Niki Lauda vs Alan Jones

Champion of Champions

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Niki Lauda and Alan Jones both won championships, then retired and made comebacks. But only one of them added a further title on their return.

Lauda’s entry into the sport in the early seventies came at great financial risk as he took out huge loans to fund places at teams like March and BRM. But it paid off as he was called up to drive for Ferrari in 1974.

He won titles for the team in 1975 and 1977. It would surely have been three on the trot had it not been for his terrible crash at the Nurburgring in 1976, in which he suffered terrible burns to his face and nearly died. He got back in the car for the final races of the season but couldn’t stop James Hunt from taking the championship at the last race.

Lauda fell out with Enzo Ferrari in 1977 and missed the final races of the year after winning the title. After two years with Brabham his motivation had dwindled and despite signing a new contract at the end of 1979 he abandoned his plans and quit Formula 1.

Jones, however, ended 1979 on a high with a competitive Williams underneath him. Indeed, under the strange scoring system of the time he went into the last race of the year having already scored the maximum points available to him in the second part of the season.

He had joined the team in 1978 from Shadow, with which he had scored his maiden win (and their only win) at the Osterreichring. Jones carried his 1979 form into 1980, beating Nelson Piquet to the title. But an angry fall-out with team mate Carlos Reutemann marred the following year and Jones quit the team.

Lauda was enticed out of retirement by Ron Dennis and he won his third race back for McLaren at Long Beach in 1982. The same track was the scene of Jones’s one-off drive for Arrows the following year.

The McLaren project came good as the team switched to Porsche turbo power in 1984. Lauda prevailed in a year-long battle with new team mate Alain Prost. He won his third championship by the slimmest of margins – a mere half-point.

But 1985 was a disaster, riddled with mechanical failures, and Lauda made his final retirement at the end of the year.

Jones, however, still wasn’t done. He returned for the Haas team late that year and contested a full season in 1986. But the car was short on power, and persistently unreliable, leading Jones back into retirement – this time for good.

Which of these drivers should go through to the next round of the Champion of Champions? Vote for which you think was best below and explain who you voted for and why in the comments.

Niki Lauda Alan Jones
Titles 1975. 1977, 1984 1980
Second in title year/s Emerson Fittipaldi, Jody Scheckter, Alain Prost Nelson Piquet
Teams March, BRM, Ferrari, Brabham, McLaren Hesketh, Hill, Surtees, Shadow, Williams, Arrows, Lola
Notable team mates Carlos Reutemann, Nelson Piquet, Alain Prost Clay Regazzoni, Carlos Reutemann, Patrick Tambay
Starts 171 116
Wins 25 (14.62%) 12 (10.34%)
Poles 24 (14.04%) 6 (5.17%)
Modern points per start1 7.85 6.09
% car failures2 34.50 28.45
Modern points per finish3 11.99 8.52
Notes Badly burned in 1976 crash, withdrew from title-deciding race in heavy rain Gave Shadow their sole win in 1977
Clinched second title for Ferrari in 1977 then left team Strong second half of 1979 season set him up for 1980 title win
Ended two-year retirement to return to McLaren and win third title Two comebacks with Arrows (1983) and Haas (1985-6)
Bio Niki Lauda Alan Jones

1 How many points they scored in their career, adjusted to the 2010 points system, divided by the number of races they started
2 The percentage of races in which they were not classified due to a mechanical failure
3 How many points they scored in their career, adjusted to the 2010 points system, divided by the number of starts in which they did not suffer a race-ending mechanical failure

Which was the better world champion driver?

  • Alan Jones (4%)
  • Niki Lauda (96%)

Total Voters: 589

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Images © Patrice Tercier (Lauda), Williams/Sutton (Jones)

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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65 comments on “Niki Lauda vs Alan Jones”

  1. I’m an Aussie, but Niki Lauda gets my vote. To beat Alain Prost after coming out of retirement is remarkable!

    1. Same here, a shame Jones had to come up against Lauda in the first round, I really wanted him to go through.

    2. Lauda for this reason.

    3. No question. It has to be Lauda.

    4. Totally agree. I have a soft spot for Jones but I suppose the three time champs have to come up against someone in the first round.

      Some of these matchups have been interesting. I’m just wondering if Lewis is going to be up against Button.

    5. Lauda anyway.

  2. Lauda all the way. The guy almost burned to death and came back to win again. he´s a Legend.

    1. Yeah, one of the most incredible F1 stories, man catches fire in horrific crash. Suffers life long injuries, misses but two race, wins race with his wounds opening.

