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#1 RStock

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 04:25

The current Schumacher thread brings to mind a conversation I had a few weeks back that was promted by someone calling Ayrton Senna "The Greatest Driver ever". I generally avoid these "who's the best" arguments because there are many great ones and I feel the best you can do is compile a list of them that is in no particular order as far as ranking their ability. I mean, they are all quite adept at turning a steering wheel.

However, I've often thought that there are some who are above others when it comes to other aspects of driving a race car which would put them in another catagory, and one of the most important attributes outside of driving skill, in my opinion, would be "mental toughness". Let me explain what I mean by that. Frank Williams once said that "Formula One drivers are ruthless bastards because they have to be", so maybe some feel inclined to win at all costs. However, being ruthless would not be a trait that I would consider being "mentaly tough". As an example, I've always considered Schumacher and Senna as "flawed geniuses". I see the inclivity to drive someone against the wall, or off the track as a weakness, one brought on by emotions.

Likewise, there are fellows like Gilles Villeneuve, and my own personal hero Bernd Rosemeyer, who while not being "dirty drivers" by any stretch of the imagination, were prone to doing "silly things" occassionally, but not from lack of skill, that could give the "mentally tough" driver an edge. I would also rule out Alain Prost who, while was not "ruthless" on track or prone to "silliness", could play minds games with the best of them and the fact he felt the need to do so could also be construed as a flaw.

The two examples I held up as being truely "mentally tough" were Juan Manuel Fangio and Tazio Nuvolari. They seems the sort to me who, even though you squeezed their nuts in a vise, they wouldn't crack and resort to emotionally driven decisions, but would cooly and calmly think their way out of the situation. And they have a legacy that is equal too or even surpasses all others.

So my question is, am I wrong. Can someone recall instances where these two did something "ruthless" or "silly", even so much as lost their nerve. I've of course only read about their exploits, but can't say that I ever read anything that would lead me to believe they were ever anything but cool and calculating behind the wheel, and were not ones to be easily rattled, if at all.

Also, since my original conversation about this, I wonder who else would belong with Fangio and Nuvolari in this catagory. Jim Clark? Mike Hawthorn? Sir Jackie?

Are there any "unflawed geniuses"?

Edited by REDARMYSOJA, 06 August 2010 - 04:28.


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#2 Bloggsworth

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 07:07

No.

#3 ianselva

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 07:25

I feel a lot of the problem is the plethora of media studying every move of all drivers in later years culminating in the cameras on the cars now. I'm not defending current driving standards or decrying Fangio or Nuvolari, its just the drivers are subject to miniscule inspection of every move now, whereas in the early days it was seen only from a trackside point of view .
Wasn't Farina known to be a hard man to pass who would drive his opponents off the road if necessary.

#4 Gabrci

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 07:35

Very good questions and thoughts I think - and I have to agree that the answer is no.

I think that Nuvolari and Fangio were different though - Nuvolari a devil-may-care racer who was emotionally driven and Fangio a very calm, calculating professional, who was mentally driven.

It's also a good point that first of all, we don't know how many times Farina or Brabham pushed someone off the circuit because there is no video evidence, and the tales are long forgotten, secondly they didn't want to risk a collision because it could easily cost them their lives. It was a calculated risk, just like today, when the much safer cars and circuits give a completely different result for this calculation. I really don't think today's driving standard is any worse than it has ever been, in fact while these guys today might not be as brave as Nuvolari & co., they are much, much better racing drivers from every aspect.

#5 Ralf Pickel

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 08:17

Regarding Nuvolari, from Chula´s "Blue And Yellow", writing about the Grand Prix Of Nations in Geneva, 1946 :

"A most unpleasant occurrence came in the 33rd lap. Nuvolari had just been lapped by Farina only to find Wimille on his tail. I did not see the incident myself being stuck as I was in the pit, but according to Swiss papers the Italian at first would not let the Frenchman by. Then as Wimille somehow streaked past Nuvolari hit him in the tail and spun the Alfa right round so that the engine stalled.....
The next astonishing thing was that as he later came by the pits Nuvolari was shown the black flag with his number, which meant he had to stop instantly, but he took not the slightest notice and simply continued on his way. One can well imagine some poor little nivice being disqúalified altogether after such conduct but the great Tazio was not even penalized with a loss of time. I must confess that I have always been against one law for the poor as much as one law for the rich. The "great" in motor racing have so much in their favour already they might at least be required to keep the rules."

