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. 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…

  2. Meh..

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

  3. 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!

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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 ;-)

  8. 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.

    • Racer (@racer) said on 14th February 2011, 20:16

      The 1991 Benetton was a winning car, in the hands of triple world champion Nelson Piquet, whi Schumacher beat in that car. So what you say is not correct.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 14th February 2011, 23:18

      I think the feeling is that Senna brought a level of domination and consistent, extraordinary performance that we haven’t seen since.

      19 podiums in a row?

  9. 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? ;-)

  10. 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).

  11. YosemiteSam said on 14th February 2011, 21:13

    Can someone tell me how to make the tourney bracket used in this Champion of Champions event, I have a tourney of my own I’m working on and would like to utilize a similar bracket. Thanks

  12. Crispin said on 14th February 2011, 21:32

    Jim Clark was the best racing driver ever, and always will be. Jim was just so quick!! He outclassed Jackie Stewart almost infinately. Had he not been killed, Clark would have won a hell of a lot more titles.

  13. Great fun this contest, Keith. Even tough I don’t think this will settle the question of who is the greatest for good!

    And for the people who think Ayrton won because of his tragic death: then you never really saw him drive. Because he has was a truly remarkable driver.

    And btw: Clark also died tragically. As did so many others.

  14. These votes don’t mean anything, Senna was not the greatest driver, he was too much of a dirty driver like shumi.

    Prost should have won :)

  15. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 14th February 2011, 22:21

    I have to admit, I do feel a little disappointed with this. Senna absolutely deserves the title and it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that he would win. But I think a lot of people voted for him simply because he was Senna without really considering who he was up against or how he measured up to them. As has ben said, any of the final four deserved to win. Personally, I consider Fangio to be the greatest champion alive because he did everything Senna and Schumacher did, but he did it forty years before them.

    • Roberto said on 15th February 2011, 0:39

      but he did it forty years before them.

      And when he was in his mid forties, competing against drivers in their mid twenties

  16. Very predictable eventual winner, but nonetheless a very fun poll, thanks Keith!

  17. Roberto said on 15th February 2011, 0:36

    In that four-year period he won three world championships, and lost the other because his principal rival drove into him.

    Not true. Prost went to Suzuka 89 with 76 valid points, Senna with 60. Thus Senna’s only chance of being champion was Prost not scoring any points in any of the last two races (which did happen) AND Senna winning both (which didn’t, as he crashed in Australia). So, even if Senna was granted the win at Suzuka, he had no mathematical chance of being champion.

    • Ze Baude said on 15th February 2011, 2:03

      You can’t consider what happened in Australia as what would have happened if Senna still could be champion. Thing is, we will never know…

      • Roberto said on 15th February 2011, 15:50

        That’s pure speculation. History is not about IFs. What DID happen is that Senna crashed in Australia, and it had nothing to do with Suzuka.

        In any case, Prost had a much better chance of taking the title in 90 than Senna in 89

  18. Daniel said on 15th February 2011, 0:41

    Lost “because his rival drove into him.” Ooh, controversial.

  19. Ze Baude said on 15th February 2011, 1:56

    Well, Senna is the best, so nothing more deserving.

  20. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 15th February 2011, 2:13

    Fair enough I think we have seen some decent decision by the members of F1F,it was tough to draw a line between the top 4 drivers but eventually I think Senna deserve it,we will never know where his & Clark career would have end if both haven’t had their accidents.

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