Teddy Mayer died last week. He was one of the group of friends who started the McLaren team with Bruce McLaren and built it up into an organisation that ran at the top of Formula One, Indy cars, Can-Am sports cars and Formula 5000. Like Jack Brabham, Bruce had learnt about the fundamentals of race car design during the years he spent with the Cooper team which changed the shape of the Formula 1 car from their little base in Surbiton. Brabham and McLaren both became top teams, and both can trace their ancestry back to Surbiton and the way the two Cooper brothers had tackled the business of building racing cars in a completely new way.
Teddy Mayer was in at the birth of McLaren. He guided it through the desperate days after Bruce was killed testing a Can-Am car at Goodwood, and helped build it up to the very top of Formula One. Like all teams there were poor years. When the team was struggling with a difficult car and their world-championship winning driver James Hunt was losing his motivation and becoming increasingly frightened by the dangers of the sport, a group of plotters hijacked the company. Ron Dennis got together with Marlboro, the team’s sponsor, and used the threat of withdrawl of funds to bring off a hostile takeover of McLaren. Like everyone else, including Bruce McLaren’s widow, Mayer was soon ejected from Ron’s new team, which has continued to enjoy great success but which has a very different feel from the old McLaren. The full account of this hostile takeover and the aftermath has yet to be written but it would make an interesting story. It would not be about sport in any sense of the word.
In view of this history it is ironic that the first tribute to Teddy Mayer that I read was attributed to Ron Dennis, who was his nemesis at McLaren. Mayer went on, of course to further success with the Penske team in the USA. What I suggest my reader should do is first to read the tribute made by Emerson Fittipaldi. Next look at the wonderful collection of historic photographs on the official F1 website. A picture does often tell so much more than words. In all of the photos Mayer looks (how can I put this?) ‘unbuttoned’. This was the post ‘60s era and it was the fashion to have a relaxed style. Mayer always looks relaxed. What a clash of personalities there must have been with the young Ron Dennis: workaholic, driven by a desire to prove himself to the world by accumulating money, hostile to the hippy style that was everywhere at the time, and resentful towards those who adopted it. The new ‘owner’ Ron set out to purge the team of everyone who made him uncomfortable in this way.
This set of images is an excellent celebration of Teddy Mayer’s time in F1, but also a wonderful evocation of a vanished era in the sport. I hope you enjoy looking at them. I feel that the most poignant image is the shot of Mayer with Dennis. Dennis is dapper with his anorak tightly zipped up and is posing for the shot, his eyes fixed on a point in the sky as if looking at his dream of future power and wealth. It is a pose that Ron adopts occasionally to this day. Teddy is looking at Ron as if at a wayward young child who is developing a difficult personality. It is not a hostile look but one that seems to me to be both sympathetic and coloured by disappointment. Ron is probably thinking that Teddy should try to smarten up his team uniform. I never met Mayer but I am certain that it was my loss never to have done so.
The World Championship and the alternative scoring system
Here at last is my tabulation of the Word Drivers’ Championship results scored not on a points system, but simply by results over the Grand Prix races of each season. Drivers who simply accumulate a lot of points finishes cannot overtake drivers who have finished higher up the field in any of the races, and the winner of the championship each year cannot be a man who has fewer wins than someone else. No matter how you fiddle with the points awarded for wins and places you can never match the purity of this system. I believe that it gives a correct reflection of the real relative performances of all the drivers in each season, whereas the points systems that have been applied will always distort the results in favour of those who have placed consistently rather than run right at the front.
I present three tables. The first shows the first three drivers in each year, using the result-based (or medal) system. The second is a list of drivers ranked according to the total number of championships they have won. The third table is my own personal favourite. It shows the total years from a drivers first to last appearance in the top three positions. I think that it is a very good indication of the impact these people have made on the sport and it recognises the competitiveness of many drivers who never actually manage to win the championship itself. I never involve myself in arguments about the relative greatness of drivers as I think that such discussions are pointless. But I would point to these three tables as holding an objective key to this debate. I note with interest how a driver like Alain Prost, who some people criticised for being more interested in points than wins, actually would have had even more success under this scoring system. Whether you want to change things or not I hope that you will find the tables of interest. The collation of the data was difficult and I am sure that I must have made many errors. Please feel free to let me know about any mistakes that you spot, and I will update and correct the tables.