Edited by Ralf Pickel, 06 August 2010 - 08:18.


#6 kayemod

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 08:22

Are there any "unflawed geniuses"?


I'd agree about Fangio, but surely Sir Stirling is about as "unflawed" as it's possible to be. His only occasional failing was choosing to drive poor cars that weren't able to complement his talents.


#7 fuzzi

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 08:45

Tony Brooks

Jim Clark

Edited by fuzzi, 06 August 2010 - 08:46.


#8 Doug Nye

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 09:12

Err - what would be defined as 'flaws'????

Indecision? Obsessive fussiness? BO?

DCN

#9 kayemod

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 09:19

Err - what would be defined as 'flaws'????

Indecision? Obsessive fussiness? BO?

DCN


Wind?


#10 Vitesse2

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 09:33

Ralf: surely the point about the GP des Nations story is simply that he was Nuvolari? It was the first "proper" international race for seven years. Even then, it was "all about the show" and I'm sure Tazio considered that apart from the Alfas he actually was the show!

#11 Ralf Pickel

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 10:07

Probably right - which also coincides with his still flamboyant way of dressing up, as also described by Chula in his report.
My mentioning of this incident was also not meant to describe TN as flawed, just that even then sometimes the (still) "greats" had their debateable moments.

Edited by Ralf Pickel, 06 August 2010 - 10:09.


#12 Bauble

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 15:04

While I consider El Chueco as one of the three greatest ever drivers, he did know a few tricks learnt in his Argentine road racing days. Contemporary reports tell that during his epic win in the 1957 German Grand Prix, when passing Collins he drifted wide on the exit of the corner and showered the Ferrari driver with pebbles from beside the road, breaking Collins goggles. This was described as an old trick from his early days in stock cars used to discourage repassing attempts.

Mike Hawthorn describes how he braked late into a corner during the 1954 Spanish GP and waved Harry Schell by knowing that Harry would not be able to resist the invitation, thus ending up in the straw bales.

Tactics or bad behaviour ? Matter of opinion.

Good sports? Two instances I always remember. Moss wins the British Grand Prix ahead of team leader Fangio, did Juan let him win or was it a fair result? Fangio always said Stirling beat him on the day, and Stirling has always said he doesn't know.
Senna dominates the Japanese Grand Prix, way out in front on the last lap, then slows to a crawl approaching the last corner allowing Berger to catch up and pass to take the win. There was no doubt left in anybody's mind that it was a 'gift' to Berger. How patronising was that?

Perhaps in view of the original question we should reconsider Felipe Massa's actions in Germany.

Edited by Bauble, 06 August 2010 - 15:05.


#13 BRG

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 15:09

Ralf: surely the point about the GP des Nations story is simply that he was Nuvolari? It was the first "proper" international race for seven years. Even then, it was "all about the show" and I'm sure Tazio considered that apart from the Alfas he actually was the show!

Ah yes, the W.G.Grace defence ("they did not come here to see you bowl, sir, they came here to see me bat")

#14 Roger Clark

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 15:47

Ah yes, the W.G.Grace defence ("they did not come here to see you bowl, sir, they came here to see me bat")

Wasn't his remark addressed to the umpire who gave him out: "they came to see me bat, not you make a fool of yourself" One bowler who flattened all three of the Doctor's stumps turned to the umpire and said: "nearly got him that time".

