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The Greatest Driver of All-Time


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#1 Joe Fan

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Posted 10 September 2001 - 20:45

I happened to see a post over on another thread that seemed be the start-up to the debate over who was the greatest driver of all-time. Well, aside from the fact that is it difficult to compare drivers from different eras, it is also difficult to compare drivers from completely different series.

For the sake of a good debate, I find it hard to rank any F1 driver ahead of Juan Manuel Fangio, who has plenty of documentation that he was faster than anyone else in his era, even compared to the greats in the same car. Just as important, Fangio also won a WDC almost every year he competed full-time in F1. No one has been able to match his record of five WDCs but it appears that Michael Schumacher has an excellent chance to match and the surpass Fangio's 5 WDCs. But he will have required quite a few more seasons in order to do so.

However, Juan Manuel Fangio was also very good in sports cars but he was in no way the greatest sports car driver of his era. He didn't like Le Mans-type starts, he was't thrilled about racing at night and he initially had some difficulty adjusting to the streamlined versions of the Mercedes-Benz W196. There is little doubt that Stirling Moss was better in a sports car than Fangio.

So who is really the greatest driver of all-time? The above example only scratches the surface on how difficult and impossible this would be to say with any great certainty. As much as anything, it depends on what your standards and definitions would be for "the greatest driver."

So who really is the greatest driver(s) of all-time?;)

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#2 rdrcr

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Posted 10 September 2001 - 20:59

Hey Joe,

IMHO - The driver is.... Mario Andretti.

There are probably more "brilliant" drivers or more "gifted" drivers i.e. Jim Clark or Ayrton Senna... But the more I thought about it...and reluctantly, I've come to this conclusion.

I mean the guy won on dirt tracks, ovals, street courses and road courses. He won in front-engined cars, and rear-engined cars. He won in stock cars (Daytona 500), Midgets, Sprinters, USAC, CART, endurance cars and F1. Hell, he even won the Pikes Peak Hill climb one year.

The guy sat on pole in his very first F1 race. He he didn't start racing in F1 full-time until his mid-30's so no one knows how good he really could have been.

A hint of how much better he was when he was young came in 1968, at the age of 28, when he put the Lotus on pole the first time out.

He won many other poles in his F1 career and would have been world champion in 1977 too had it not been for his unreliable engine. IMO.

Mario even won a Champ Car race when he was something like 52 years old.

thus, I'd say he was the best all-around driver... and probably by a wide margin. And he did it coming from a poor family with absolutely no money to back him. He got where he got on raw talent alone... the way it should be.

I'm not the only one who feels this way... Nigel Roebuck also has stated that the best all around driver in history is Mario Andretti.

Hate to admit it but his record speaks for itself...

Regards -

rdrcr

#3 Wolf

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Posted 10 September 2001 - 21:03

If we're taking open-wheelers, sport cars, rallies, world record attempts, endurance events- I'm biassed and would say Moss. But TBH, I think that Fangio's pre-GP South American career contains some pretty demanding races, and is generally underestimated...

#4 Kpy

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Posted 10 September 2001 - 21:13

Hate to disagree, but if not Fangio, then Moss.

If Andretti had won the Mille Miglia or shone in the Targa Florio, won GPs against all odds in underpowered cars, then maybe. He never did.

He's good pals with Roebuck though.

#5 Hans Etzrodt

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Posted 10 September 2001 - 21:37

Originally posted by Joe Fan
So who really is the greatest driver(s) of all-time?;)

Joe,
We discussed that topic already here: http://www.atlasf1.c...=Tazio Nuvolari

#6 dmj

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Posted 11 September 2001 - 10:14

It isn't possible to claim that one driver is greatest, but if we compare achievements in different categories, than Jacky Ickx is much closer to the top of such a list than his F1 career would put him. He even won a Paris-Dakkar rally!

#7 Joe Fan

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Posted 11 September 2001 - 10:19

Hans, so I take it that you think it was Nuvolari? :)

He was one of the "GREATS" too that should be very high up on everybody's list.

rdrcr, Mario ranks way up on my list too but his problem was that he was often too hard on his equipment. Foyt was equally adept at getting into anything on four wheels and putting it up front too and he had more mechanical sympathy than Mario.

