Champion of Champions Final: Senna vs Schumacher

Champion of Champions

Champion of Champions: Ayrton Senna vs Michael Schumacher

After almost 20,000 votes, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher have been drawn against each other in the Champion of Champions Grand Final.

In a way it’s quite appropriate, as it presents one of the great unanswered questions of modern Formula 1.

Namely, how the 1994 season would have played out had Senna not lost his life at Imola three races in. And how much longer these two would have gone on fighting for race victories and championship titles.

Their achievements in Formula 1 are sufficiently well known (and have been covered earlier in this series several times already) that they hardly require repeating.

It’s down to you to pick which of these drivers stands out among F1’s 32 title winners as the Champion of Champions.

Cast your vote below and explain who you voted for and why in the comments.

Ayrton Senna Michael Schumacher
Ayrton Senna, McLaren, Hockenheimring, 2004 Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Hockenheimring, 2004
Titles 1988, 1990, 1991 1994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004
Second in title year/s Alain Prost, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell Damon Hill, Damon Hill, Mika Hakkinen, David Coulthard, Rubens Barrichello, Kimi R?â?ñikk?â?Ânen, Rubens Barrichello
Teams Toleman, Lotus, McLaren, Williams Jordan, Benetton, Ferrari, Mercedes
Notable team mates Alain Prost, Gerhard Berger, Mika Hakkinen Nelson Piquet, Eddie Irvine, Rubens Barrichello
Starts 161 268
Wins 41 (25.47%) 91 (33.96%)
Poles 65 (40.37%) 68 (25.37%)
Modern points per start1 11.68 14.05
% car failures2 20.50 8.21
Modern points per finish3 14.70 15.30
Notes Won three titles in four years with McLaren Missed several races in 1999 after breaking his leg at Silverstone
Controversial clash with Prost sealed second title Retired in 2006 after 11 seasons with Ferrari
Killed in third race for Williams in 1994 Returned with Mercedes in 2010
Bio Ayrton Senna Michael Schumacher

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

Which was the better world champion driver?

  • Ayrton Senna (54%)
  • Michael Schumacher (41%)

Total Voters: 806

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Third place play-off

In true World Cup fashion there’s also a play-off for third place:

Which was the better world champion driver?

  • Alain Prost (45%)
  • Juan Manuel Fangio (51%)

Total Voters: 715

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You need an F1 Fanatic account to vote. Register an account here or read more about registering here.

Read the F1 Fanatic Champion of Champions introduction for more information.

These polls close on February 13th.

Champion of Champions – voting so far

Champion of Champions table

Champion of Champions table (click to enlarge)

Thanks to Emory McGinnis for producing the Champion of Champions table.

Champion of Champions

Browse all Champion of Champions articles

Images ?é?® Honda (Senna), Ferrari spa (Schumacher)

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450 comments on Champion of Champions Final: Senna vs Schumacher

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  1. Schumacher is better than Senna….sadly most of guys who voted for Senna never really watched him driving…anyway i watched them both,was Senna fan until i saw Michael…What he did with crappy ferrari from 1996,97,97 Senna would never be able to do that.

