The Top-20 #F1 GP Drivers who did NOT win a championship…

Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler BlackJack’sBriefs


Such a list is not easy to compile, and it is even harder to be objective.

The way I reduced 830 F1 drivers to 20 is detailed in Part I. I wanted twenty top drivers (top No.2’s who might have been a team leader.) who had proved their ability to win – not drivers who showed talent but were unable to realise their potential, including drivers whose career was brought to an untimely end, for whatever reason.

Rubens Barrichello14th


Rubens Barrichello

. . . was born in 1972, in Sao Paulo, entered F1 at the age of 21 and departed (before his time…) in 2011, at the age of 39, after 322 race starts. Both his father and grandfather had the same name and Rubens was nicknamed ‘Rubinho’ (Little Rubens).

After excelling in karts and FFord in Brazil, 
Barrichello arrived in Europe in 1990, and won the
Formula Vauxhall Lotus Championship… and in 1991
 won the British F3 Championship (beating David 
Coulthard). For 1992 he moved up to F3000, finishing
 third, and 1993 saw him join the Jordan F1 team… but 
Jordan were plagued with reliability issues and 
Barrichello had eight retirements, with just one finish
 in the points – 5th in Japan, where the team was joined
 by Eddie Irvine. Despite this Barrichello had regularly 
out performed his more experienced team-mates and
 went into 1994 still as team-leader, usually with Irvine 
backing him and, with one podium finish and four 4th 
places, finished sixth in the Championship… despite 
eight retirements. Perhaps surprisingly he was running in second place in the Championship after the first two events…

In qualifying at the tragic Imola event Barrichello crashed badly and rolled several times. Unconscious, and with his tongue blocking his airway, he was always grateful to the fast-reacting Sid Watkins… who later stated it was his worst ever GP weekend… Barrichello regained consciousness to find his mentor, Senna, at his bedside. It was the last time they saw each other.

During that winter break I visited long-lost friends in Sao Paulo, prior to the opening round at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, where all F1 talk was still of the loss of Ayrton. I tried commiserating by mentioning that now they had Rubinho coming up, and everybody laughed… saying that he needed to at least finish a few races before he could be taken seriously. It seemed the Brasilleiros might never be able to take anyone but Ayrton into their hearts again.

1995 saw Barrichello finish in the points four times, including a surprise second in Canada (with Irvine third), but he also suffered nine retirements.

For 1996 Irvine (who had usually been slightly out performed by Barrichello) took the second seat at Ferrari, in exchange for whom Ferrari funded a new wind-tunnel for Jordan… and was replaced by Martin Brundle..

Neither Jordan driver had a season to remember and, after apparently falling out with Eddie Jordan, Barrichello moved to the new Stewart team for 1997… while Brundle moved to the BBC – to demonstrate he could talk faster than he could drive.

Sir Jock never seemed to get the Stewart team together and for two seasons Barrichello achieved a brilliant second place at Monaco, and a fifth in the second year, and twenty-four retirements – but always out-performed his team- mates.

In Stewart’s final year things started to come together, Barrichello had three podiums, to finish seventh in the Championship… five years after he finished sixth in his first F1 season… but Stewart sold out to Ford, who renamed the team Jaguar and forlornly soldiered on for another four years. Meanwhile Irvine had departed from the Scuderia, having been offered the chance of team-leader at Jaguar, and for 2000 Barrichello went to Ferrari… and, for Barrichello, life began at 28…

After seven dreadful years in F1 maybe nobody would have been surprised if Barrichello had called it a day, and gone home… and then, not only would he not have appeared in this list, he might now be largely forgotten. Certainly it has to be said that his earlier successes only rarely figure in the record books. Time after time, when having a good race, the car would break under him, or simply was no more than a mid-field runner, but Ferrari had finished third in 1994-95, second in 1996-97-98, and were champions in 1999. Though it could be understood why Irvine wanted to leave nobody in Barrichello’s position could have turned down the Ferrari drive.

Rubens Barrichello Ferrari

And he didn’t waste the opportunity: fastest lap in the opening event (plus two more); Pole position for the fourth; and a maiden win in Germany (a record wait for a drivers first win), after starting eighteenth… plus eight more podiums… With three 1-2 finishes he supported Schumacher as intended, and took points away from the McLaren drivers, to place fourth in the Championship, and ensure Ferrari retained the Constructors title.