Really, it is hard to come up with a GREATEST driver because it depends on what your definition is. Take for example, Tony Stewart. He has proven to be the most versatile driver in the motorsports world today, able to hop into an IRL car, sprint car or stock car and instantly be very competitive in them. He also won a Winston Cup road race in only his third ever road course start competing against some experienced road racers. As far as versatility and adatability, no driver has proven to be in Stewart's league today. However, Tony Stewart is not the best driver in Winston Cup yet. He is not as good as Gordon or Jarrett in a Cup car and it is still debatable that he is really better than his teammate Bobby Labonte.

#8 Martyj

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Posted 12 September 2001 - 16:05

Over the years I have given this subject a lot of thought. I don't have the time or energy to write the many paragraphs it takes to explain my formula for arriving at the greatest driver (plus, it pains me to admit it, considering I don't like him and alway rooted AGAINST this guy), but the greatest race car driver of all time is.....A.J. Foyt.

#9 Chris Skepis

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Posted 13 September 2001 - 02:03

Just a quick list
1. Jim Clark
2. Stirling Moss
3. J.M. Fangio
4. Ayrton Senna
5. Dan Gurney
6. Jackie Stewart
7. Jochen Rindt
8. Ronnie Peterson
9. Pedro Rodriguez
10. Jo Siffert
The bravest of them all: Nikki Lauda. (less than six weeks after he died, he was back !!!)

#10 moody

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Posted 13 September 2001 - 05:41

..if I were pushed on ths subject I would have to say Jimmy Clark.
..however, I can't discount the competition the so called great drivers had against them.
..Fangio in my opinion didn't have a lot of competition once Ascari was gone, apart from Moss for the distinction as greatest driver. Clark was the next best candidate and he had Hill, Gurney, Surtees and Stewart till he died. Then Jackie of course and then Senna, Prost and Schumacher who have all had the most competition I feel.
..there is one other considertation of course. If Surtees pehaps had the Lotus 25 in 63 or Gurney, would Clark have still had the success he had, this applies to the other drivers.
..in my book Michael Schumacher is just a stunning racing driver and I count myself lucky to be able to watch him drive.
..we can ramble on and on about this subject, one cannot discount the greatest of the Rally drivers who I am astonished by time and time again.
...what is he getting at I hear you ask.
Jim Clark was my greatest because he was my hero and I have had others since him, but he is mt favourite.
in reality the identity of the true greatest is as untouchable as the wind, you will never tie it down.
in no particular order here is 10 from me

CLARK
GURNEY
STEWART
ASCARI
FANGIO
MIKKOLA
SENNA
PROST
SCHUMACHER
ANDRETTI
NUVOLARI
the list should be much longer because in reality I can't believe there is a true greatest, not in black and white anyway, perhaps somewhere in the back of beyond there is a plaque with a name on it (probably one none of us would recognise) with the title of greatest driver on it.
wish it was me!!

#11 Hans Etzrodt

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Posted 13 September 2001 - 06:01

Originally posted by Joe Fan
Hans, so I take it that you think it was Nuvolari?.....

Joe,
Yes, you got that right. In my opinion, Nuvolari was the greatest driver ever and he will never be surpassed by any modern driver, even by my own Landsmann, should he amass as many as 75 GP wins.

FIRST
I have followed GP racing very, very closely ever since 1951. I was 13 at that time. I adored Ascari, Fangio and Moss - my heroes. Later I talked with Clark, Brabham, Ickx, Rodriguez, Rindt, Stewart, Mass, Andretti and others. But early on I found out that there had been over 50 years grand prix racing before 1951 and this is the era where I spend most of my free time nowadays. After having shelled out thousands of dollars on loads of books and copying magazines at several places to establish my own library in my isolated quarters, I think I am able to compare both, the fist 50 with the second 50 years, in an objective way. I came to the conclusion that the first 50 must have been the better years of RACING.

SECOND
I believe that comparing stock car/oval drivers with grand prix and/or sports car drivers is a rather difficult exercise and therefore I gave up on that, not wanting to waste too much of my time on this senseless exercise. The next best thing was to concentrate on the pinnacle of the sport, which is obviously Grand Prix racing. This is a subject that mystified many enthusiasts and although knowledgeable people like Stirling Moss have said that one cannot compare grand prix drivers from various eras, I did pursue this obsession of mine.

THIRD
I still believe that a comparison of grand prix drivers over the various eras is possible, even if sportsmanship has now been replaced with earning-power. At the end of the day we look at who won the race and generally don’t spend too much time with the other drivers. The guy with the laurel wreath gets hailed. Therefore I persisted, spending endless hours with my obsession and finally told you all about it two months ago here: http://www.atlasf1.c...&threadid=24809

#12 Joe Fan

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Posted 13 September 2001 - 13:45

HANS, Nuvolari is way up on my lists of great drivers, easily in the top five. However, I haven't had the time to research his career in depth and I really have a different definition of what constitutes the greatest driver.

