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

Browse all Champion of Champions articles

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

  1. nosajm9bys (@nosajm9bys) said on 15th February 2011, 10:04

    Schumy is the ONE!

  2. Dianna said on 15th February 2011, 10:38

    The main part of the answer didn’t come out only the last bit.

    What I said was,that in the 1990′s there was hardly any internet,so we only had papers and TV for coverage,no forums to discuss matters,nothing.

    In the late 1990′s UK was just seeing the Internet as a means to see eveything you wanted at the touch of a button,BUT Europe was WAY BEHIND with the Internet at that stage

    I saw Senna racing many times,I also saw the young Schumacher and in my opinion he was every bit as good as Senna at that young age.

    I hope all the younger generation realise about the Internet,it was virtually neglible when Senna was at his best,so in that respect Senna is at a disadvantage and also the young Michael was,compared to now.

    You youngsters imagine F1 without the Internet!!!!!

  3. Andy C said on 15th February 2011, 10:40

    It never ceases to amaze me, the lack of objectivity some people can have when looking at these types of vote.

    Keith set out stating that this is a fun poll, and anyone was free to vote.

    So when the conclusions come out and they don’t fit with your personal conclusion, it somehow becomes a “joke”?

    Personally I liked Prost, and Senna (nothing much between the two). I have never had a chance to see much of Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart and Fangio (who I suspect would be worthy winners also).

    I didn’t like the way Michael crashed into Damon, and for the following years I could not support him. However as time went by I could appreciate his winning and excellence more and more.

    Whether he had preferential treatment is irrelevant, as he still went out and won the titles.

    I just can’t understand why others seem unable to separate the driver they support/supported, and the merits of other drivers. I support Jenson and Lewis (and have always followed Williams), but that doesnt mean I cannot appreciate a great drive or season from Vettel, Alonso.

    People stating Ayrton won because of nothing more than an enigma/folklore obviously didnt see him race, or have not talked to those in F1 who had him in their team. Or seen how he dominated quali sessions (the margin between him and the next man was sometimes seconds rather than 0.5).

    Got to admit, that a lack of objectivity from some drives me absolutely potty, but thats for another day ;-)

    • Larcem (@larcem) said on 16th February 2011, 1:44

      wow perfect coment! I feel the same way! I too support McLaren and their drivers. I´ve been a fan of Button since the honda days, and Hamilton is my favorite too. But I admit I REALLY like the other drivers as well. Alonso comes a really really close second to my eyes, and his victory in Singapore and Monza were really awesome to watch.

      Same goes for the big time champions. Senna is my favorite, but I also like Schumacher and Prost specially. To me they are all great drivers. I just prefer more than the other.

      anyways, great comment, I second what you said!

  4. Paolone (@paolone) said on 15th February 2011, 10:50

    Thanks Keith, this was funny!

    What about a “non-champion” best driver poll?? ;-)
    Stirling Moss, Michele Alboreto or Jean Alesi?
    Or…?

  5. smiths85 (@smiths85) said on 15th February 2011, 10:50

    Senna Number 1!!

  6. Alex Bkk said on 15th February 2011, 10:58

    Hmmm…. a picture of Senna on the podium of the US GP @ Phoenix.

    Worst GP circuit ever.

    You either loved Senna or you loathed him… there never seemed to be a middle ground with him, except that everyone respected him as an incredible talent.

  7. It was an amazing series of polls to follow, very educational and one of it’s kind, specially to those who didn’t live to see the older Champs race. Thank you Keith for all your efforts, this only shows how deeply rooted this blog is in F1. Directly comparing the older generation with the newer one has helped put the history of F1 into perspective. It will never be a 100% fair to compare drivers from different eras using different technologies, but they may be more similar to each other than we think! Every F1 champion shares the passion, love, and will to succeed. It is very interesting to see what each and every one of them made out of such feelings.. Each career is different in terms of achievements, length, and number of wins but the underlying drive that brought them into F1 is the same in all of them..