In 2001 Barrichello failed to win, but was on the podium ten times, to finish third in the Championship, with Ferrari way ahead of the opposition in the Constructors. Barrichello also managed to out-perform Schumacher a few times…

2002 was even better: three Poles; five fastest laps; four wins; and six more podiums, took Barrichello to second in the Championship – the best he could hope for, with only half the points of Schumacher… who had won eleven races, and was on the podium for all seventeen. Ferrari scored 221 points, with Williams on 92… However, the year was somewhat spoiled when the leading Barrichello (who had started on Pole, and led the entire race) was ordered to relinquish his place to Schumacher on the finishing straight in Austria – a very unpopular move with the fans – far more so than ‘Multi21’ – because the same thing had happened in 2001. The booing was worse than Vettel has had to put up with.

On the podium an allegedly embarrassed Schumacher insisted Barrichello take the top spot, and even handed him the winner’s trophy – a total shambles. The drivers and Ferrari were fined US $1,000,000 for disrupting podium protocol… and the FIA banned team orders from 2003 which, as usual, was just one more regulation too many, and was later rescinded…! And, as if that fiasco wasn’t enough, American fans watched bemused at Indianapolis as Schumacher handed the win to Barrichello as they approached the flag, later forlornly trying to assert ‘we’ had tried to orchestrate a tie… though Barrichello said he knew nothing of such a plan… Some you win – some you… er… don’t win.

Barrichello’s 2004 season was much the same, finishing second in the Championship, with four Poles, four fastest laps, and two wins. Ferrari again trounced the opposition, with 262 points to a surprised BAR with 119 points. Despite this success Barrichello never managed better than third in his home GP and even failed to finish eleven of his fifteen starts in Brazil. Playing an enforced second fiddle to Schumacher, and therefore never likely to be champion, perhaps also prevented the Brasilleiros taking him to their hearts as they did, and still do, with Ayrton.

2005 effectively marked the end of an era. Ferrari lost their dominance, because of a new tyre regulation, and new boys, Alonso and Raikkonen (in Renault and McLaren), took over. Ferrari won just one single, pitiful race, in America, when all but they, Jordan and Minardi boycotted the event.

Nobody seems to know if Barrichello was ‘pushed’ from Ferrari, in favour of Felipe Massa, or if he needed to do an ‘Irvine’ and move on… but he moved to Honda (ex-BAR) for 2006 to join Jensen Button and finished seventh in the Championship… after several stirling efforts throughout the year… such as qualifying third in China, ahead of Schumacher and Raikkonen… But 2007 was a reliability and performance disaster – Honda finished eighth in the Constructors Championship ahead of Super Aguri and Spyker…

For 2008 Barrichello remained with Honda and, in Turkey, started his 256th GP, breaking Ricardo Patrese’s fourteen-year-old record. Ross Brawn came out of his Ferrari sabbatical, and joined Honda, with the intention of producing a decent car for 2009. In the meantime Barrichello produced a great drive to finish third in Britain, and place (whisper it) fourteenth in the Championship – Button was in eighteenth, and Honda dropped to ninth, ahead of Force India (ex-Spyker) and Super Aguri and so… after much soul-searching, pulled out of F1 altogether.

Rubens Barrichello Brawn

Honda leaving F1 at the end of 2008 caused a lot of headaches, and put a lot of people out of work… but in March 2009 a partnership led by Brawn managed a buy-out (allegedly for One-Pound-Sterling), and created Brawn GP.

In their first event Button and Barrichello locked out the front row of the grid, and went on to finish 1-2, which hadn’t happened on a debut since Mercedes Benz in 1954… and to finish 1-3 in the Championship, with Brawn winning the Constructors – in their first and only year in Grand Prix racing. Button won again in Malaysia, the first time a new team had won it’s first two races since Alfa Romeo in 1950. The Head Honchos at Honda must have been deeply dismayed.

Much has been written elsewhere how Brawn’s, much criticised, ‘double-diffuser’ gave them an advantage, until the others caught up, around mid-season. Button won six of the first seven races, with Barrichello right behind him three times, but finished on the podium only twice in the other ten. However… Barrichello won two of the last seven races, beating Button on a few other occasions, and taking Pole in Brazil – if he hadn’t proved his abilities with Ferrari he certainly did with Brawn.