  2. geoff hall said on 1st October 2011, 13:41

    sennna never pushed any one off the track to win he would just drive and win

  3. magic_senna said on 9th May 2012, 1:12

    +pole position (65 poles out of 161 races, so over 40% and 3 poles in the 3 races he contested in in 94. the lack of (high) finishes were often to irreliable cars although maybe sometimes he did push his cars too far and braking them basically but maybe on a few occaions only)
    +wet weather (estoril 85, donington 93)
    +passing manoeuvres too many to tell
    +almost regularly brilliant and genius on more than handful occasions
    +monaco specialist (outperformed teammate prost in 1988 by 2 sec in quali, source: racing is in my blood but performed well at any circuit regardless of its characteristics. did not need experience on a track to win there right away just like lewis hamilton)
    +could and did take on any teammate inc prost (exception of warwich as team lotus’ limited resources couldn’t support to fast drivers according to senna and i agree)
    +drove and beat most of the time many great drivers incl (multiple times) champions: prost lauda piquet mansell rosberg
    +team builder (great motivator and worked super hard which was inspiring, next to his huge talent and detail freak with long sessions till late in the evening including making working plans for the team. also humorous, friendly and sincere to teammembers while making sure he got the best people to work on his car. he didnt move the key players from his old team to his new team (as opposed to schumacher’s ‘teambuilding capabilities’ bringing ross brawn and rory byrne from benetton to ferrari, though byrne shortly retired at the end of 1994 in which benetton used the banned traction control was senna’s own opinion and that of others probably)
    +ability to drive cars above their perceived potential and be fast on cold tyres from lap 1 and being fast in any car also out of F1 with basically no testing required to get up to speed
    +constantly improving himself (he found estoril 85 with turbo charged enige im pretty sure with one honest mistake during the race according to then lotus teamboss peter warr, source a star named senna, a better performance then donington 93 cuz at the latter he had traction control whereas in the former he did not, source racing is in my blood)
    +learning from mistakes (e.g. loss of concentration crashing car in barriers monaco 88, chocking in backmarker causing own retirement as well monza 88, stalled engine suzuka 1988)

    – jo ramirez (former mclaren employee and friend of senna, surprisingly said in the docu the right to win that when the car was perfect prost was invincible, very hard to beat but that getting the perfect setup for a car was rare. i think he meant when prost won usually it was with a perfect setup, senna could probably easier makeup for deficits of the car also imperfect setups. i think when both had a perfect setup senna beat prost as well because more raw speed in both quali and race but also more precisely feeling of the car especially in the wet although in the dry prost did drive more smoothly vs senna’s go carting aggresive style but he could drive smooth like that if necessary e.g. in rain)
    – prost said he didnt think senna was the best in setting up a car in the docu senna. could be biased and in favor of himself or he actually believed it. could be that prost was better in setting up the car though, i can’t tell. i know senna was into technical details a lot that he wore technicians down going through sessions till late in the evening according to ducarouge (former lotus technician) in docu a star named senna.
    – senna was sometimes too aggresive causing him points or the whole race (e.g. monza 88. he admitted this in racing is in my blood, sometimes causing crashes in the rain as well, interlagos 94 spin trying to catch schumacher who passed him in the pits with the suspected lack of filter in the tank and forbidden traction control)
    – questionnable race speed as in low number of fastest laps during race. i actually think that’s a sign he backed off a bit to look after his car, interesting this one) i think before schumacher, senna ownt the record of most laps in the lead)
    – dangerous driving sometimes out of frustration and due to the feeling of injustice (suzuka 90) but strangely although the many colissions and crashes he didnt crash hard except for, next to imola 94 obviously, a few races. his car landed up side down in mexico 91 or something on sand/gravel trap.

    + reading a race, maybe better than senna at least schumacher is more famous for it
    + driving many laps in a row during the race on the limit including just before pitting at which he was brilliant
    + wet weather though not as good as senna

    lack of high caliber opponents in his era not his to blame though
    – unwilling to fight against teammates fair and square, that is he was the absolute number one, teammates had lesser material and were not allowed to pass him or when in front they were obliged to let him pass (austria 2002, ‘rubens, let michael pass’ i think this is more cowardly then senna’s going for the best team although both tactics were effective)
    – qualifying, despite being pole record holder he got outqualified a lot by opponents and took him way more races than senna to reach 65 poles.
    – sometimes silly mistakes in the wet (brazil 2005 or 2006, monaco 96?)
    – wall of champions visiter = crashing into the wall (montreal and melbourne)
    – dirty tactics (adelaide 94, jerez 97, monaco 2005 or 2006 etc where senna was no saint either in e.g. suzuka 90 but he had his reasons and values and would not lie about those, though sometimes it took him years to fully explain his thoughts feelings and intentions and why he did what he did)