I prefer to see a driver master several forms of motorsport, and at the same time show that they were naturally fast from the get-go in several types of cars and both ovals and road circuits. However, this restricts the lists considerably down to drivers like Foyt, Andretti, Clark, Gurney etc. Even at that, I like Jimmy Clark and Dan Gurney quite a bit but they were not as naturally quick from the get-go as people think. I have both of their race records and neither driver was as naturally fast as my hometown hero Masten Gregory was out of the shoots when you factored in the machinery they were driving.

#13 Chris Skepis

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Posted 13 September 2001 - 15:20

Hey Moody
Who is Mikkola ?

#14 Darren Galpin

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Posted 13 September 2001 - 15:25

Hannu Mikkola, Finnish rally driver?

#15 LittleChris

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Posted 13 September 2001 - 15:41

Phew,

I thought he may have meant Ananda Mikkola ( Not sure on spelling ), aka crap F3000 driver .

:D

#16 dmj

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Posted 13 September 2001 - 15:42

I never could see what makes Hannu Mikkola the very best rally driver of all time (even Motorsport magazine claimed it). But even if he is, was he so much better than Rohrl, Vatanen, Kankkunen... that he is the only rally driver in top 10? It seems unlogical to me. If we include rally drivers in such a list, ratio 9:1 (GP/rally drivers) seems very unfair.

#17 moody

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Posted 14 September 2001 - 02:03

..dmj, please don't take much notice of my list, it was merely my way of illustrating the point I was trying to make that finding the best was futile.
..it is a grand subject for us enthusiasts of course, and I totally agree with you that Kankkunen, Vatanen even Erik Carlsson should not be discounted from consideration. I loved the way Henri Toivanen drove too.
..before the 1950's is there anyone who would disagree that Nuvolari was the best?
..Schumacher and others in recent times benefitted from fantastic grip from the cars, Nuvolari perhaps would have made a great rally driver too.
...I loved Jim Clark...

#18 bobbo

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Posted 14 September 2001 - 12:52

Hi, guys!!

Guess we all have our own criteria of what makes the "Greatest Driver of All Time", so let's take these polls with a grain of salt until a generally accepted "standard of comparison and judgement" can be developed (if it ever can!). Hey, I STILL think that DAN GURNEY is the greatest ever! !:p

I just feel that this is nothing less than SHEER FUN! It shows how we can have differing opinions, disagree (vigorously at times!!) and still get along.
'
That's what (TNF) Community is all about.

Thanks everyone, for having and sharing opinions!

Bobbo

#19 dmj

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Posted 14 September 2001 - 13:02

I agree with you, Bobbo. Anyway, I think that a great driver should be really good in any form of autosport. I think in recent years we had some good examples: Walter Rohrl and Jean Ragnotti excelled on Tour Auto, even on circuits, where they humiliated drivers of more powerful cars, especially in rain. I think Martin Brundle wasn't bad in rallying, too.
BTW, I don't think that any of tham is a sensible favorite for title of The Greatest, but thay all are pretty good racing drivers...

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#20 calissa

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Posted 15 September 2001 - 14:36

First of all, I have to say that I'm not interested in other racing series - I'm just a formula one fan . So ,for me it's difficult to say , who was the greatest racing driver ever . But I think the best formula one driver (some of you will already know my answer) was Senna ;)

#21 Chris Skepis

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Posted 15 September 2001 - 15:57

I agree with you Bobbo,
the only one who could draw levels with Clark was Gurney. I am sure if he was more comited to Europe insted to the American races, he would be a World Champion specially when he drove for Brabham. If he had stay with Black Jack for the 1966/67 seasons, certainly motor racing history would be very different.

#22 rdrcr

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Posted 15 September 2001 - 21:29

I think the thread is titled The Greatest Driver of All-time... not the Greatest F1 driver of All-Time.

I'll let Joe Fan speak for himself but that is the way I read it.

I've made arguments as to my pick and even though Andretti may have been hard on his equipment, his success at driving spans many different types of cars, formats, series and time.

A test of the statement, "Greatest Driver of All-Time" for me, is the driver's versatility, adaptability and his results... I think that sums it up.