    Ayrton Senna may not be the choice of everyone on here, it’s impossible to all agree on one Champion. I personally think he fittingly represents the character of a true racer in terms of his sheer will to succeed and passion to race. Although at times, his sheer will to succeed may have caused him to succeed at costs that weren’t justifiable, but as Keith already said he isn’t the only one that crossed the ethical line. Regardless, people still loved his honest character and as a person who never saw him race (was young and not yet interested in F1 sadly), I hear of him today and wonder what was it like to see him racing? It’s this feeling of greatness about him which makes him an undeniable champion.

  8. Lotus Renault GP PL 30 minutes ago in reply to Barracuda

    Not really, Heidfeld has year contract already

  9. Com’on … if Senna was not dead … he was able to eclipse some Shummi records! Do you guys bet that Senna was able to fill his dream of 5 WC? In retrospective, easy to achieve because the Williams team had, at least, 3 more years (in the following 4 years) with great cars. Damon won! Jaqques too!
    Definitely, Senna was the most passionate driver of them all!

    But nevertheless, nowadays, we have some great F1 drivers which will never get closer to some of Alain, Ayrton or Shummi records just because they are all at the same time in F1. Bad for them, GOOD for us! What I mean is that some records speak for themselves but they are only records and a great driver, or the greatest driver, cannot be only selected because of his records.

  10. antonyob said on 15th February 2011, 15:45

    i think the fact that jack brabham did as well as Jim Clark tells you all you need to know. These things are always flawed but a unilateral decision to pair x with y means it has about the same merit as 2 blokes in a bar arguing the toss. I guess it also reflects the “princess diana” syndrome people seem to suffer from these days. MS and AS did as much damage to the sport as they brought joy and awe.

    i think if you take the stand out driver from each era, so Nuvolari, Fangio, Clark, Stewart, Senna, Schumacher and then decide the last 2 and most recent are best then you are almost certainly wrong.

    • LuvinF1 said on 15th February 2011, 16:23

      Clarke’s First Law (paraphrased): When one states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. But when he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

  11. Olivier said on 15th February 2011, 18:59

    All of us have a lack of objectivity, we are biased towards the people we like (or away from those we can’t stand). I couldn’t take Senna at time and for that reason I rooted for Prost. I liked Schumacher until the 1994 season. I understand both of them (Senna and Schumacher are the best of the best but don’t like the way they “built” the teams around them and crushed the oppositon by means of bullying.

  12. Well, this is a shocker isn’t it?

    From round 1 I already knew Senna would be the man. I don’t agree with it, and I don’t agree with the method used by several to vote on the “what if” bias, but such is people.

    Great series, great fun!

    • Robert said on 16th February 2011, 23:21

      Yeah, not exactly a surprise. I said before that previously undiscovered Amazonian tribes could’ve told you that Senna would win..

      Next year’s poll: What colour is an orange?

  13. antonyob said on 16th February 2011, 10:09

    senna didnt only win becuase he died, thats over simplifying to try and make your point. The canonisation of Senna occurred becuase he died and his behaviour was largely ignored in an era where there was less media intrusion. If Senna had lived and faded or worse made a comeback and struggled then its distinctly possible he would be lower down the list. You only have to look at Prost, a driver, the equal of Senna, albeit a very different driver; hes almost painted as the baddie.

    I watched them both from their first race to their last and Senna has for sure gone one way in the eyes of history and Prost the other

  14. Studi06 said on 16th February 2011, 10:36

    In my opinion, what separates Senna and Schumacher is that Schumacher achieved his success in a very guarded manner whereas Senna put his heart and soul on show for the public to see.

    This is what racing fans connected with; whether a Senna fan or not we all respect a pure racer, and this is what separates the two in a poll of racing fanatics.

    Senna won our hearts and Schumacher won our minds and clearly our hearts count for 7% more..

  15. antonyob said on 16th February 2011, 11:10

    very well put studio6. i still maintain a final without fangio or clark is not a final.

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