Table 1: The Real World Drivers’ Championship: Results based on wins taking trumps, then second places, etc. Drivers dropped from top three are noted. Where this system creates a change the ‘official’ FIA points-based position appears in brackets. Drivers who were in the top three in the FIA points but have been dropped under this system are named in small print.
Year, World Champion, Runner up, Third place
1950 Nino Farina, Juan Manuel Fangio, Luigi Fagioli
1951 Juan Manuel Fangio, Alberto Ascari, Oscar Gonzalez
1952 Alberto Ascari, Piero Taruffi (3), Nino Farina (2)
1953 Alberto Ascari, Nino Farina (3), Juan Manuel Fangio (2)
1954 Juan Manuel Fangio, Mike Hawthorn (3), Oscar Gonzalez (2)
1955 Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Maurice Trintignant (4) drops Castellotti
1956 Stirling Moss (2), Juan Manuel Fangio (1), Peter Collins
1957 Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Luigi Musso
1958 Stirling Moss (2), Tony Brooks (3), Mike Hawthorn (1)
1959 Jack Brabham, Tony Brooks, Stirling Moss
1960 Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss (3), Bruce McLaren (2)
1961 Phil Hill, Wolfgang von Trips, Stirling Moss
1962 Graham Hill, Jim Clark, Bruce McLaren
1963 Jim Clark, Graham Hill, John Surtees (4) drops Ginther
1964 Jim Clark (3), John Surtees (1), Graham Hill (2)
1965 Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart
1966 Jack Brabham, John Surtees, Jim Clark (6) drops Rindt
1967 Jim Clark (3), Jack Brabham, Denny Hulme (1)
1968 Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Denny Hulme
1969 Jackie Stewart, Jackie Ickx, Jochen Rindt (4) drops McLaren
1970 Jochen Rindt ,Jacky Ickx, Clay Regazzoni
1971 Jackie Stewart, Francois Cevert (3), Jacky Ickx (4) drops Peterson
1972 Emerson Fittipaldi Jackie Stewart Denny Hulme
1973 Jackie Stewart, Ronnie Peterson (3), Emerson Fittipaldi (2)
1974 Emerson Fittipaldi, Ronnie Peterson (5) drops Reggazoni, Carlos Reuteman (6) drops Scheckter
1975 Niki Lauda, Emerson Fittipaldi, Carlos Reutemann
1976 James Hunt, Niki Lauda, Jody Scheckter
1977 Mario Andretti (3), Niki Lauda (1), Jody Scheckter (2)
1978 Mario Andretti, Carlos Reutemann (3), Ronnie Peterson (2)
1979 Alan Jones (3), Giles Villeneuve, Jody Scheckter (1)
1980 Alan Jones, Nelson Piquet, Rene Arnoux (6) drops Reutemann
1981 Alain Prost (5), Nelson Piquet (1), Carlos Reutemann (2) drops Jones
1982 Didier Pironi (2) drops Rosberg, John Watson (3), Alain Prost (4)
1983 Alain Prost (2), Nelson Piquet (1), Rene Arnoux
1984 Alain Prost (2), Niki Lauda (1), Nelson Piquet (5) drops de Angelis
1985 Alain Prost, Michele Alboreto, Ayrton Senna (4) drops Rosberg
1986 Nigel Mansell (2), Alain Prost (1), Nelson Piquet
1987 Nigel Mansell (2), Nelson Piquet (1), Alain Prost (4) drops Senna
1988 Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Gerhard Berger
1989 Ayrton Senna (2), Alain Prost (1) Nigel Mansell (4) drops Patrese
1990 Ayrton Senna, Alain Pros,t Nelson Piquet
1991 Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Ricardo Patrese
1992 Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna (4) drops Patrese, Gerhard Berger (5) drops M Schumacher
1993 Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Damon Hill
1994 Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill, Gerhard Berger
1995 Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill, Johnny Herbert (4) drops Coulthard
1996 Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve, Michael Schumacher
1997 Jacques Villeneuve, Michael Schumacher (X) drops Frentzen, David Coulthard
1998 Mika Hakkinen, Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard
1999 Mika Hakkinen, Eddie Irvine, Michael Schumacher (5) drops Frentzen