For 2010 Brawn became Mercedes, and Barrichello moved to Williams… where he became the only driver in F1 history to start 300 races… finally ending with 322 and, with the way drivers now seem to appear and disappear with almost terrifying rapidity, maybe this record will never be broken.

But Williams were now a sad shadow of their glorious past, and going nowhere. For 2011 they were forced to accept Maldonado’s sponsorship monies and elected to drop Nico Hulkenberg, in favour of Barrichello’s experience. To his credit Barrichello said at the time, if he had been team-manager he would have retained Hulkenberg.

And so, after nineteen seasons, and six teams, in F1, Rubens Barrichello was finally obliged to take his leave, at the age of 39, with arguably another year or two left in him. He achieved 11 wins, 57 additional podiums, 14 Pole positions, and 17 fastest laps. He came 2nd in the Drivers Championship twice… and 3rd twice… and 4th twice. Even when he was clearly driving as a No.2 he often showed an ability to out-perform his ‘leader’. What else must a man do to qualify for a position in this list…

Rubens Barrichello BrazilWhen Barrichello moved to Ferrari some questioned whether he was mentally tough enough to cope with Schumacher as a team mate. After leaving Ferrari Barrichello ‘responded’: “Michael might have more skill than me, but if you threw both of us into a cage with a tiger I might get out alive – I’m not sure about him.” I think this is intended to be allegorical…

Unwilling to quit racing Barrichello gave IndyCars a try in 2012 but, although winning Indy-500 Rookie of The Year, he returned home for 2013 to compete in the Brazilian Stock Car Series, and finished eighth in the Championship.

During his time in F1 Rubens was GPDA Chairman for 2010-2012. He was also the youngest Pole Sitter (1994, Spa), and recorded the fastest ever qualifying speed of 260.4 kph (2004, Monza).

He now lives in Sao Paulo with Silvana, Eduardo and Fernando.


to be continued, next week…

Previously:

15th – Dan Gurney
16th – Clay Regazzoni
17th – Didier Pironi
18th – Richie Ginther
19th – Francois Cevert
20th – Peter Collins

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20 responses to “The Top-20 #F1 GP Drivers who did NOT win a championship…

  1. I thought Rubens might be higher up. I don’t nessecarily think he was that amazing a driver, compared to some. After all, we largely got to see his potential, some on this list we never really did. He is, however, in a select group amogst the ‘also rans’ in that, in a season when he was driving superior machinery, it was often only his team mate who beat him in the WDC. Stirling moss is another. As a result if you delete their team mate and points, they both become multiple world champions, yet under such circumstances, someone such as Webber who is much applauded, still does not. Don’t get me wrong, I am aware of the problems with this sort of analogy, but at the same time, it does make a point.

    Cheers again for doing these, interesting reading!

      • I’ve never really been a webber fan. He’s, to me, a bit of a cry baby. Always the first one to complain if it would rain, saying it was impossible to drive. Where others just raced like real men. And he was, in “the vettel years”, real good at playing games in front of the camera to make him a victim and the rest the evil ones. But that’s just how i feel about it.

      • Marks a smashing bloke, and a superb driver, a real rags to riches ‘did it on merit with hard work’ story. Not really having a pop at the bloke (though I do agree he’s as manipulative of the media in his own pleasant ‘down to earth way’ as bruznic suggests). Though one would be forgiven for believing he is better than Button, Barrichello, etc (and I am not a fan of either of these) yet, I see no reason to believe it.

        • The thing with all these drivers is we rarely get to see “who” they really are. They know when they’re being watched and act accordingly. For some the distance to their private selves might be large, and for others nonexistent. But to me the one thing about Mark that does stand out was his unequivocal stance about Bahrain. It was nice to hear someone stand up and say the obvious, that perhaps it was not the best idea to race there, and that the FIA was violating its own regs, regardless of what Bernie had to say.Speaks volumes, regardless of how you see his other actions.

    • Hi Adam… As you say, such a road as this series travels is fraught with pot-holes, and U-turns. There are many ways of using the recorded facts to provide one’s statistics, and I know mine is only one of them. I was more inclined to compare each of these 20 guys with all their contemporaries and not just with the champions of their time.
      I am hoping The Judge will run a poll at the end (but I’m not sure it will reveal anything earth-shattering…) but the actual order of the twenty is of less interest to me than the careers of the twenty guys themselves… which can get forgotten so easily.
      And I currently feel some sort of responsibility to the next 10-20 guys who failed to make this list…
      Oh well… there’s always next winter… 😉

  2. What about 2003?

    Goes straight from 02-04.