#15 RStock

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 16:33

I feel a lot of the problem is the plethora of media studying every move of all drivers in later years culminating in the cameras on the cars now. I'm not defending current driving standards or decrying Fangio or Nuvolari, its just the drivers are subject to miniscule inspection of every move now, whereas in the early days it was seen only from a trackside point of view .
Wasn't Farina known to be a hard man to pass who would drive his opponents off the road if necessary.



I think that Nuvolari and Fangio were different though - Nuvolari a devil-may-care racer who was emotionally driven and Fangio a very calm, calculating professional, who was mentally driven.

It's also a good point that first of all, we don't know how many times Farina or Brabham pushed someone off the circuit because there is no video evidence, and the tales are long forgotten, secondly they didn't want to risk a collision because it could easily cost them their lives. It was a calculated risk, just like today, when the much safer cars and circuits give a completely different result for this calculation.


It's true that it is hard to judge modern drivers against ones from the days of yore, given how safety has improved and drivers in the past usually didn't risk dicey moves as it could well cost them their lives. But as ianselva pointed out, that didn't stop Farina.

And that we don't have video evidence is also a factor, however I figure TNF is the best place to get the actual truth of the matter. There have already been a couple of incidents mentioned that I didn't know, such as Tazio at the GP des Nations, and Fangio's little trick of scattering gravel. But even so, we don't really know if these actions were intentional, but perhaps someone can shed more light on them to further decide.

#16 RStock

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 17:00

I'd agree about Fangio, but surely Sir Stirling is about as "unflawed" as it's possible to be. His only occasional failing was choosing to drive poor cars that weren't able to complement his talents.


I actually thought of Sir Stirling. I don't know why I didn't include him. That post required a lot of thinking for my little head and it must have gotten lost in there. I also agree about Tony Brooks, but his career in F1/GP was rather short, so I suppose the determination to "stick with it" might count also.


Err - what would be defined as 'flaws'????

Indecision? Obsessive fussiness? BO?

DCN


It is a bit nebulous, isn't it? I suppose it is mostly on track actions that could be considered "dirty". But there is also the consideration of off track behaviour, as I mentioned with Prost.

And, I almost hate to broach the subject, but indecisivness could be a flaw, mostly concerning a driver who, for lack of a better way of putting it, "lost his nerve" and decided the risk was not worth the reward and quit early. Or those who were a bit timid on track due to the same.

Mike Hawthorn? He had some serious health concerns that I think helped lead to his decision to call it quits early, so I wouldn't count him as having decided that it wasn't worth it, though I've seen some say he did. I've read where driver deaths helped Sir Jackie call it a day early, but he had quite a career before that, and I can't fault him for that. There's is the extreme case such as Enzo in his driving days, who had his "crisis" before the French Grand Prix. I suppose that's what I mean by having lost their nerve.

And as I've already noted, I believe this is the proper place to find the real truth on these matters, as most bios and such are written with a favorable slant so that you don't get the full story. I'm interested to see what the folks here think on this subject, and I know I'll get honest opinion as well as fact.

So thanks to all who have replied, and to those that will. :up:

Edited by REDARMYSOJA, 06 August 2010 - 17:01.


#17 kayemod

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 17:08

I think we can all guess which names aren't going to be mentioned in this thread, not favourably at any rate.

#18 Doug Nye

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 17:11

Amongst road racing drivers regarded as best given a wide berth on track, the following spring to mind that I have either seen in (dire) action or have been told about:

1 - Farina
2 - Salvadori
3 - Mairesse (sheer wildness rather than excessively defensive thuggery)
4 - Siffert (last of the late brakers and often a weaving nightmare)
5 - Regazzoni
6 - V. Brambilla
7 - Patrese (excluding the celebrated Peterson accident for which he was wrongly ostracised)
8 - von Brauchitsch
9 - Reg Parnell (pre-war)
10 - Menditeguy

DCN

Edited by Doug Nye, 06 August 2010 - 17:14.