      Would have won the championship had he not decided the conditions where ridiculous (probably right).

      What an amazing racer.

      1. BellaCombs (@)
        7th January 2011, 17:07

        Totally agree, Lauda without a doubt. Just an incredible driver. One of the few rounds that didn’t take any thinking about. Lauda straight off!

      2. He also didn’t take any guff from Ferrari. Or anyone really.

        Pulling out of Fuji in 1976 was actually harder to do than it looked. Ferrari accused him of cowardice later. That’s why Lauda has a lot of fans, he was clearly his own man.

    2. The guy almost burned to death and came back to win again.

      For that reason alone, he gets my vote. Legend of a man!

  3. Expect Lauda to win this one comfortably. I don’t know too much about Jones so perhaps my voting is unfair, but falling back on the stats there can only be one choice.

    1. Indeed, this is one of the ones that I barely had to read. Whats incredible about Lauda isn’t just that he won 3 championships, but to come back and win races after his injury was astounding. One of the greatest champions in my opinion (also, would have beaten Hunt comfortably to the title in the year of his injury)

  4. Who voted for Jones?

    Sozzled Australians obviously…

    1. I’m an Aussie, voted Lauda.
      Lauda is quite simply better than Jones, and a lot better than a large portion of championship winners.

      Also, let’s see how well Hamilton or Button do against someone like Prost.

    2. Maybe people who are fed up with Laudas all to frequent critisizing whomever on the grid for German TV?

      1. his critisizing has to be a plan. He is not stupid, so the plan is people talking about what he says, so he can keep his job at rtl.
        He doesn’t have the elegance of stewart, but his record is as good, and he is the most fampous survivor of any f1 accident. His comeback in 1976 is what legends are made of. And the only come back champion that won again. Without a doubt, f1 royalty.

        1. In fact, if you consider Prost’s return from’sabbatical’ in 1992 as a comeback in 1993, the frenchman also won after leaving…

          1. Fangio also missed a season through injury, and won after that (more than once).

    3. Most Australians are fairly good with bias, So I suspect it was just the Channel 10 commentary team.

      1. Gold!

        Have to reiterate what most Aussies have said here. Jones was a solid driver, one of the better of his era and deserved of his championship even if in a superior car. But he just can’t compare to the skill that was Lauda.

        You can’t compare the comebacks though, Lauda came back into a McLaren while Jones came back into a Haas Lola!

  5. Lauda offcourse! One of my personal all time favorites!

    Come on, the guy nearly died, came back a few weeks later and lost the title in the final race. Why? Because it was raining, and he was so badly burned he couldn’t blink to keep the water out of his eyes!

    Respect for that.

    Then to come back and beat Alain Prost, who was just comming in to he peak of his carreer says it all.

  6. jimscreechy (@)
    7th January 2011, 12:53

    Alan Jones! I thought that was Steve Austin.

  7. Niki All the way… The Clark and Surtes match up make me wax nostalgic for a whole day…but this one was easy.

    I liked Jones, but Lauda was just too much of a leader in his day. I’m thinking of the drivers strike of the ’82 South African GP, His come back after being burned at the Nurburgring (going to Enzo Ferrari a few months after the accident and asking how much is a singed F1 driver worth) , his offer to race with Macca for one dollar a season, his physical fitness (a standard in todays F1 drivers), his 3 WDC’s… is there more?

    Lauda was really the first modern F1 driver in my opinion. Good or bad he changed the sport.

    1. In all fairness, he said that McLaren were paying a dollar for his driving ability, the rest of the multi-million dollar contract was “for his personality”.

      1. So much the better … Yes?

  8. Niki it is, although he said a lot of [censored] after retirement. And Mr. Lauda “polacke” is not a nice word.

    1. I am very much in agreement with your comment.

  9. I love Alan Jones, I started following F1 in 1980 and followed him to his championship win. My first favourite driver.

    However, this has to go to Niki, no question. In ’76 should have easily made it 2 World Championships, but instead almost burned to death. Then to recover from that and take another WDC the following year, and then yet another championship 7 years later defeating a young fast Alain Prost, who was heading into the peak of his career, makes him the easy victor here.

    Niki Lauda by all accounts should have been 4 times WDC… or he should have been dead… but he is still here as a triple champion and a great ambassador for the sport. Go Niki!

