The nearly champions

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    Profile photo of TommyB

    There was a lot of discussion in the ‘Vettel records’ post about who will be the next to challenge him. Some said Perez, others Kobayashi but as we’ve seen over the years it doesn’t always work like that. Who would have expected in 2006 that Button, Webber, Hamilton and Vettel would be challenging Alonso for championships?

    Despite some drivers having the most amazing starts to their careers they don’t always get the right breaks and are often spoke about as not fulfilling their true potential.

    Jean Alesi – After doing insane things with a Tyrrell, Alesi was picked by many as a future champion. It’s insane to think he only ever won a single race. Choosing Ferrari over Williams was the wrong choice but he’ll always been seen as a legend because of it.

    Ruben Barrichello – After his performance at Donnington ’93, Barrichello was set to be the next great Brazilian driver. Unfortunately when he got a top car he was Schumacher’s number 2.

    Giancarlo Fisichella – He’d always be up the grid in a Jordan or Benetton in his early career. Everyone said he’d be a future champion but when he got his chance at Renault he wasn’t that great. He seemed to be brilliant in a poor car and average in a great car.

    What other drivers can you think of that were labelled a ‘future champion’ but never fulfilled their potential?

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    sbl on tour

    That little chubby fella, whats his name….juan pablo

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    – Juan Pablo Montoya probably should have world champion at some point.

    – Felipe Massa’s twenty seconds as world champion may be the closest he gets to becoming a champion, though I would love to see him prove me wrong.

    – David Coulthard possibly also should have been a champion after spending almost his entire career in competitive cars.

    – Even though Nick Heidfeld hasn’t even won a race yet, his 2007 season made me see him as a serious future contender for the title.

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    Ned Flanders

    Jan Magnussen was suppose to be the next Ayrton Senna. Of course, it turned out he was rubbish, but at it sounds like his son could be in F1 within a few years!

    Alex Wurz was amazing when he first joined Benetton, yet his career petered out so badly. He was on the podium in his third race, he finished in the top 4 in half of his first 12 F1 races, he had that amazing duel with Michael Schumacher at Monaco 1998. Then, for some inexplicable reason his career halted in mid 1998, and he managed only 3 more points finishes in two and a half years at Benetton before he got the sack

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    @Ned Flanders

    Magnussen smoked when he was an F1 driver! One of the stories of completely unfulfilled potential.

    I’d also add Martin Brundle and Johnny Herbert to the list. Both drivers who underperformed.

    Herbert was talked of in the same way as Schumacher/Senna was for a while until he had a horrific accident which smashed his feet. Given that Herbert still won a couple of races despite this shows he could have been a far greater driver.

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    Gerhard Berger anyone? A hugely talented driver who just happened to drive in an era littered with great champions (Prost, Piquet, Senna, Mansell, Schumacher).

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    Dan Thorn

    How about Rene Arnoux? On his day he was totally unbeatable, a great qualifier and brilliant overtaker but perhaps a little bit too difficult personality wise to really gel with a team…

    Verstappen was always spoke of very highly by Schumacher, and his wet weather skills were impressive, but he never recovered after that difficult first season with Benetton.

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    I’d go with Arnoux and Verstappen Dan. Alesi and Massa are obvious ones and two of my very favourite drivers. I wish Berger had won a championship too.

    Gilles would be another obvious one. Jody took the title and it looked like Gilles would get his turn but uncompetitive Ferraris and then his death meant he’d never fulfill his promise.

    Elio de Angelis perhaps is another.

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    Perhaps the most obvious is Stirling Moss. A 4 times runner up- 3 times to Fangio (one of which only 3 points behind) and once to Hawthorn. Although statistics only tell a part of story, considering the number of retirements he had, with better reliability maybe he could have been a double champion. In 1958 in particular he lost to Hawthorn by a single point after testifying on his behalf.

    In a topic on over-rated drivers a couple of months ago, many people named Moss without justification, seeming ignorant of his achievements. He is often credited as the best driver to never win a championship, and I don’t understand how this can be seen as unfair. He has the 10th highest percentage hit-rate of races won (2 of the drivers above him are Americans who only competed at Indy). No other non-champion has won as many races as him. He deserved to be a champion. It wasn’t his talent that held him back, rather the quality of his opposition (Fangio) and a lack of reliability.

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    One that hasn’t been mentioned yet is Ronnie Peterson. Finished runner up in his second full season in an uncompetative car and could have won the title in 1973 with better reliability and in 1978 without team orders and his untimely death. From what I have seen and heard was one of the most naturally gifted drivers.

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    Ivan Capelli – His second place in France 1990 in a Leyton House after leading most of the race until Prost passed him, together with his F3000 success in 1986, showed a lot of promise, sadly his move to Ferrari saw him lose motivation and retire.

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    Juan Pablo Heidfeld

    @slr Yes!

    In all honesty Montoya probably should have one a championship. If he’d waited long enough he might have been, Raikonnen and Alonso have been and I see him at the same level

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    – Juan Pablo Montoya probably should have world champion at some point.

    In all honesty Montoya probably should have one a championship. If he’d waited long enough he might have been, Raikonnen and Alonso have been and I see him at the same level

    Montoya had his chance in 2003, but he screwed it up in America. Still remember that drive through.

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    Luigi Fagioli – The Abruzzi Robber finished on the podium all the six races he finished, and thus has 6 podiums on 7 starts. His only win came with a shared drive with Juan Manuel Fangio, and his other results are 4 2nd places, one 3rd and a retirement. F1 started too late for him, and by 1952 he was off to sports cars, but died the same year after a crash.

    In the brief appearance he did in F1 he showed talent, but his age didn’t give him any more chances (he holds the record for oldest race winner, obtained in 1951).

    Profile photo of David-A

    In all honesty Montoya probably should have one a championship. If he’d waited long enough he might have been, Raikonnen and Alonso have been and I see him at the same level

    As it’s been pointed out, 2003 was his best chance, when the Williams was finally equal or faster than the Ferrari. But Ralf didn’t come close, and Juan did better, but couldn’t get past Barrichello without spinning him off. 2005 was worse, when Raikkonen convincingly beat him.

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