#19 Bauble

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 17:18

Amongst road racing drivers regarded as best given a wide berth on track, the following spring to mind that I have either seen in (dire) action or have been told about:

1 - Farina
2 - Salvadori
3 - Mairesse (sheer wildness rather than excessively defensive thuggery)
4 - Siffert (last of the late brakers and often a weaving nightmare)
5 - Regazzoni
6 - V. Brambilla
7 - Patrese (excluding the celebrated Peterson accident for which he was wrongly ostracised)
8 - von Brauchitsch
9 - Reg Parnell (pre-war)
10 - Menditeguy

DCN


Doug,
Obviously I do not know your sources, but from my recollection many of those you list were well known as 'hard chargers' rather than as 'dangerous'. Is this what you are implying?

Bauble.

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#20 kayemod

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 17:19

Amongst road racing drivers regarded as best given a wide berth on track, the following spring to mind that I have either seen in (dire) action or have been told about:


Didn't Graham Hill have a slightly dubious on-track reputation at times as well ?


#21 RStock

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 18:00

Doug,
Obviously I do not know your sources, but from my recollection many of those you list were well known as 'hard chargers' rather than as 'dangerous'. Is this what you are implying?

Bauble.


He might well be, but even so considering the same reasons I gave for Gilles and Bernd, over-exuberance could be considered a "flaw" and would exclude them from consideration. I'm suprised to see Siffert on that list. I didn't know that about him.

And, as an aside, kayemod, something about your avatar makes my screen do crazy little jumps whenever I scroll past it. Am I the only one having that problem?

#22 RStock

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 18:06

I think we can all guess which names aren't going to be mentioned in this thread, not favourably at any rate.


Indeed. But, that's the quandary. Where do we draw the line? How many incidents must occur before it is known as a habit, and a drivers gets the reputation for being "flawed"? For some drivers it's obvious, but for others, not so much.

#23 Doug Nye

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 18:13

Doug,
Obviously I do not know your sources, but from my recollection many of those you list were well known as 'hard chargers' rather than as 'dangerous'. Is this what you are implying?

Bauble.


No - liable to have you off if you approached too close, or looked like displacing them...and not apparently too concerned by the potential consequences.

Amongst this brief and non-prioritised list Seppi is probably the most marginal qualifier, I believe...but in Rob Walker's Lotus 49 especially he was notoriously unruly and unpredictable under braking.

Incidentally, I have omitted Black Jack simply because he was spectacularly unaware of some of the difficulties he caused others - or at least, that was the impression he cultivated! But I really don't think the would have clouted others intentionally, regardless of risk to them and to himself. He was always unpredictable, but really too good to resort to serious intimidation.

DCN

#24 Formula Once

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 18:23

As far as mental toughness goes, Niki Lauda must be among the toughest, whilst he was always fair on track, as Mario Andretti, for example, used to praise.

Regarding unflawed genius, there was never any, nor will there be. Fortunately.

Edited by Formula Once, 06 August 2010 - 18:24.


#25 h4887

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 19:36

And, as an aside, kayemod, something about your avatar makes my screen do crazy little jumps whenever I scroll past it. Am I the only one having that problem?



No, I always get that as well.

#26 CSquared

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 19:42

As far as mental toughness goes, Niki Lauda must be among the toughest, whilst he was always fair on track, as Mario Andretti, for example, used to praise.

Regarding unflawed genius, there was never any, nor will there be. Fortunately.

Lauda was (and is, I guess), without a doubt, amazingly tough, which makes some of his recollections from his autobiography of times when he "lost it" all the more remarkable. (The line I always remember is, "The rain has destroyed me.") To realize you're losing it and be able to talk yourself down and continue while making everyone else think you're a machine, is, in my opinion, the utmost in tough.

My short answer to the original question: Lauda.

#27 Chezrome

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Posted 06 August 2010 - 19:59

Lauda was (and is, I guess), without a doubt, amazingly tough, which makes some of his recollections from his autobiography of times when he "lost it" all the more remarkable. (The line I always remember is, "The rain has destroyed me.") To realize you're losing it and be able to talk yourself down and continue while making everyone else think you're a machine, is, in my opinion, the utmost in tough.

