Ayrton Senna voted Champion of Champions by F1 Fanatic readers

Champion of Champions

Ayrton Senna, McLaren, Spa-Francorchamps, 1991

Ayrton Senna, McLaren, Spa-Francorchamps, 1991

Ayrton Senna has been voted the all-time Formula 1 Champion of Champions in a poll of F1 Fanatic readers.

The six-week-long series debating the greatest champions of all time saw over 20,000 votes cast and 4,603 comments posted.

Senna was picked over Michael Schumacher in the final round of the elimination tournament with 57% of the vote.

Given the differences between the drivers, the cars they had and the eras they drove in, finding a winner that a large majority agreed with was always likely to be impossible.

It would be too easy, and rather simplistic, to say that the choice of Senna was entirely down to his charismatic appeal and the untimeliness of his death.

Senna exploited the opportunities that were presented to him. In Formula 1 you will never win a world championship without a car that’s good enough to deliver it.

He had such a car from 1988-1991. In that four-year period he won three world championships, and lost the other because his principal rival drove into him.

The rest of the time he punched far above the weight of whatever he was driving.

In his first season he nearly won a race in a Toleman and in his final full year he won five races up against the devastating Williams-Renault FW15Cs.

Aside from his exceptional record – particularly his astonishing tally of pole positions – a recurring point in the discussions about Senna was the darker side of his talent. Particularly the crash with Alain Prost at Suzuka in 1990 that sealed his second title.

That cynical and dangerous act cannot be glossed over. But nor can we ignore that two of the other most highly-rated champions – Schumacher and Prost – won titles in similar circumstances.

We cannot say whether the races Senna never drove would have enhanced or diminished his reputation as a driver.

Judged solely on his record: for his strangle hold on pole position, for his wet weather genius, for his overtaking prowess, for taking on and beating a multiple champion in ‘his team’, and for the races and titles he won against top-drawer rivals, Ayrton Senna is a satisfying choice as Champion of Champions.

But he ‘greatest champion of all time’ argument is one that’s impossible to resolve. Hopefully this series has provided an entertaining and original angle on it, once which you enjoyed participating in.

See the Champion of Champions in stats to compare how all 32 F1 champions stack up.

Here’s a full breakdown of who won each round of Champion of Champions:

Champion of Champions - complete voting record

Champion of Champions - complete voting record

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

Champion of Champions

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190 comments on Ayrton Senna voted Champion of Champions by F1 Fanatic readers

  1. Oh how much i wish i was around to see this legend drive. anyone got any races they could upload???

  2. David-A (@david-a) said on 14th February 2011, 18:06

    If anyone deserved to win (aside from Schumacher) then I guess Senna, Prost and Fangio would be the best choices (by some distance IMO), so they all deserved their top four places.

    Great competition!

  3. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 14th February 2011, 18:07

    Ironically, what I think this series means for me is that there is in fact no actual champion of champions. The race wasn’t between these two about six different drivers came across as being the champion for certain people, all with excellent arguments for their pick.

    This result was a foregone conclusion, for a number of factors. But I think even if you somehow removed all the “irrational” voters the result would still be the same. I don’t think Senna was the best driver even of his era. But this isn’t about the best driver, but the favourite driver and Senna for all his achievements and his style deserves the accolade. My one wish is that people who hold him in such high regard don’t denigrate other drivers for the same things they excuse Senna for.

    • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 14th February 2011, 21:39

      Very well said, thanks! For me, the most interesting thing about this champions of champions was reading people’s reasoning for why one or the other should win.

      I learned, and saw, quite a few new things about the history of F1 and its champions. Especially about those from before my time watching F1 (ie. until the 90ties), but also things that I forgot about and some things that I missed at the time being a young teenager :)

      Great way to spend the F1 winter Keith, thanks for all the effort put into it; it was a great idea.

  4. Surprise surprise. Can’t help but think of this as a popularity contest. I garantee that Senna NEVER would’ve won a poll like this while he was still alive, that would’ve gone to Fangio.

  5. Dianna said on 14th February 2011, 18:19

    Well the Great Michael Schumacher would not begrudge this last win to Senna… out of memory.A final fitting memorial.

    As Schumacher said,he was getting on much better with Senna when his untimely death happened.Prior to that period they had been at loggerheads.

    So wherever you are Senna,this one is for you!