2000 Michael Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen, David Coulthard
2001 Michael Schumacher, Ralf Schumacher (4), David Coulthard (2) drops Barrichello
2002 Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello, Ralf Schumacher (4) drops Montoya
2003 Michael Schumacher, Juan Pablo Montoya (3) drops Raikkonen, Rubens Barrichello (4)
2004 Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello, Kimi Raikkonen (7) drops Button
2005 Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Juan Pablo Montoya (4) drops M Schumacher
2006 Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher, Felipe Massa
2007 Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso
2008 Felipe Massa (2), Lewis Hamilton (1), Kimi Raikonnen
Table 2: Drivers by Championships Won
(then by 2nd & 3rd, then by seniority)
1 Schumacher 7 (+ 3×2 & 1×3)
2 Prost 5 (+ 4×2 & 2×3)
3 Fangio 4 (+2×2 &1×3)
Senna 4 (+2×2 & 1×3)
5 Clark 4 + 1×2 1×3
6 Stewart 3 + 2×2
7 Mansell 3 + 1×2 1×3
8 Brabham 3 + 1×2
9 Moss 2 + 3×2 2×3
10 Graham Hill 2 + 2×2 1×3
11 Fittipaldi 2 + 1×2 1×3
12 Ascari 2 + 1×2
Hakkinen 2 + 1×2
14 Alonso 2 1×3
15 Andretti 2
17 Lauda 1 + 3×2
18 Damon Hill 1 + 2×2 1×3
19 Farina 1 + 1×2 1×3
Raikkonen 1 + 1×2 1×3
21 Rindt 1 + 1×3
Massa 1 + 1×3
23 Phil Hill 1
J Villeneuve 1
Big losers & winners from this system of scoring:
Prost now has 5 championships, 3 of them consecutive.
Senna now has 4 consecutive championship wins.
Clark now has 4 championships.
Mansell now has 3 championships.
Moss now has 2 championships (instead of none).
Jones now has 2 championships.
In 2001 Ralf Schumacher gains second place behind his brother: a unique event. He also gains a third place.
Fangio loses one of his championships.
Brabham loses one of his championships.
Lauda loses two of his championships.
Piquet loses both of his championships.
Hawthorn, Surtees, Hulme, Scheckter, and Rosberg, have all now lost their single championship victories.
de Angelis, Button, Castellotti, Ginther, Frentzen, and Keke Rosberg, are dropped from any top three position.
The more I look at it the more I think that this way of scoring championships and presenting statistics gives a more accurate reflection of the real history of the seasons than any of the conventional points system that have been used.
Table 3: Longevity as a Top Contender: the number of years (inclusive) from a driver’s first to last appearance in the top three positions may be a good indication of their lasting impact on the sport. Seniority resolves ties.
Graham Hill 7
Damon Hill 4
Ralf Schumacher 2
J Villeneuve 2
If it is difficult to become a Formula 1 driver, it an even greater achievement to win a top three position on this championship scoring system, which rewards wins in particular rather than consistent points finishes. The table above recognises the significance of anyone who has achieved a top three finish more than once, and also indicates the importance of many drivers who were genuine front runners over several seasons even though the top prize eluded them.
Fatal accidents cut short the careers of Ascari, Clark, McLaren, Musso, Peterson, Rindt, Senna, and von Tripps, while they still had potential to move higher. Serious injury cut short Moss’s career, as well as that of Pironi.
Hakkinen, Hawthorn, Michael Schumacher, Stewart, and Fittipaldi, could have raced on for longer and achieved even more had they not chosen to retire from F1. Montoya fell out with Ron Dennis and left F1 prematurely.
Massa, Alonso, and Raikkonen, will probably move higher. Lewis Hamilton seems certain to rise much further, having placed within the first three in both of his first two seasons in F1.