My short answer to the original question: Lauda.


Mmm. I am a Lauda-fan, but Lauda himself has said recently that he has done much worse things than Hamilton during races but that there were simply not so many camera's around so he could get away with it. (So I was rather suprised about his criticism of Schumacher)

On the other hand: if someone can post ONE trustworthy quote about Jacky Stewart or Jim Stewart pushing/shoving/blocking another competitor, I'll eat my straw hat.



#28 Simon Davis

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Posted 07 August 2010 - 11:53

No - liable to have you off if you approached too close, or looked like displacing them...and not apparently too concerned by the potential consequences.


DCN



Sounds like Senna and Schumacher should be added to Doug's list...

#29 SJ Lambert

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Posted 07 August 2010 - 12:18

Black Jack tended not to crack under pressure - he could be added to the list (that is Redarmysoja's lead post).

Neither did the Bear - they all have a shadow cast on them by Jim Clark though..............

Edited by SJ Lambert, 07 August 2010 - 12:22.


#30 kayemod

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Posted 07 August 2010 - 12:52

I posted earlier that I thought Graham Hill had a slightly dubious reputation at times as regards his on-track behaviour, and I've just found this quote from Sir Stirling that supports that, this is a quote from Motor Sport sometime last year.

"...a driver who achieved more with less ability than most...he wasn't one of the fastest by quite a long way...I have great respect for his ability but not so much for his speed. Graham could be quite dirty, but I don't think he would seriously push you off. I had my worst accident passing him, but I don't think he would jeopardise anyone on purpose. He would just make it as difficult as he could."

I was a bit surprised to read this, but I'm sure I've read other SCM quotes where he hints that NGH might not have been entirely blameless as regards his career-ending 1962 Goodwood crash.

Overall, I'd have rated Graham higher than that, but who am I to argue with The Master.

Any comments?

#31 Mansell4PM

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Posted 07 August 2010 - 14:11

Black Jack tended not to crack under pressure - he could be added to the list (that is Redarmysoja's lead post).

Neither did the Bear - they all have a shadow cast on them by Jim Clark though..............


On the occasion Sir Jack did crack it was a biggie though - Monaco 1970. Perhaps understandable though, as this came near the very end of his illustrious career, when he supposedly knew in his heart of hearts it was time to call it a day.

#32 D-Type

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Posted 07 August 2010 - 16:58

Top racing drivers are not like normal mortals.

To get to the top they must firstly have the ability to drive a car fast. But that isn't enough, they need a particular mental attitude which is hard to pin down or define. Single mindedness. A competitive streak - but more than that, maybe a will to win. maybe a will to win regardless of the costs. Strong self belief: beyond mere self confidence and hard to explain. In some cases this spills over into arrogance or being a "primadonna". In Senna's case his reported belief that he was "favoured by the creator". Some drivers have been too much of a "nice guy" to be a real winner. Drivers, during their active career seldom seem be the type of person "you would like to know" - it's only when they retire and the competitive edge is blunted that they become "likeable characters". I know what I'm trying to say but can't put it into words.

What would be a character flaw in the normal world can be a virtue in a driver. We have to judge them by the standards of their world and not our world.

#33 Doug Nye

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Posted 07 August 2010 - 19:47

Sounds like Senna and Schumacher should be added to Doug's list...


:lol: List was "apart from the self-evidently bleedin' obvious"... :cool:

DCN


#34 Ray Bell

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Posted 07 August 2010 - 21:00

Originally posted by Mansell4PM
On the occasion Sir Jack..... supposedly knew in his heart of hearts it was time to call it a day.


Jack actually didn't want to retire, he didn't feel he was done yet...

I think Doug will confirm that. He retired because of pressure from his wife.

#35 Rob Miller

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Posted 07 August 2010 - 23:34

Dan Gurney

The only minus point is his wasting of Champagne.

#36 RStock

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Posted 08 August 2010 - 00:03

Top racing drivers are not like normal mortals.