  10. This has to be Lauda, the courage, skill and determination he showed both in personality and his driving were extreme. Not a huge fan of Alan Jones, one of the worst WDC’s in my opinion, he deserved it, but only just! Not a great driver, good, but not great.

    Lauda hands down.

  11. Niki Lauda, if only because his comeback tour went better than both of Jones’.

  12. I am voting for Lauda on the basis that he drove in 2 eras of formula 1 and won championships in both. His 3rd championship was a masterclass of racecraft, despite not having the speed to match Prost. Jones is still a worthy champion but to return to something six weeks after it nearly killed you is dedication. Taking nothing away from Hunt’s championship but Lauda should have won in 1976 making him the first consecutive triple champ since Fangio. Admittedly, Lauda did have the best car in his championship years so I don’t think the “Jones only won because of Williams” argument is that important here.

    Even Senna idolised Lauda, so Jones has little chance of victory here in my opinion.

  13. Lauda also had a great season in 1974, kind like Vettel this year, he dominated qualifying, but lost the title due to lack of experience I think. Anyway, my vote goes for him, although I agree with cyclops, he says many….. things today but we’re not voting that !

  14. Niki it’s a no brainer!
    I remember reading an account of his time in hospital immediately following his accident, he said he could feel himself slipping away with nothing to hold him back, suddenly his manager entered the room where Lauda lay dying and spoke, Lauda claims he heard the voice of his manager and started to pull him self back.

  15. Hang on, Keith’s intro to Lauda seems to suggest he was (shock, horror!) a pay-driver! Teams taking him on at the beginning of his career because he was paying them?!?

    I don’t see how anyone can vote for Lauda in light of this, especially as everyone who comments on this site seems to think pay-drivers are worse than Hitler, Stalin and Satan combined…

    1. Except Lauda was clearly a rising talent. Can the same be said of Maldonado or Karthikeyan?

      1. I would love one of those to suprise all of us, but that would be too big a gamble, LOL.

      2. Well, strictly speaking, Maldonado is the current GP2 Champion. I know he’s been there for ages, and only now could do it, but that only shows how subjective is the definition of a rising talent…

    2. Well, … suprise, suprise, … He was. Initially (like Schumi).

      1. I dont think you can really compare pay drivers of this day and age to back in the 70’s, if anything… he was taking a much bigger gamble by getting himself loans to get himself in whereas modern pay drivers are sponsored by big corporates who want to get their name on some overalls.

        There is some raw talent out there that is likely to miss out this year like the Hulk and Chandhok all because their pockets aren’t deep enough. Remove the recession from the world and you can guarantee that they’d have their name on a seat already.

        Niki smashed it, he wasn’t a rich kid showing off, he had a belief which he battled for and got his name in the “Legend” category – you can’t buy that!!

  16. I’d vote for him purley on the basis that he gave all his trophys away to his local garage for free car washes. Luckily I don’t have to, an all time great. Beat Prost on his comeback, fantastic cerbral driver, did much in terms of development, helped make a poor Ferrari competative, helped McLaren to it’s period of total dominance along with Prost, would have won his third title sooner after missing two races due to horrific injury where it not for a point of principle.

    Not a hard one really.

  17. Lauda is one of the all time greats. Easy pick!

  18. Niki Lauda, one thing you nearly die & then you come to have the motivation to win the WC.If not wrong he is the only driver in the history who came back from retirement & won the WC.

  19. Lauda! Just look at the stats

    On the paydriver discussion: Every driver is more or less a pay driver. As I’ve said before: Schumacher even got paid by Deutsche Vermogensberatung after he retired!

    But I do think it is a big sign of confidence, to arrange a loan yourself to fund your career. Then you’re really sure about your talent!

  20. Difficult.

    Jones did do very well in mediocre cars, scoring points regularly. His prime years where his years with Williams (78-81), but otherwise

    Lauda was bad in his first years. It wasn’t until he went to Ferrari that he started to score points regularly and then kept on racing in good cars.

    So going for the stats doesn’t do Jones right, although I vote for Lauda because he managed to get to drive in the right cars, where Jones, except for his Williams years couldn’t get a drive in a winning car.

  21. For me it’s an easy pick: Lauda. One of the all-time greatest. Among few people who have sit with Bernie Ecclestone to discuss money and has get out of it the winner. I really like the guy.