  4. There wasn’t a racer in the sport better than Schuey. He’s the greatest racer in the history of Grand Prix racing.

  5. Nobody speaks of Schu. about his last years. Howcomes he can`t bring mercedes to a higher level. Eveybody tells about he brought ferrari by “himself”to it`s high level… I think he lost ( IF HE EVER HAD IT) that particiular skill.
    For me Ayrton Senna was/still is the ultimate formula 1 driver. Soit

  6. Monty said on 29th October 2014, 0:06

    Here is why, in my opinion, Ayrton Senna is not better than Michael Schumacher:

    Senna was on pole 65 times but only won 41 races. He was actually negative in terms of converting pole positions to wins.

    Schumacher was on pole 68 times but won 91 races, a far, far better rate of conversion.

    Blind Senna fans say that Senna’s poor conversion rate of poles to wins is because the cars were less reliable in his day, which to an extent is true. However, what these same people ignore is the fact that Prost was on pole 33 times but managed to win 51 races. You simply cannot argue with that. Prost’s ratio of poles to wins is even better than Schumacher’s.

    Prost, without any doubt whatsoever, proved that in the 80’s and early 90’s it was more than possible to have as many wins as poles (or more) but Senna simply wasn’t able to do this because of his own mistakes and not being able to replicate his qualifying pace in racing conditions.

    This leads me nicely on to point number 2, Senna only had the fastest lap of the race on 19 occasions – a terrible statistic compared to Prost with 41 and Schumacher with 77.

    In 1988, Senna won his first championship against Prost in the same team (McLaren), but only because of the ridiculous “best 11 results” rule which they finally got rid of in 1991. Had results from every race counted towards the championship (as they have since 91) then Prost would’ve been world champion by 11 points. 11 points in a time when you only get 9 for a victory is a large gap.

    People often say that all you need to watch is Donnington in 93 and that’s why Senna was the best. What they forget to mention is that the McLaren that Senna was driving that day had traction control. There was no traction control on Schumacher’s Ferrari at Spain in 96. There are several other dominant drives in the wet by Schumacher in the late 90’s when he didn’t have traction control such as Monaco 97, Spa 97 and Spa 98.

    People say that Senna had 5 wins to Schumacher’s 1 in 93 even though Schumacher had a better engine. This is true, the engine in the back of Schumacher’s Benetton was slightly more powerful in the first half of the season. However, the aerodynamic package was not on the level of the McLaren and neither were the electronics (which goes some way to explaining Donnington in 93). In 2014, Ron Dennis described the 93 McLaren as “one of the best cars we ever made”.

    Finally on 93, Schumacher retired 7 times to Senna’s 4. Schumacher was also dominating the Monaco GP before he had to retire. Schumacher was on the podium in every race he finished.

    In 94, people say that Schumacher only beat Hill by one point and that had Senna lived, he would definitely have won the championship because he was a better driver than Hill.

    What they don’t tell you is that Hill only beat Schumacher on the road twice throughout the entire 94 season and only one of those was an “earned” win. First was Spain when Schumacher was dominating the race only to be stuck in fifth gear for more than half the race, gifting victory to Hill. Second was Japan when Benetton got the strategy wrong and were caught flat footed by the stop-start race, meaning Schumacher had to pit twice compared to Hill’s one stop. Despite this, it was a good win for Hill, but it’s the one and only time he actually beat Schumacher in equal circumstances in 94.

    Schumacher was leading the British GP in 94 before the black flag debacle. He finished the race second but was later disqualified.

    Schumacher won the 94 Belgian GP only to be disqualified due to the “plank being too thin”. However, nobody seems to remember (or even knows) that the race before, the plank on the bottom of the winning car was even thinner, but nobody batted an eye lid.

