The Greatest Drivers Never to Win an F1 Championship
Written by Owen Bradley, Edited by Ilaria Mastio
F1 can be a challenging sport; it can be beautiful but, at the same time - insanely cruel.
Here is a rundown of some of the greatest to never quite do it.
Sir Stirling Moss
A true legend, nicknamed the “Gentleman” of Motorsport, Moss finished as runner-up in the championship on four occasions, which is a shame, as he definitely deserved at least one title. Still, alas, it never quite came to fruition. Moss achieved 24 podiums in F1, at a time when Formula 1 was at its most dangerous, physically demanding, and at a time when they only did around 8-12 races per season. What is fascinating about those 24 podiums is that 16 were Wins. Moss was also very in touch with his fans, never letting the fame get to his head. Moss passed away in 2020, aged 90, and will forever be known as “The Greatest Driver never to win a championship” and as a true gentleman and someone who should be looked up to for many years. Moss is a personal hero and someone I personally greatly admire and will never ever forget. Rest in Peace, Sir Stirling Moss.
Villeneuve - a name very well-known in the Motorsport community. Gilles won 6 F1 races in just six seasons in F1 and was on the podium 13 times - at a time when F1 only raced about ten times a season, so his statistics are more impressive considering he only did 48 races. Villeneuve finished runner-up in the 1979 F1 championship to teammate Jody Scheckter, who was also in Ferrari. Villeneuve is an icon of Scuderia Ferrari and even has a track named after him in Canada, his home track, the Gilles-Villeneuve Circuit. He is succeeded by his son, Jacques Villeneuve - who won the 1997 F1 Championship.
Barichello had a beautiful career in F1, but came into the sport seemingly at the wrong time, which was greatly unfortunate. He was up against German Legend Michael Schumacher at Ferrari and being up against arguably the greatest of all time, meaning that he’d be forgotten about when we talk about some of the best drivers in F1. Barichello frequently challenged for race wins, and at Austria 2002, he let Schumacher take the win, with metres to go until the finish line, proving that if it weren’t for team orders at Ferrari, he would likely have won it. Barichello would also drive the iconic Brawn GP car in 2009, partnered with Jenson Button, who would go on to win the championship in 2009. Barichello continued his F1 career until 2011. Barichello is always in the conversation of the greatest to never have done it, as he won 11 races and made 68 appearances on the podium. He also finished runner-up in the championship in both 2002 and 2004.
Mark Webber is a personal hero, so there might be some bias, but when the conversation of some of the most significant drivers of the 21st century comes around, Webber is often on that list. With 9 Grand Prix wins and 42 podiums, Webber is undoubtedly one of the most extraordinary drivers in the sport as well. He won the Monaco GP twice, in 2010 and 2012, and even Le Mans 24 hours in 2015 - meaning he has two gems in the Triple Crown. Webber was also in conversation to win the 2010 F1 championship, being up against Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton in the title decider at Abu Dhabi. Unfortunately, he could never quite achieve the championship, but given his racing prowess and achievements in and out of the sport, he goes down as one of the best to never quite do it.
Felipe Massa was all set to win the 2008 F1 Championship had it not been for the heartbreaking moment at the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2008, where Hamilton made a last-lap pass on Timo Glock for the championship. Massa had outperformed teammate and 2007 Champion Kimi Raikkonen that year and looked set to win it - and did win it… for 39 Seconds. Massa raced against some of the best of the best, Schumacher, Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel. Up against these guys, Massa could never quite do it - but he got almost as close as you can get, and for that, he must go down in the list of greatest to never quite do it.
Peterson was also one of the greatest never to quite do it. He achieved 10 Grand Prix wins and 26 podiums during his short career in F1, only spanning nine seasons, at a time when F1 was heavily dangerous and had only around ten races per season. Peterson was also runner-up in the championship twice, with one being because he had died that weekend whilst battling teammate Mario Andretti for the championship in 1978.
Carlos Reutemann, a Ferrari legend - and 12-time Grand Prix winner. Reutemann also achieved a massive 45 podiums and was 3rd in the 1978 championship and runner-up in the 1981 Championship. Reutemann would go up against some of the best of the best, Andretti, Peterson, Piquet, Hunt and Lauda, to name but a few.
David Coulthard is also one of the greatest F1 drivers never quite able to win the championship. He was up against incredibly talented drivers: Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barichello, and Kimi Raikkonen. Coulthard achieved 13 Victories and 62 Podiums and finished runner-up to Michael Schumacher in the 2001 Championship. Coulthard might never have been in title contention, but given the dominance of Schumacher, we have quite a few drivers who are unlucky not to win a championship.
Jean Alesi, a Ferrari hero of the 1990’s. Alesi achieved 1 Grand Prix win but 32 Podiums in his career and joined Ferrari when they were largely in their struggling period - which Schumacher himself struggled with, which we now know thanks to the Netflix documentary - Schumacher. His best result was 4th in the championship, but he was often up there, as proven by his podium record.
I’m sure these are just a few of the excellent drivers who were never quite able to achieve a World Championship but deserve to be remembered as some of the greatest drivers ever to grace our screens.
Did I miss anyone? Should our lord and saviour, Pastor Maldonado, have made the list? Perhaps Nicholas Latifi? Let us know in the comments below!
I look forward to reading them!
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And if you’d like to check out a video I made about the 9-time MotoGP champion and legend, Valentino Rossi, then follow this link:
Valentino Rossi - 9-Time World Champion
Finally be sure to check out the second episode of the Divebomb Power Rankings Podcast:
DIVEBOMB Monthly Power Rankings - May 2022
Thanks for reading guys, means a lot!