  22. Has to be Lauda, nothing against Jones who was as good as anyone in his day, but Lauda takes it. We’re choosing the best of the best, and Lauda is so much further up that list (in my eyes). A Triple World Champ who is ever so lucky to still be here. I have the upmost respect for the man, more then most after his bold choice of stopping in the ’76 Japanese GP, that gives him so much respect as when he was getting into the car to race 6 weeks after his accident.

  23. i was 10 when he had the accident, and remember thinking that he was the bravest man on earth. His come back after at monza was something imposible to understand at that age.
    I started following f1 more deeply when he was coming back and did the mclaren test at the end of 1981. lucky me!!!
    And i was lucky enough to be at estoril in 1984, for the season finale, to watch him take his last title.
    Jones was my kind of driver agresive, fast, no bull type of guy, but niki is in a diferent league.
    Keith this one was easy.

  24. Lauda easily. He wins it for his story, his stats and in my view being a greater talent than Jones was.

  25. Don’t know the reason but I cannot cast my vote today?

  26. Laura is the greatest. No other driver beats him in term of sheer determination and courage. And he changed Formula One for ever bringing professionalism to another level without Schumi “mean streak”. I remember seeing him winning races in 1975 and 1976 and he was just miles ahead of the field. His comeback after his accident and his second one in 1982 with his third world title in 1984 are the stuff of legend.

  27. Are these guys going straight into ties with the people who came before them? Schumacher v Alonso, Mansell v Clark, Prost v Hakkinen? Or will there be a random draw? i know there’s no further seeding.

  28. HounslowBusGarage
    7th January 2011, 20:37

    I always liked Alan Jone’s ‘gritty’ approach. But overall his gutsy attitude and undoubted skills are nothing like a match for Lauda.
    As pleased as I was that Hunt won in 1976, secretly we all knew that he wasn’t a patch on the death-defying Lauda.

  29. Easy. Niki Lauda is one of the greatest. Jones is one of te weakest champs.

  30. Niki Lauda. My first F1 idol.

  31. Niki laud a… Wow!!! How can anybody say someboxdy is a better champ than lauda? hi stink!

  32. I’m another Aussie who was forced to vote for Lauda. Although Jones must be remembered for winning the first championship for Williams and beginning their run of greatness. But Lauda, well his record speaks for itself

  33. Lauda has it for me too. Had a bit of luck in his pre F1 carear and was well sponsered in the lower formula’s but no amount of money gets for 3 World championships including one against the most successfull driver through the 80’s in the same car a season he had comeback drive after comeback drive, Awsome driver and a star even if his mouth ha got very big over the year!

  34. Lauda is one of the greatest ambassadors of the sport ever, one of the greatest drivers ever, and one of the world’s greatest sporting stories ever. Simple as that.

  35. Pseudohendrix
    8th January 2011, 9:43

    Lauda easily. There are certain drivers who have throughout the history of the Formula One world championship, raised the bar in terms of their approach and professionalism. Lauda is one such driver. His career and achievements are landmarks in F1.
    Jones on the other hand is one of those champions whom I struggle to rank amongst the all time greats. There are several WDCs who I would rank in an ‘all time grrats’ list behind several who did not win the championship at all. Jones is in that category.

  36. I’m an Australian, and unfortunately for Jones, my lasting impression of him as a driver, is someone who was rubbish in a contrived domestic Touring Car series (V8 Super Cars). The old footage of him makes him look a lot better, and he was tough, but Lauda was a superstar, and just as tough. No contest: Lauda.

  37. btw: Does anybody have a photo (or link to one) of Lauda before his accident?

  38. When I started watching F1 races (1989), experts in Brazil used to say that the best drivers of all times were fangio, clark, stewart, lauda and prost. Reading these comments I understand why Lauda is in the list. And maybe he is ahead of Prost and Stewart…
    Senna and Schumacher, only, can be added to this list, in my opinion.
    Hakkinen and Kimi are as fast as Schumi (and Senna and all others), but dont have the same will to win. Hamilton and Vettel may enter this list, who knows…

  39. Seriouslly, Lauda kills Jones in terms of talent, who cares about money!

  40. This is just as obvious as the Fangio-Hawthorn one. Lauda, come on! He nearly won the ’76 title having made a comeback from life-threatening injuries, won it the next season and made a comeback from retiremant to win a third title for Mclaren against a new generation of challengers, most notably Alain Prost. Jones made two comebacks, both disastrous for Arrows and Haas-Lola, although he was quite a good driver like any world champion, he’s still not up there with the all time greats.

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