    Schumacher was also disqualified from a further two races after the fallout from the British GP. In total, Schumacher only scored points in 10 races in 94. He won 8 of them and finished second in the other two.

    Had Schumacher kept his second place from the British GP, his win in Belgium, and been allowed to compete and win in Italy and Portugal (entirely possible considering how he dominated pretty much every race that year) then his total points for the 94 season would’ve been 128 compared to Hill’s 77 assuming Hill finishes second in all of these races (he did finish second in Belgium before he was gifted yet another victory).

    128 points to 77 is not close at all. Many people agree that the FIA were not happy with the way that Schumacher was running away with the championship and action needed to be taken to spicen things up. The Benetton team were following the advice of the Marshals during the black flag debacle of 94 British GP, but this gave the FIA something they could use to penalize Schumacher and they used this to their full advantage.

    Finally on 94, Schumacher’s Benetton had a V8 Ford engine compared to the Renault V10 in the back of the Williams. The power difference was far greater than the difference between the 93 McLaren and 93 Benetton. The power difference was so great that the Benetton bought the Ligier team just so they could get the Renault engine for the 95 season.

    Both Schumacher and Senna were prepared to cheat to win and neither of them is better or worse than the other in regards to cheating, so I’m not even going to talk about that.

    Senna never helped a struggling team become a winning one. He spent a few seasons at Lotus before jumping into the all-conquering McLaren for the 88 season. Nobody can hold this against him. He had his success, but as soon as things started going wrong in 92, he immediately started seeking his way out and was desperate to secure the move to Williams.

    In 93, he held Ron Dennis to ransom and only agreed to take part in the season a few hours before it began and he did this for $1 million per race. Nobody knows the exact details, but rumour has it that Senna never had a contract for the 93 season, he was just racing on a “race by race” contract for $1 million a time.

    Schumacher on the other hand had two years as world champion at Benetton in 94 and 95 and he could’ve stayed and won another world championship in 96. He also could’ve moved to Williams in 96. Instead, he had the courage to go to the struggling Ferrari team and achieve something for the future, and this exactly what happened. In my opinion, this was his greatest achievement.

    A few other interesting facts to round things off:

    Schumacher was out qualified by his team mate just 9 times between 1992 and 2001. From 2002 onwards for the rest of Schumacher’s Ferrari career, qualifying was in various idiotic platforms such as qualify with race starting fuel load, qualify in the reverse order the previous race finished in and so on. The reason for the introduction of these silly rules? To curb Schumacher’s dominance of the sport.

    Schumacher only had the best car on the grid in 2002 and 2004 when the Ferrari was truly dominant. At a push you could say that the Ferrari of 2001 was superior, but there wasn’t much in it.

    Schumacher took the title down to the wire in 97 when the Williams was the much faster car. This is magnified by the positioning of the second drivers in both teams. The second Williams driver, Frentzen, finished 3rd in the championship (2nd after Schumacher was disqualified) with 42 points, 1 win and 7 podiums.

    The second Ferrari of Irvine finished 7th in the championship (6th after Schumacher’s disqualification) with 24 points, no wins and 5 podiums.

    The same happened again in 98, the McLaren was much faster than the Ferrari, especially at the start of the year but he still took the championship down to the final race where luck was not on his side. Side note – he out qualified Irvine by 2 seconds at the 98 Japanese GP.

    In 2012, Schumacher matched Rosberg in qualifying (10-10) and actually beat him in terms of races that they both finished (7-3). This is the same Rosberg who regularly matches and beats Lewis Hamilton today. However, the Schumacher that we saw in 2012 was a 43 year old, washed up, way past his best Schumacher. He was a shadow of his former self, yet he was still matching Rosberg. Neither Rosberg nor Hamilton could hold a candle to the Schumacher of 94-2004 when he was at his best.

    The more I sit here and type, the more convinced I become that Michael Schumacher is the best overall driver that there’s ever been in Formula 1.

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