Ayrton Senna, McLaren, Spa-Francorchamps, 1991

Ayrton Senna voted Champion of Champions by F1 Fanatic readers

Champion of Champions

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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

Images ?? Honda

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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Posted on Categories Ayrton Senna, Champion of Champions, Debates and Polls

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

    1. Congratulations Ayrton!

      1. shumi should av won i bet most of the votes for senna we shumi h8rs garenteed!!!!

        1. I think it will take Schumacher to have serious accident to make him get immortal status. Which is incredibly wrong since he is simply the greatest driver there has ever been.

          1. Don’t be daft, Senna won the poll, live with it.

            1. I would have put Clark, Fangio, Stewart ahead of senna. Prost and Lauda and Schumacher about the same.

          2. That’s ridiculous. Who will most people name when asked to name an F1 driver? That’s right: Michael Schumacher.
            He’s achieved immortality, he’s the most successful F1 driver of all time.

            That doesn’t make him the best champion.

        2. i agree, mostly voted on what if Senna had lived… there were many what if reasons given by ppl who voted for Senna. i’m sure if this poll was conducted in either Italy or Germany we would get a completely different result. biases exist & the popular bias wins always.

          1. if this poll was conducted in either Italy or Germany

            I don’t block visitors from Italy or Germany.

            Although the largest single nationality group is British there were no British drivers left by the semi-finals.

            So I don’t buy the usual boring ‘nationalism’ argument and, as I wrote in the article, I think the ‘Senna only won because he died’ argument is pretty flimsy too.

          2. The 2010 Formula 1 grid where German drivers were more numerous voted Senna the best. Schumacher voted Senna the best.

            I tell you what… you go run this poll in Germany and Italy, but after that do the same in Japan or Brazil and then come back and report your findings.

        3. Indeed!! I can’t stand it when people get all dewey eyed over Senna just because he died on track. Great driver, no arguments there but the stats speak for themselves. Schumacher wins hands down in this respect!! Also, people say that Schumacher’s legend is tarnished by a handful of dubious moves. Why then is the same not true of Senna who drove Prost off the road to win the title. Just one incident in a whole catalogue of career tarnishing manoeveres. It’s stupid!! Also, in Senna’s day there weren’t as many competitive teams, just a couple of dominant ones that he happened to drive for and the rest were knowhere. The same is not true of Schumacher. Schumacher had numerous works teams to contend with as well as several top line drivers, longer seasons and a wife and kids to consider.

          1. Please, please get over it! “Only a few dominant teams”…. did you already forget that during most of Schumachers titles there was ONE, and only ONE super dominant team with ZERO competition! ONLY McLaren had the speed but reliability to finish only about 60% of the races while Schumacher drove more than 50 consecutive races without a mechanical failure, hence NO competition at all!
            We can discuss the circumstances forever but just like we cannot discuss who has the most titles we cannot discuss who won the poll, as a BRAZILIAN driver on a dominantly British site!
            Why? Because his driving has made lasting impressions of exitement on more people than any other driver. You can scream and yell all you want – but that you can never change!!

            1. This “no competition” argument gets boring. The Ferrari was only “dominant” in two seasons (2002 and 2004), three (2001) if you want to stretch the definition of the word to the limit.

              You cannot hold it against MS that he beat the other teams/drivers by a large margin. It’s a sign of his quality, more than it is of you thinking that no-one else was good.

          2. Among the top drivers Schumacher had to face: Hill, Villenueve, Hakkinnen, Coulthard, Raikkonen. Team-mates? Massa, Barichello, Irvine, Helberth, Verstappen (how many world champions do you see?)

            Now Senna: Lauda, Prost, Mansell, Piquet. Team-mates? Hakkinnen, De Angelis, Prost, Hill (how many world champions?)

            1. But if Schumacher had won less, more of those drivers listed would have won championships, and indeed more races.

          3. do the maths :
            Michael Schumacher – Seasons (1991–2006, 2010–2012) starts:308 and 68poles
            @22%,
            where as senna – Seasons 1984–1994 starts :162 poles: 65 @40.12% poles

            top couple should have been Clark,Fangio,Moss,Rindt,Senna going of stats…that is

      1. I know right. Shocking, hands up if you predicted this first round. Too many emotional votes I suspect, twill ever be thus.

        Great fun though.

        1. If he was still alive he would have gone out in round two

          1. Really? If from every race on had never scored another point then maybe…

            Honestly I am not surprised Senna won, and I do think that his legendary status (of which his tragic death is definitely a part) played its part in his winning but the same also applies to Fangio and Schumacher, they each have their own legends…. Saying that so do Ascari, Stewart, Prost and Clark… maybe not quite so bright but….

