Second But Never Champion – F1’s nearly men!


Everyone remembers a champion.  From Giuseppe Farina in the first season in 1950 to Sebastian Vettel in 2012, the champions get all the credit.  However there is more to it than that.  Here are all the drivers who came runner up in the Formula 1 World Championship but never got a Championship themselves.  Over the years there have only been 18 drivers who came close but never got to call themselves the champ.

Jose Froilan Gonzalez
– Argentina
Runner-up: 1954

Runner-up to his fellow Argentine, the legendary Juan-Manuel Fangio in 1954, Gonzalez won the British Grand Prix and grabbed four other podiums (two of which were in shared drives with Mike Hawthorn).  Finished with 25 1/7 points (1 point was awarded for fastest lap, however SEVEN drivers shared it and got 1/7 each!) to Fangio’s 42.

Gonzales made his debut in the second ever F1 race in Monaco 1950, and raced Maserati’s, Talbot-Lago’s, Ferrari’s, Vanwalls and Lancias in his career that lasted to 1960.  He only won twice in 26 starts, once in 1951 and the other in 1954.  Towards the end of his career, he only competed in his home grand prix.  He scored a total of 77 9/14 points, of which only 72 1/7 counted due to dropping results.

Stirling Moss – Great Britain
Runner up: 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958

The driver many say was the best driver never to win the World Championship, Moss was runner-up to Juan-Manuel Fangio on three occasions, with the Mike Hawthorn winning in 1958.  In 1955 he won his home grand prix in Britain and had two other podium finshes, ending up 17 points behind Fangio (40 to 23).  1956 was a closer affair, Moss only losing by three points (30 to 27) winning twice (Monaco & Monza).  Fangio stretched it back out to 15 points (40 to 25) in 1957, yet Moss still managed to win three times, at Silverstone, Pescara & Monza.  Four race wins in 1958 wasn’t enough to win the title as Mike Hawthorn pipped him 42 points to 41.

In his career, Moss raced for Mercedes-Benz, Maserati, Vanwall, Cooper, Lotus & HWM.  In 66 starts, he won 16 times, and was regarded by Fangio as his greatest rival.  He scored a total of 186 9/14 points of which 185 9/14 counted towards the championship.  He raced between 1951 until a crash in 1961 curtailed his racing career.

Tony Brooks – Great Britain
Runner up: 1959

Runner-up to the legendary Australian Jack Brabham in 1959, Brooks won twice in his Ferrari, once in France and again in Germany, with two other podium finishes, but missed out on the championship by 4 points (31 to 27) after retiring on three occasions during the season.

Brooks competed in Formula One between the years of 1956 and 1961, winning 6 times, and driving for teams including BRM, Vanwall, Ferrari and Cooper.  He scored a total of 75 career points, and retired at the end of 1961 after finishing on the podium in the United States.

Bruce McLaren
– New Zealand
Runner up: 1960

Another driver to finish runner-up to Jack Brabham, McLaren only won once (in Argentina) during the 1960 season, finishing on the podium on five other occasions.  He missed out on the championship by nine points, finishing on 34 points compared to Brabham’s 43.  A retirement in the Netherlands was his only blemish in a season he finished every other F1 race he competed in the top four.

In a career spanning twelve years from 1958 to his tragic death in 1970, he won four races, finished on the podium on 27 other occasions, and scored a total of 196.5 points, of which 188.5 counted towards the championship,  McLaren’s greatest achievement though was to win a race in a car baring his own name, having created a team in 1965, a team that still races to this day – McLaren.

Wolfgang von Trips
– Germany
Runner up: 1961

The German finished runner-up to American Phil Hill in 1961 after losing his life in a crash with Jim Clark at Monza in the penultimate race of the season.  He had won two races up that point in the Netherlands and in Great Britain, and only missed out on the championship by a single point as Hill won the Monza race that cost von Trips everything.

Wolfgang von Trips competed in 27 Grand Prix between 1956 & 1961, winning twice and finishing on the podium on six other occasions, scoring 56 career points.  He drove for Porsche, Scuderia Centro Sud and Ferrari in his shortened career.

Jacky Ickx
– Belgium
Runner up: 1969, 1970

Ickx is one of the few drivers to finish runner up on more than one occasion, doing so in consecutive years in 1969 to Jackie Stewart and in 1970 to Jochen Rindt.  He won two races for Brabham in 1969 but lost the championship by a hefty 26 points as Stewart ran away with it.  In 1970 he moved to the Ferrari team and won on three occasions, but Rindt won the championship by five points despite losing his life before the season had finished.  Six retirements for Ickx didn’t help his championship bid.