  6. night_shade (@night_shade) said on 14th February 2011, 18:23

    It was a deserved victory. My favourite driver is Michael but Ayrton is a best F1 driver in history…

  7. Meh..

    What position did Raikkonen come in? He wasn’t too bad either.

  8. Dennoow said on 14th February 2011, 18:43

    With all the respect to Schumacher, who of course is the best driver when looking at most statistics. But no one, and I repeat, NO ONE drove a car like Ayrton Senna did. His driving was like watching an artist at work, a true genius. Schumacher is perhaps more efficient, but Senna is the most naturally gifted driver I have ever seen. Great Champion!

  9. Dan_the_McLaren_fan said on 14th February 2011, 18:49

    I was really disappointed with the Clark-Schumacher match. Clark was my personal favorite driver, and it was such a shame that he was so narrowly beaten by on the champions I like the less. Anyway, I’m still happy that Senna and Fangio became 1st and 3rd, because they really deserve to be in the top3 of champions in my opinion.

    Thanks for the polls, Keith, I didn’t miss one!

  10. Almost forgot that this was still going on.

    Senna and Schumacher in the final – who’da thought!

    Wouldn’t it have been better just to cut straight to the chase?

    Can’t imagine the result being much different in ten years time.

  11. The problem is, they were both tainted. The difference between the two were two things, 1) one of them actually jumped out of his car, putting his own life at risk to help another driver. 2) One was much more fun to watch.

  12. SoLiDG said on 14th February 2011, 19:25

    For you who stil think he got choosen for his death and misguided image. Please watch the 1993 season and read up on it before you do. And look what he did with that car! He just was a genius before he died! He could have been champion on a few occasions the years he still had in him.

    I might get bashed for this, but I think Lewis Hamilton might be able to get this spot in 10years. He is one of the most gifted drivers ever to grace the F1 world.

    • I might get bashed for this, but I think Lewis Hamilton might be able to get this spot in 10years. He is one of the most gifted drivers ever to grace the F1 world.

      Well, I can’t argue with you that he was “gifted”.

    • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 14th February 2011, 20:33

      You’re missing the point of the argument, it’s not that he was regarded as average before his death, it’s just his domination of the #1 of all time has been somewhat influenced by it. Plus that he was around during the living memory of the majority of F1 fans.

      Personally, I think Nuvolari would have run rings around him ;-)

  13. I’m firmly Senna-era, so I have the bias of my generation. It is on its face absurd not to give Schumacher the laural for his tally of titles. But there is a legitimate basis to look past the arithmetic. I think the feeling is that Senna brought a level of domination and consistent, extraordinary performance that we haven’t seen since. Also, key detail, he beat a world champion in the other car to win titles. Schumacher will never be able to say that; indeed, it seems he never wanted to. Schumacher’s most successful teammate, in terms of title challenges, since he first had a winning car remains Felipe Massa. That’s not the ultimate superlative.

    The interesting thing about the Senna/Schumacher comparison is that its not over. But if Schumacher wants to seal his title as the Greatest Ever, he needs to beat a champion teammate fair and square. Whitmarsh and Horner are easy to find in the paddock.

  14. Shimks said on 14th February 2011, 19:54

    It’s maybe slightly off topic but I’ve been reading all afternoon about the tragic weekend at Imola in 1994 when Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna lost their lives. I didn’t know about Rubens Barrichello’s awful crash at Friday practice in which I think he was extremely lucky.

    Thanks, Keith, for the excellent article. I can’t wait to see the film about Senna. It’s supposed to be excellent.

    • And did you knew he had an Austrian flag in the Williams cockpit? If he had won the San Marino race, probably, he was going to show it in the podium … who knows? ;-)

  15. Burnout said on 14th February 2011, 20:53

    I can’t understand how the Hamilton vs Button match is still the most voted on. More votes than the final even. Darn Hamilton fanboys! :P

    Great job with the whole series of articles Keith. Reading up on past champions to make an informed vote was great, really. And thanks to everybody who commented. A lot of the comments made for great reading, and thankfully there weren’t any all-out flame wars.

    Can’t wait for the season to start!

    • The poll of Button vs. Hamilton had the most votes (810) because they are the most current combination, and with no surprise the second highest number of votes in the first round was Kimi Raikkonen vs. Sebastian Vettel (752).

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