            Anyway great Championship Keith, has been lots of fun reading, posting, thinking and arguing about this.

            1. especially arguing :D

          2. You might want to consider how many championships he would have won it that were the case :)

            1. No more titles were coming his way at all. Senna was clearly in decline in 93 and 94 and Schumacher was well and truly in the ascendancy. Senna would have retired very quickly one he realised he couldn’t keep up with the young schumacher.

            2. Coefficient, that is such an ignorant statement! Senna was absolutely spectacular in 93 when he finished second in the championship in a McLaren that was completely underpowered because Honda had left F1.
              In 94 active suspension was banned and the Williams FW16 suddenly wasn’t as superior as FW14 and FW25 had been. It was very difficult to drive but your only subject for speaking of decline in 94 is that he lost the car in the very first race in Brazil while he was hit and taken out by both Hakkinen and Larini in the race in Aida. He took pole in all three races of the season!
              DECLINE?!?

          3. Well… ask Roland Ratzenberger if somebody remembers him..

            1. I remember the great Ratzenburger.. Any F1 fan does and will rememeber him. It’s just Senna achieved more and was a big characyer in F1. Taking nothing away from Roland and in fact no one would apart from when sill suggestions like this arrive…

              Senna won because he was a GREAT!!!!!!!

        2. This is such BS! People looked at Senna this way way before his death. You don’t come a legend by dying. You become a legend from what you do in life.
          This misinformed BS about that he wasn’t anything special until he died got to stop. Please look at races and read things from before he died before making such stupid assumptions.

          1. I have to agree. I read an article from the Team Manager at Williams, from the season of his death. They were only just getting to know him, but Senna was ‘the man’ in F1. He was interested in everything about it, about it, about people, about humanity.

            He was also very quick. Patrick Head said ‘Bloody Senna, he’s always there or there abouts isn’t he.’ Senna was standing right next to him at the time. Head apologised and explained it as a force of habit.

            Point is, at the time, he was the figure in F1, recognised as being by far the most talented. If he hadn’t of died, Newey, Head etc would have given him the car to win the championship.

            Saying all of this is because he died, is ignorant and poor taste to be quite frank. I remember great excitement when he moved to Willaims for the 94 season, simply because he was the best driver and most dedicated driver of his generation. He proved himself in cars with 1000bhp and drove them the way most can only dream about.

            I wasn’t a fan of him at the time, because I was 14 and wanted Hill to win. So think I can unbiasedly said that he would not of gone out in round one, or two or three if he was alive today. He would probably be fresh in the minds of many having won 1994 for his 4th WDC and maybe more.

            Add to this that 2 years back Autosport surveyed 217 current and past drivers of F1, and they agreed with this CofC result as regards to Senna.

            So before we all go suggesting he’s won because he’s dead, do some research and find out what people thought of him at the time. No doubt he has been glorified and worshipped by some, perhaps elevated to a higher status, but only because he was who he was. He was a ‘great’ at the time and he’s a ‘great’ now.

            1. I disagree with the statement that “he won because he’s dead”. However, I don’t dispute that it was a major contribution to how easily he did win and how much he occupies every F1 fan’s thoughts, past and present.

              Do you think JFK would have been as big a deal if he hadn’t been killed? Kurt Cobain if he hadn’t died? Yes, they were both very famous, but they became legends, in a way, through death. Sort of morbid but also very true.

            2. @Mouse, I’m replying to some statements that said he wouldn’t of got past round 2 if he was alive.

              I’m also not denying death added to the allure and worship of the guy himself.

              However, strip away the reverence and go back to 1994, he was the most revered and respected driver in f1 at the time, and for many, of all time.

              The death just made a great driver, even greater in the minds of many. But he was great to begin with.

              As for JFK? Honestly? He’s the guy who pushed the moon landings to happen inside the decade, and handled politics completely differently to the old guard such as Nixon who was a bulldog.

              JFK was a humanitarian as well, like Senna in fact. People loved him at the time. He got the Americans through the Cuban missile crisis, when the country was preparing to be nuked and building bunkers in their gardens and buying as much canned food as possible. He spoke about withdrawing troops from Vietnam.

              So for that era, the era of the 60’s, in that world climate, JFK was a ‘great’ president to have. Positive, charming, light, clever, he even won a Pulizter prize!. When he died, he became a legend. But only because he actions in his lifetime put him in peoples hearts and mind to begin with.