The Belgian racer began his Formula One career in 1967 before retiring at the end of the 1979 season. He won 8 races, and drove for Cooper, Ferrari, Brabham, McLaren, Williams, Lotus, Wolf, Ensign & Ligier in a career that spanned 122 races.  He finished on the podium twenty-five times, and scored a total of 181 career points.

Ronnie Peterson
– Sweden
Runner up: 1971, 1978

The popular Swede was an outstanding talent, and finished runner-up to Jackie Stewart in 1971 and to his teammate Mario Andretti in 1978, a season where he would lose his life in a startline crash for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.  Such was the domination of Stewart in 1971 that Peterson didn’t manage to win a race, but consistancy brought him five podiums and 33 points.  He would win two races in 1978 but lost the championship by 13 points to Andretti, despite six additional podium finishes.

In a career that began in 1970, The super Swede won 10 Formula One Grand Prix and took twenty-six other podium finishes, scoring 206 career points.  He drove for March, Tyrrell and Lotus in a career that spanned 123 races, before his fatal accident in Monza, where he died in hospital three days after his crash after complications from his injuries.

Clay Regazzoni
– Switzerland
Runner up: 1974

The Swiss driver finished runner-up to Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi in 1975, missing out on the championship by three points.  He had a chance of the championship going into the season finale but finished a lowly 11th.  Regazzoni only won once that year to the three of Fittipaldi.

He raced in Formula One between 1970 and 1980, driving for Ferrari, BRM, Ensign, Shadow and Williams, winning five times and scoring 212 career points, of which 209 counted towards the Championship.  His F1 career was ended when a crash in Long Beach in 1980 left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Gilles Villeneuve
– Canada
Runner up: 1979

In a season dominated by Ferrari, Villeneuve missed out on the 1979 championship by four points from teammate Jody Scheckter.  The popular Canadian won three times, in South Africa, in Long Beach and in Watkins Glen.  He also got four second place finishes, scoring 47 points compared to Scheckter’s 51.

There are many that call Villeneuve one of the greatest of all time with some stunning drives and overtakes that to this day are remembered fondly.  He raced from 1977 to his death in 1982, starting 67 times, winning 6 times and scoring 101 career points.  He lost his life in a qualifying crash in Zolder in 1982, mere weeks after falling out with his teammate Didier Pironi in San Marino.  They never made up.

Carlos Reutemann
– Argentina
Runner up: 1981

Brazilian Nelson Piquet defeated Reutemann in the season finale after the Argentine driver endured a nightmare race, finishing outside the points in eighth after leading the championship going into the Caesers Palace weekend.  He won twice during the season, in Brazil & Belgium, and scored five other podium finishes, scoring 49 points to Piquet’s 50.

His Formula One career began in 1972 and ended in 1982, spanning 146 races, twelve of which he won.  He drove for Brabham, Ferrari, Lotus and Williams, retiring from the sport after the second round of the 1982 season after a row with team boss Frank Williams over politics.

Didier Pironi
– France
Runner up: 1982

Finished runner-up to Keke Rosberg in the traumatic 1982 season after a crash in the rain in Hockenheim where he smashed into the back of Alain Prost’s Renault ended his Formula One career.  He finished the season with 39 points compared to the 44 of Rosberg despite not competing in the final five races.  He had won twice, once against team orders against Gilles Villeneuve in San Marino, and again in the Netherlands, and scored four other podium finishes.

Pironi started 70 races, winning three times and gaining thirteen podium finishes.  He drove for Tyrrell, Ligier and Ferrari in a career that only spanned between 1978 and 1982.  Pironi would lose his life in a power-boating accident in 1986, mere months after testing an AGS F1 car in Paul Ricard.  However he declined the offer of a drive.

Michele Alboreto
– Italy
Runner up: 1985

Finished runner-up to Alain Prost in 1985, after unreliability cost him dearly with five consecutive retirements at the season’s conclusion.  He had won twice, once in Canada and then again in Germany, finishing six other races on the podium.  He finished on 53 points to Prosts 73, despite being level pegging with the Frenchman with five rounds to go.

Alboreto was one of the most experienced drivers in Formula One history, starting 194 times, winning five of them.  He drove for Tyrrell, Ferrari, Larrousse, Arrows, Footwork, Scuderia Italia and Minardi between 1981 and 1994.  He scored a total of 186.5 points in his career.