To get to the top they must firstly have the ability to drive a car fast. But that isn't enough, they need a particular mental attitude which is hard to pin down or define. Single mindedness. A competitive streak - but more than that, maybe a will to win. maybe a will to win regardless of the costs. Strong self belief: beyond mere self confidence and hard to explain. In some cases this spills over into arrogance or being a "primadonna". In Senna's case his reported belief that he was "favoured by the creator". Some drivers have been too much of a "nice guy" to be a real winner. Drivers, during their active career seldom seem be the type of person "you would like to know" - it's only when they retire and the competitive edge is blunted that they become "likeable characters". I know what I'm trying to say but can't put it into words.

What would be a character flaw in the normal world can be a virtue in a driver. We have to judge them by the standards of their world and not our world.


This is not meant to judge anyones character. But it is relevent to the discussion to question if nice guys do indeed finish last. Senna and Schumacher both have the record to show that there is something to be said for being ruthless. But, dealing in hypotheticals now, if we took all the "greats" and they competed a full season against each other, would those proclivities that the aforementioned possess be an aid or a hinderence? Would fellows such as Moss, Fangio etc. have an edge in that they wouldn't likely get involved in a war on track, but instead stick to the business at hand and merely drive the car to the best of their ability? Perhaps faced with a Senna or Schumacher they too might "break" and resort to the same tactics, if push came to shove. But opposed to Schu and Senna, these others have the record that shows they wouldn't, and that is also a path to success.

I suppose, what it all boils down to, is that I'd like to think that these "clean" drivers would have the advantage, and would drive off into the distance while the others were busy banging wheels and such. I was also curious whether there were indeed successful drivers who have "clean hands", or is everyone a bit flawed. So far other than an isolated incident apiece for Fangio and Nuvolari there are such drivers. Then we have the evidently even more virtuous Sir Stirling, Clark, and others. It looks like the "good guys" are winning, and I suppose I'm looking for that assurance.

#37 Glengavel

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Posted 08 August 2010 - 21:16

Dan Gurney

The only minus point is his wasting of Champagne.


Never understood this reverence for fizzy plonk. Now, if it had been an Islay malt...

#38 Les

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Posted 08 August 2010 - 21:58

:lol: List was "apart from the self-evidently bleedin' obvious"... :cool:

DCN


Don't forget Prost he may have been the victim at Suzuka 90 but he had his moments.

Anyway we could almost have said Adrian Newey had it not been for his pursuit of speed over reliability and his penchant for crashing in lower level racing... Maybe Ross Brawn? That's if non-drivers are allowed?

Contenders for genius in F1 anyway if not as drivers.

Edited by Les, 08 August 2010 - 22:00.


#39 eibyyz

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Posted 09 August 2010 - 01:58

Dan Gurney

The only minus point is his wasting of Champagne.


Dan was before my time, but I agree that I've never heard anything said about his driving.

I can't think of any recent F1 driver who is entirely pure as the driven snow--it's not part of the job description. Viz. Brawn's assessment of Schu's deal with Rubens.

I can't think I ever saw Boutsen drive anything other than in a fair manner.

And on my side of the Atlantic, Rick Mears comes to mind.


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#40 Ray Bell

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Posted 09 August 2010 - 07:44

If we're mentioning Mears, why not recall Mark Donohue?

He was known as 'Captain Nice' after all...

I think we should get him nominated into the 'adaptable' thread as well.

#41 kayemod

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Posted 09 August 2010 - 08:29

I think we should get him nominated into the 'adaptable' thread as well.


And Denny Hulme is another candidate for both the 'clean' and 'adaptable' threads.


#42 Chezrome

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Posted 09 August 2010 - 12:32

If we're mentioning Mears, why not recall Mark Donohue?

He was known as 'Captain Nice' after all...

I think we should get him nominated into the 'adaptable' thread as well.


Eehm... well... I am a big fan of Donohue, but he had his tricks... if you trust 'The Unfair Advantage' enough to believe the stories therein...