Apologies if it’s been done here before, I seem to remember it on the old forum, but who do the F1F readers think is the best one-time champion (excluding current drivers Hamilton and Button), and how do they compare to others?
If not the best ever, I’d say the best for a long while back would be Nigel Mansell. I’d pick him even over Damon Hill, my first F1 idol, simply because there was something a little more special about our Nige. Damon could pull performances from nowhere sometimes and was a lot like Button is today, but Nigel had more natural speed and there had quite a few breathtaking overtaking manoeuvres to his name. The guy could have been a 3-times champion easily and it’s a shame his only one had to come at the wheel of a ridiculously dominant car, which has provided fodder for his detractors ever since.
Going way back, I’d say John Surtees. Still the only man to have ever won both the F1 and Grand Prix Motorcycle (what we’d call MotoGP now). Jochen Rindt deserves a mention but we’d never know if his potential would have come through (he was going to retire a world champion anyway before he died)
Jochen Rindt. Blindingly quick with supreme car control.
A few other mentions:
Hawthorn was always under rated in my opinion. If he could take on Fangio on a couple of occassions and win then that’s good enough for me! I think his personality often took attention from his racing talent.
Mansell. He took on Nelson Piquet who I regard as one of the best ever and in their partnership for me, he was the better racer. It didn’t matter what happened he would keep coming back and could sometimes pull out something special and always put in supreme overtakes.
I think JV was better than I gave him credit for. I always disliked him but I rated him slightly more than Hill (although on his day Hill was tough to beat) but he made the big mistake with BAR.
In terms of F1 alone, I would agree that Mansell gets the nod.
But in terms of motorsport in general, I don’t see how you can’t give it to Mario Andretti. Won titles in F1 and CART, and even won races in NASCAR, IIRC. He makes Montoya look a bit second-rate in versatility, IMO.
James Hunt: He had it all. Charisma, unbelievable driving skills, and to see him winning with the Hesketh against established team was exhilarating. The end of his driving career was less than stellar but he then became a very good TV commentator. Otherwise I’d say Hill, Rosberg and Jones: No one would have bet a dime on them but they fought against all odds to become world champions (and they all did it on a Williams for that matter…)