Riccardo Patrese
– Italy
Runner up: 1992

In 1992, the Williams was the class of the field, and Patrese finished a distant second to champion teammate Nigel Mansell.  He only won once compared to Mansell’s nine race wins, and scored 56 points compared to his teammates 108.  He did manage eight podium finishes, six of which were second places to Mansell.

In a career that begin in 1977 and ended in 1993, Patrese started 256 races, winning 6 of them, including the 1982 Monaco Grand Prix.  He drove for Shadow, Arrows, Brabham, Alfa Romeo, Williams and Benetton, scoring 37 career podiums and 281 career points.  He retired at the end of 1993 after being comprehensively beaten in the championship by a young Michael Schumacher at Benetton.

Heinz-Harald Frentzen
– Germany
Runner up: 1997

The history books will say Frentzen finished second to teammate Jacques Villeneuve in 1997, but if you look at the small print, you’d see Michael Schumacher’s disqualification from the final standings.  Frentzen’s first year at Williams brought him a solitary win in San Marino, and 42 points, whereas teammate Villeneuve scored 81 and Schumacher scoring 78 prior to his dq.  Frentzen did manage six podium finishes though.

Frentzen began his Formula One career driving for Sauber in 1993, and also raced for Williams, Jordan, Prost and Arrows before retiring in 2003.  He made 156 race starts, winning 3 of them and gaining 18 podiums.  He was in the championship hunt in 1999 but came up short, losing out to Mika Hakkinen in the final reckoning.  He scored a total of 174 career points.

Eddie Irvine
– Great Britain
Runner up: 1999

Before the 1999 season, no-one gave Eddie Irvine a chance of being in the championship hunt, but he finished runner-up to Mika Hakkinen, primarily because teammate Michael Schumacher, Irvines team leader, was out injured for most of the season.  Irvine won four times, in Australia, Austria, Germany and Malaysia, finishing only 74 points to Hakkinen’s 76.  He finished on the podium an additional five times.

Irvine’s F1 career started with an argument with Ayrton Senna, who aimed a punch at the Irishman after unlapping himself, something Senna argued he shouldn’t have done.  Irvine also got a three-race ban at the beginning of the 1994 season after triggering a four car crash in Brazil.  Irvine’s career took him to Jordan, Ferrari and Jaguar, winning only the four races in 1999, finishing on the podium twenty-six times, scoring 191 career points.  He retired at the end of 2002, and to this day is still prone of interfering and being outspoken in Formula One debates.

David Coulthard
– Great Britain
Runner up: 2001

Finished a distant second to Michael Schumacher’s second consecutive World Championship, scoring 65 points compared to Schumacher’s 123.  Coulthard won the Brazilian and Austrian Grand Prix, and finished on the podium an additional eight times.  He did however comprehensively beat teammate Mika Hakkinen, who decided enough was enough at the end of the season and retired.

Coulthard began his career at Williams in 1994 after Ayrton Senna’s fatal accident at Imola, and scored his first points in his second race in Canada.  He also raced for McLaren from 1996 until 2004, before moving to Red Bull between 2005 and his retirement at the end of 2008.  He won 13 times and scored a career total of 535 points, and is now a commentator for the BBC coverage of F1.

Rubens Barrichello
– Brazil
Runner up: 2002, 2004

The popular Brazilian finished runner up to teammate Michael Schumacher in both 2002 and 2004, both times when the Ferrari was the class car of the field.  In 2002, he won four times and scored 77 points, but Schumacher won twelve and scored 144 points, not finishing off the podium all season.  In 2004, Barrichello won twice and finished on 114 points, compared to Schumachers thirteen wins and 148 points.

Rubens is currently the most experienced Formula One driver of all time, having started 322 races, winning eleven of them.  He drove for Jordan, Stewart, Ferrari, Honda, Brawn and Williams in a career that began in 1993 and only ended at the end of 2011.  He scored a total of 658 career points in that time.

Felipe Massa
– Brazil
Runner up: 2008

The little Brazilian finished runner-up to Lewis Hamilton in perhaps the greatest season climax ever.  Massa won the Brazilian Grand Prix, but Lewis Hamilton won the championship after overtaking a dry-tyred Timo Glock at the penultimate corner in the rain of Interlagos.  Massa won six races in 2008 and scored 97 points, missing out on the championship by a single point.

In a career thats is still going on, Massa has currently started 174 Grand Prix, and has won eleven of them.  He started out at Sauber in 2002, before joining Ferrari in 2006 as Michael Schumacher’s teammate.  Massa was lucky to escape with his life at Hungary in 2009 when a spring from Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn hit him on the helmet, curtailing his season while he recovered.  He remains with Ferrari for 2013 and will be looking for his first win since 2008.


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