The Best Formula 1 Drivers To Never Win A Championship
They at least deserved one...
We always talk and argue about who are the best Formula 1 World Champions, back and forth, "It's Senna". "No, it's Schumacher". "No, guys, you have it all wrong, it's Hamilton." Although, most Formula 1 fans forget about the uncrowned Champions, the drivers that almost won it, and deserved to win the desirable title only a few drivers can call theirs. Whether they were on the verge of winning it, or they worked their hardest to capture the title, these drivers were truly some best. Forget about the Championship, these Formula 1 drivers should be looked at as one of the finest and greatest in Formula 1 history.
Sir Stirling Moss
Who wouldn't start off this list, then no other than Sir Stirling Moss? Stirling Moss is not only better than some Champions, but he is arguably one of the best racing drivers to have ever lived. Excelling in most forms of motorsport, such as Formula 1 and sports car racing. There was nothing this man couldn't do. Over his Formula 1 career, Stirling Moss achieved 16 wins in just 66 races, which to this day is still more than anyone else to have ever not won a World Championship. Moss finished runner-up in the Drivers’ Championship a total of four times, and third on three other occasions. The 1958 season was the closest Stirling Moss ever won the championship, losing to Mike Hawthorn by one single point. However, not winning the Championship does not tear down Moss's achievements, talents, and the ability to out-perform underperforming machinery.
Just take a look at the 1961 Monaco Grand Prix. Sir Stirling Moss was able to triumph at the infamous Monaco Grand Prix that year, squeezing everything out of that Lotus 18 which had practically nothing compared to the other cars. Moss was able to take the under powered Lotus 18 to a magnificent victory on the streets of Monte Carlo. Moss was driving for Lotus at the time, and as weeks passed the most prestigious race was coming up. The Monaco Grand Prix. It was Monte Magic as Stirling Moss pushed himself up the tight track throughout all the cars to take a win at the flamboyant race. The 1961 Monaco Grand Prix has been hailed as one of, if not the most brilliant of all of Stirling Moss’s 16 Grand Prix victories, as he was able to surpass the powerful shark nose Ferrari 156s' to take his stripped down and privately-owned Lotus 18 to a well-deserved win. And not only that, but the Brit was extremely versatile in the world of motorsport, from his legendary win at the 1955 Mille Miglia, setting a still unbroken record, to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, driving some of the most powerful, most stripped-down, and most unsafe cars to commanding victories. There is no doubt Sir Stirling Moss left an undeniable mark in the automotive and motorsport world, without needing a championship to his name.
Nicknamed 'Lole', this Argentinian racing driver will always have a special place in the Formula 1 history books. Carlos Reutemann could not be stopped. His drive and passion shook the paddocks across the globe, in a total of 10 seasons, Lole scored 12 victories, and secured third place in the championship with three different teams... Brabham in 1975, Ferrari in 1978, and Williams in 1980, he meant business. Scoring third place in the World Championship, with three different teams, is unthinkable, there is no question that Carlos was beyond talented. It was the year 1981 where he was closest to capturing the World title, it was the final race at Las Vegas and Reutemann started from Pole Position. And even though he led the race, an eight-place finish saw him lose the title to Nelson Piquet who finished in fifth. He drove for Williams the following year, retiring after two races due to political tension about the Falklands War. His teammate, Keke Rosberg took the championship that year. We never knew what lied for Lole, but nonetheless, he is still noted as one of the best drivers to never achieve a World Championship.
Jacky Ickx might be a very familiar name to you. The legendary Belgian racing driver has had countless wins in numerous motorsports, mostly known and associated with for his immediate success in sports-car racing like the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Jacky has won at the 24-Hour endurance race a number of 6 times, the second-highest wins for a driver at the French race. Be mindful of the fact that he also took victories at the Bathurst 1000, Can-Am Championship, and the Dakar Rally with the Porsche 959. The Belgian-born had an abundance of talent and skill with cars. However, with all those wins and championships, there was one specific championship that he couldn't fully take a grasp on, and that was the Formula 1 title.
In 116 Formula 1 races, Ickx started on pole position 13 times, scored 25 podiums, and won eight races total. The closest he ever came to winning the Championship was in 1970 when he finished five points behind Jochen Rindt, who had a fatal crash at the Italian Grand Prix, making the Austrian the only and hopefully only posthumous Formula One world champion in the history of the sport. After coming so close to achieving it, Jacky finished fourth in the Drivers' Championship the other three times, before his Formula 1 career drifted off. Do not worry, he still stands as one of the best racing drivers to ever caress our infamous tracks.
Photo Credit: Formula 1
Don't even lie, 2008 was heart-wrenching. Seeing Felipe cross the finish line thinking he won the World Championship must have been gutting for the Brazilian. Felipe didnt go home with the World Title that day, a young Lewis Hamilton fought his hardest and took his first championship that day in Brazil. Autódromo José Carlos Pace, Interlagos, in São Paulo, Brazil, it was the final race in the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship. The entire season, Massa drove his hardest to get into the top spots, trading punches with Hamilton. Treacherous raining conditions delayed the start, but once the track dried, Felipe blasted off, and established a lead of several seconds over the grid. With more rain pouring down in the last few laps, the conditions were becoming unbearable, but nothing could stop Felipe from winning the Grand Prix, he executed a brilliant and flawless race. The Brazilian crossed the checkered flag, winning but also loosing his first Championship.
It seemed as it would be triumph, but tragedy occurred a few seconds after. Mclaren's Lewis Hamilton was leading the Drivers' Championship with 94 points; Felipe Massa was second with 87 points behind Hamilton. A total of ten points were obtainable during the Brazilian Grand Prix, which meant that Massa could still win the World title if Hamilton finished in sixth place or lower. Although the unexpected happened, the now 7-time World Champion was in 6th place, overtaking the struggling Timo Glock for fifth place. Screams burst out of the Ferrari garage, turning into silence a few seconds later, it was an emotional moment for both drivers. Nevertheless, the fact that Massa came so incredibly close to winning it, and even won it for a couple of seconds, does not deny his incredible skill.
Gilles Villeneuve on the right
Our beloved Gilles Villeneuve is regarded by most, an uncrowned champion. Ferrari’s affection for Villeneuve was above and beyond. The Canadian learned to race while racing snowmobiles in Quebec, which gave Gilles the extraordinary ability of car control. His ability to control his Ferraris wheel was fascinating, and even more fascinating how he could push the car to the absolute limit of its ability. His skills were intriguing to everyone, sadly his career was cut short before he could have showed the world who he truly was and what he could have achieved. Gilles's career lasted only six seasons, the Canadian named Villeneuve left his mark on the Formula One world. He was the first Canadian to win a Formula 1 race, coming close to being the first Canadian driver to achieve the World Championship in 1979, missing out to Jody Scheckter by just four points, both drivers won three races throughout the season.
The following year, Gilles died in a horrific fatal crash being launched into the air, qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix. Enzo Ferrari was deeply affected when Villeneuve lost his life at Zolder, writing an emotional tribute. He put Gilles Villeneuve in the same place in his heart as his beloved late son Dino Ferrari: “His death has deprived us of a great champion – one that I loved very much. My past is scarred with grief; parents, brother, son. My life is full of sad memories. I look back and see the faces of my loved ones, and among them, I see him.” A driver that had so much potential was taken away too early.
We all remember and praise the champions and heroes of this sport, but we also leave the drivers who indirectly changed the sport in many ways in the dust. A championship does not equal skill and talent.