Winning a Formula One Drivers’ Championship requires so much more than talent.
The best drivers to never win the F1 title were not lacking in ability; it was a case of misfortune, team decisions or simply not enough pace in the car.
Best F1 Drivers To Miss Out On The World Title:
Reliability is no longer as much of an issue as it was in decades past. For much of Formula One history, drivers had race wins, even championships, stolen from their grasp as the car let them down.
More recently, the challenge has been toppling dominant forces, with Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes all having prolonged periods of supremacy over the last 25 years.
Some of the sport’s greatest ever drivers never won the Formula One world title. Here are a few of the best…
The first name on this list is the first that comes to mind when anyone ponders who the greatest driver to not win a title is.
People in sport are guilty of throwing the word ‘icon’ around too much. It is the only word to describe Stirling Moss, a supreme driving talent and a man universally adored. Moss led the way for British racing drivers.
Moss won 16 of his 66 Formula One races. In itself, it sounds strange to win such a high percentage and fail to win a title. His tally of 16 wins is the most of any driver to not win a championship.
Four times a runner-up and three times third, Moss frequently came close to it, but he faced all-time great competition throughout his career, most notably the peerless Juan Manuel Fangio.
If there is any conversation about greatness in sport, about the most brilliant sportsperson to not win a title, Stirling Moss belongs in the centre of it.
Moss is the strongest example that sport can be about more than trophies and accolades. No one in British motorsport has been held in higher regard than Sir Stirling.
Only in the sport for six years, Gilles Villeneuve cemented his place in Formula One history. Not only the first Canadian to win a Grand Prix, Villeneuve was a genuine title challenger, and clearly one of the most talented men on the grid.
He arrived on the scene having beaten James Hunt in a race in North America and went on to drive for both McLaren and Ferrari.
The 1979 campaign was the closest Villeneuve came to a world title, and how close it was, missing out by four points to his teammate Jody Scheckter.
Further race wins followed, despite a less than stellar car, but Villeneuve was far from championship contention.
Racing in an extremely dangerous era, he lost his life in Belgium in 1982 following a crash, which saw his car fly through the air at around 140mph. Many believe Villeneuve had the talent to be one of the greats.
Being in the F1 betting favourite Ferrari worked against Rubens Barrichello in many ways.
Rather than a competitor with Michael Schumacher, Barrichello was the definite second driver and he often had to sacrifice individual success for the benefit of the ‘team’, which often meant helping Schumacher win.
The Brazilian’s 322 race starts is an all-time record, and 11 victories is a substantial achievement, but one can’t help but wonder what heights Barrichello could have reached had he been given a fair chance.
Did he have the pace to be a champion? Or was his position at Ferrari simply the result of his personality?
Once he left Scuderia, Barrichello joined Honda, which later became Brawn. It was a familiar tale, a superb car, a car far quicker than the rest of the grid, but Barrichello was far from a title contender.
Jenson Button was the eventual champion, and the veteran Brazilian finished third.
Barrichello enjoyed a long, long career. He holds records, and he was a wonderful team man. As reliable as they come, could he have been a champion if given the opportunity to lead a team?
Like Barrichello, Mark Webber’s title aspirations were dampened by second driver status, but he was significantly less accepting of it than the aforementioned Brazilian.
Webber was quick – he showed his pace from the start of his F1 career with Minardi, through to Jaguar, Williams and ultimately Red Bull.
The 2010 season saw Webber push Sebastian Vettel deep for the Drivers’ Championship. He was going toe-to-toe with the young German, driving aggressively and winning four races.
A strategy mishap cost him a real shot at the title, and from then on, Vettel was anointed the number one driver. Webber was left frustrated.
He continued to drive hard, finishing third in the championship in 2012 and 2014, and notched wins at Monaco and Silverstone, but Red Bull didn’t give Webber much of a shot at challenging Vettel.
The most successful Swedish Formula One driver ever, Ronnie Peterson earned the nickname SuperSwede, a title befitting of his talents and achievements at the highest level of motorsport.
Peterson possessed unquestionable raw pace, evidenced in his 14 pole positions from 123 race entries.
Reliability let the Swede down, unfortunately. He had the speed to be a champion, he had the bravery and the overtaking ability, but too often his cars could not last the race.
Racing for Lotus and Tyrell, Peterson had swathes of fans for how he threw the car into corners, aggressive in a way seldom seen on an F1 track.
Twice a runner-up in the championship, and with 10 race wins, Peterson achieved plenty in his F1 career, but it could have been so much more. He tragically lost his life following a big crash at the 1978 Italian Grand Prix.
*Credit for the main photo belongs to Darko Vojinovic / AP Photo*