    I think the disparity between Barrichello and the maker of shoes was no better emphasised than in that year, when the car was often on par with the Williams and McLaren, sometimes slightly superior, sometimes inferior.

    It’s easy to get second behind team leader when the car is so superior all the time. Although Webber had trouble with this of course.

    2000 was RB’s 1st year at Ferrari. So no judgement. 2001,02,04 were years if epic superiority in their car. 2003 is the critical year Barrichello saw he was nothing on Schu, team orders or not.

    Conveniently, that is the year excluded.

    • Hi SM… it certainly wasn’t excluded “conveniently” – put it down to ‘grey cells’, or lack thereof perhaps… 😉
      A genuine oversight, for which I apologise to Rubens, and will rectify for the final publication…
      Thanks for pointing it out.

      • Have really loved the research on this stuff by the way Jack. Really good series so far and I find myself coming to the temple of Webber love to get my update of this series by you.

        Just a forewarning… If Webber rates in top ten of this series, comments will be unpleasant. 😉

        Please remember when singing his praises, as the series dictates, MW has had the outright best car for 4.5 years since mid 2009. I mean think about anyone who’s enjoyed that car dominance, or even similar, and then look at the results.

      • A great series BJF and a surprise entry if I’m honest, although that’s more because I forgot his contributions to for the Reds!

        Two things, the Indy fiasco was because Michelin turned up with unsuitable tyres for the oval section of the track, an unforgivable over-sight seeing as Ralf Schumacher had had a severe accident the previous year because of a tyre failure there.
        The second being I would rate Rubens two wins in 2003 as maybe the best of his career. His overtaking of Raikkonen in Britain was sublime, the move started at Vale and finished at Bridge by wrong-footing him throughout.
        Also his win in Japan secured Michael’s championship by preventing Kimi from gaining the points needed.

        As to Brazilians and Barrichello, how could any driver ever take the place of Senna?

  3. “Nobody seems to know if Barrichello was ‘pushed’ from Ferrari, in favour of Felipe Massa, or if he needed to do an ‘Irvine’ and move on.”

    As far as I know, Rubens left himself, Ferrari had signed an option with Valentino Rossi for 2007 and with Kimi Raikkonen, if Rossi decided to take up his option, there would be no place for Kimi, if Rossi didn’t, Kimi would go to Ferrari.

    Rubens read the tea leaves and saw that he also would be out at the end of 2006. Honda was desperate to sign him and he negotiated a release from his contract to take a big money, three-year deal. To replace him, Ferrari signed Felipe Massa on a one-year contract as a stop-gap. Schumacher expected that it would be him and Rossi in the cockpit for 2007.

    • Hi EnzoM… Many thanks for the comments… but I’m a little unclear… You seem to be saying the 2007 lineup would have been either Rossi/Rubens or Kimi/Rubens… so why would Rubens have thought he would be out…?
      Though I feel sure he did the ‘right’ thing.
      I would have loved to see Rossi do a Surtees/Hailwood.

      • The 2007 line up would have been either Rossi/Schumacher or Raikkonen/Schumacher, but when Rossi didn’t take up his option, Ferrari signed Raikkonen.
        Schumacher didn’t want Raikkonen as a team mate and “retired”.
        Rubens had 1 more year to go at Ferrari, after that Valentino or Kimi would take his place, when the offer from Honda came, he left, leaving Ferrari without a second driver for 2006, so they hired Massa on a 1 year contract.

          • Thanks for that – these driver changes get complicated at times, don’t they… Just goes to show the value of a good editor.

          • You’re welcome BJF, but this wasn’t a drivers change, it was a Machiavellian tragedy 😉

  4. See, this is what i mean. I’ve seen all of his races yet when you began these series, up till now, rubens was a driver who i overlooked (forgot) for some reason. After seeing his name i agree that he should be on the list but i never thought of him myself.
    But yet again nice read. Can’t wait to see who else I’ve forgotten 😎

  5. Pingback: The Top-20 #F1 GP Drivers who did NOT win a championship… | thejudge13·

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