              Kurt Cobain I care little about. He was a messed up but talented kid, I feel sorry for the guy. But again, his band were in the hearts and minds of people at the time, so his death meant something to them. Rock stars and celebrities seem to be a dine a dozen, drugs and suicide, and accidental death. Yet I don’t hear many people say Kurt Cobain was the greatest musician of all time. I don’t think I’ve ever heard actually?

              Did Lennon become bigger after his death? Was Elvis a midly successful rock star? What about Jackson? They are all dead, they are all loved. Because of what they did in their lifetimes.

            3. Nicely put Hare. Don’t get the Senna-became-a-legend-after-he-died stuff either, at all. An equivalent today would be someone like Messi, still young (23!) but considered the world’s best footballer already for some time.

            4. Thats the most concise argument i have heard on this debate and its the most correct.Senna is/was the fastest man in any car.

            5. Voted for by people who never raced with him and alos by people who never raced after his death. There’s always bias and yours is as blatant as any.

        3. Really enjoyed the series Keith and a great idea.

          However, I really expected Button and Hamilton to be in the final, with this site being so British biased and all.

          I jest of course.

      2. My thoughts exactly.

      3. I suppose it can hardly be suprising, the best 4 will probalby be at the top or close for a majority of fans worldwide.

        I really like how close it was in from the quarter finals onward, that was a bit of a suprise.
        A deserved conquear for Senna, went for the maximum, just as in real life!

    2. as I expected. I believe no one could beat Senna in vote like this. It makes the vote less interesting but I was fun at some point(Clark vs Schumi or Fangio vs Prost)

    3. A deserving winner. Not that I agree with the result, but deserving none the less.

    4. Congratulations Ayrton…

      Michael will still remain the greatest F1 driver of all time… atleast in our hearts !

      1. Maybe to you, not all of us ;)

        1. fair enough and I understand :-)

          1. Senna deserves it, but Schumy is great as well as Senna I think.

      2. Yes, not all will agree. But I feel he was the right choice as his qualifying laps alone (to me) set him above all others.

        1. his stunt for the french grand prix qualifying was so cynical that i have never liked him

        2. pole position don’t earn points.

      3. @Icemangrins Same here, Scumacher is the greatest for me

        1. wooh hoooooooooh …I’m not alone !!

      4. Yep! Michael’s record may never be broken.

    5. SennaNmbr1 (@)
      14th February 2011, 17:21

      I should think so :)

    6. It will be interesting to see what the result would be in say another 10, 20 50 years – whether the senna-less generations to come will have the same view; since I’ve found it’s always harder to have the same attachment to drivers of another era, no matter what their achievements.

      1. All I suspect that will happen is that new names will be added to the list of Senna, Schumacher and Fangio as the greatest of all times…. I very much doubt any of those three will loose their places at the heart of F1. That said in 50years maybe only Schumacher will remain in the top 3 simply because when it comes down to it records count and 7 times world champion… is one that I suspect only one or two people might ever come close to rivalling… and if he clinches an 8th and more…. (huge IF)

        1. If Vettel or Hamilton will have some 3 WDCs to their name by then, they will very likely be right at the top.
          Then again, maybe by that time Lewis will be driving a Red Bull at the back of the field and Vettel will be enjoying some Ferrari GT1 racing as Kobayashi, Kubica, Hulk, Esteban, or whoever comes next fills their places.

          1. I have felt for a long time that Hamilton has the ability to become one of the true greats of the sport, from his début he has shown he is a great racer.

            Vettel on the other hand has only proved he is extremely quick, which is a vital skill for a F1 driver but he still has a long way to go to prove himself to me as a racer able to deal with overtaking and defending his position.

      2. Agreed. I reckon it will be the same as it is now with Clark.

    7. simply the best!!!

    8. Great Keith, just disagree with this:

      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.

      First Prost had done the same to win the year, taking out Senna (on pole). Second he never hid or denied what he was up to. I’m probably going to get hammered for saying it, but there’s something actually noble for me in the way he took revenge on Prost and won that title. I’d have been happy for Hill to have done the same on Schumacher (another Prost) for example. I say this only as I think it’s unfair to talk of Senna’s ‘dark’ side on the basis of that race. Otherwise he was same as many other top drivers: occasionally ruthless on track, but also capable of real compassion and you (or I) always felt any excess came from some inner demon driving him to test his own limits, not just beat his rivals. That was a long distance second. It’s only when those priorities are reversed that cynical manipulation can really come in, depending on the driver.

      1. Difference was that he put Prost’s life in danger because of someone else (Balestre), so I’m with Keith on this one. But, as I mention below at least he was honest about what he did and why. He had his beliefs and stuck to them.