 18:26

      In which case Fangio is best based on his incredible percentage rate of wins. But stats don’t pain the whole picture. That’s why I voted for Senna here and will likely do the same in the final.

  3. Can’t pick em.

    Senna has (and had at the time too) this aura about him, you just knew when he was driving you were watching someone really, really special. Even as a kid watching him at the time I could tell there was something about him. And off the track he was a fantastic person.

    But then Fangio, well he was doing at age 46 what Senna was doing in his prime.

    If I was forced to choose, I’d say Fangio – and thats despite Senna being my all-time favourite driver.

    People say that Senna would have matched Fangio had he lived longer. Well had Fangio been 10 years younger……. he could well have won 5 more championships.

    • debaser91 said on 30th January 2011, 14:14

      That is a very good point. It is often forgotten that Fangio was pushing 40 when Formula One started, and could have won even more if he’d been born ten years later.

      However I still think Senna wins this round though

  4. verstappen (@verstappen) said on 30th January 2011, 12:40

    To me they both deserve this. However, to be The Mark for everyone, including Senna and Schumi, is astounding.

    Therefore I voted for Fangio

  5. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 30th January 2011, 12:43

    Well, SENNA just picked up one of the major awards at the Sundance Film Festival – the award for being the audience’s favourite film.

    I’m still very keen to see some major reviews from the non-motorsports fraternity.

  6. 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 !

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

    or breaks down even !!

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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:




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


    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.

  12. 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.

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

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

  14. 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:

    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.

  15. 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

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