Emerson Fittipaldi vs Denny Hulme

Champion of Champions

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Emerson Fittipaldi and Denny Hulme were team mates at McLaren in 1974 – though the comparison does not flatter Hulme.

That was his final year in the sport, while Fittipaldi was at the peak of his powers, winning his second championship that year.

Hulme got his break in F1 through Jack Brabham, who he worked for as a mechanic before starting his first championship races in 1965. The following season was a breakthrough year for Brabham as he won the championship in his own car.

Hulme went into the 1967 season having never previously won a race. But while Brabham frequently hit trouble running new parts on his car, Hulme’s Brabham saw the chequered flag in nine out of 11 races, and it was in the top four every time. He won at Monte-Carlo and the Nurburgring, and took the title from his team mate.

With that he joined another driver running his own team – fellow Kiwi Bruce McLaren. Hulme went into the final two races of 1968 level on points with championship leader Graham Hill, but he missed out on a second title after crashing out at Watkins Glen and in Mexico – the latter an enormous shunt caused by a suspension breakage.

McLaren was killed in 1970 – the same year Jochen Rindt lost his life, which prompted Fittipaldi’s promotion at Lotus. He quickly delivered on his potential, winning his fourth career race at Watkins Glen.

But 1971 was a difficult season as the team struggled to get to grips with its new car, the 72, and Fittipaldi was briefly sidelined after being injured in a road accident. After getting a handle on the new car, he clinched the championship in 1972, becoming the youngest driver ever to do so.

Fittipaldi started 1973 with a pair of wins but came under increased pressure from new team mate Ronnie Peterson as the season wore on. Jackie Stewart claimed his title back from Fittipaldi.

That led him to cut his ties with Lotus and join McLaren. He paired up with Hulme, who had won once with the competitive new M23 in 1973. Hulme won the season-opener at Buenos Aires, but come the end of the season it was Fittipaldi who won the title in the final round.

While Hulme headed into retirement, Fittipaldi spent a second season with McLaren before making the surprise decision to drive for his brother Wilson’s team. In five years the team tasted little success, second place for Fittipaldi in Brazil in 1978 being the notable exception.

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.

Emerson Fittipaldi Denny Hulme
Titles 1972, 1974 1967
Second in title year/s Jackie Stewart, Clay Regazzoni Jack Brabham
Teams Lotus, McLaren, Copersucar, Fittipaldi Brabham, McLaren
Notable team mates Ronnie Peterson, Denny Hulme, Jochen Mass Jack Brabham, Bruce McLaren, Emerson Fittipaldi
Starts 144 112
Wins 14 (9.72%) 8 (7.14%)
Poles 6 (4.17%) 1 (0.89%)
Modern points per start1 6.90 8.39
% car failures2 25.69 25.89
Modern points per finish3 9.29 11.33
Notes Won in his fourth F1 start Took title off team mate Brabham in 1967
Spent five seasons with Fittipaldi team after winning second title Moved to McLaren the following year and came close to retaining his crown
Formerly the youngest ever world champion Won the first race of 1974 but retired at the end of the year
Bio Emerson Fittipaldi Denny Hulme

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?

  • Denny Hulme (18%)
  • Emerson Fittipaldi (82%)

Total Voters: 530

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Images © Gillfoto via Flickr (Fittipaldi), Gerry Swetsky (Hulme)

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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74 comments on “Emerson Fittipaldi vs Denny Hulme”

  1. 1st to vote… but can you tell who for?

    1. I for Emerson.

  2. Not exactly difficult, but I can’t see Emerson getting past the second round!

    I’m afraid I don’t know much about these two, but enough to know I wanted to vote for Fittipaldi!

    1. I voted Fittipaldi, don’t know much about either, however, while Denny is a McLaren legend, owned CamAm for us, Fittipaldi had the greater lasting impact.

      Still, the Bruce and Denny show is still legendary.

  3. I voted Fitti. But hard to say. Both was from very exciting eras and struggled against a great line-up of drivers.

  4. I actually voted for Hulme. He was fairly competitive throughout his career and managed to beat some of the biggest names in the sport.

    I may be being harsh on Fittipaldi, but joining his brothers team really spoilt his career for me. He could have won so much more had he stayed at the sharp end of the grid and I don’t think he ever reached his full potential, and that’s why I can’t vote for him.

    1. Fittipaldi definitely made some odd career decisions, would agree with you there. Anyone know why he did?

      1. Well, it was his brothers team. I suppose he felt just as good about that move as JV felt about starting with BAR at the time.

      2. why not try to establish his own team? Brabham did, McLaren did, Gurney tried, Surtees tried, surely a few others who have slipped my mind.

        Its something which many drivers have done, some have pulled it off and some haven’t. I wouldn’t really consider it an odd career decision.

      3. His brother’s team and a boatload of money from Copersucar.

    2. I also voted for Hulme, i think he was as good as Fittipaldi, probaly better.

      1. @BasCB

        You are completely wrong in your thinking! The onus is on hulme to prove he deserves first place, and the way to do that is to win public votes fairly and squarely, not by garnering sympathy factor on f1fanatic! All Hulme proved was that he is good at getting sympathy, which is why he got such a panning by the press. “That looked incredibly easy” (i.e. “My grandmother can win this poll!”)
        Emerson was in front because he used better tactics and skill than every other person in F1, and for someone to turn around and say “You want to win, so you have to give the place to him” is a total affront in any sport and is proof alone that Hulme didn’t deserve the win. Every champion in this list wants to win, which is why they are there! That is why it is called a “sport”!
        Would Hulme being second have reduced the achievements of him? No.
        There are only two arguments that might justify Hulme being given the undeserved win: 1) If hulme could win the champion of champions and Emerson believed he could not, then there would be a tactical advantage gained by Fittipaldi next year by his placement in the f1f hall of fame if he gave the win to hulme, who in turn did actually win the Champion of champions (so Fittipaldi obviously believed there was insufficient merit in this argument for him to give the place to Hulme or he would have given the place to him volunatarily); and 2) That by giving the place to Hulme there was a significantly bigger financial reward both to hime and to Emerson than by Emerson winning (and again, he knew this was not the case otherwise he would just have done so, and whatever Dennt Hulme’s financial rewards or losses are, that should be of no interest to Fittipaldi).
        In the champion vs champion position argument, the onus is upon Fittipaldi himself to decide that he can benefit from allowing Hulme to win, not upon the voting public like me to decide for him, because their interest is to have two drivers on the list, one of which wins (i.e. either champ wins), so they can sell advertising. Since the public decided for him, it is again proof that Fittipaldi preferred the prestige and financial rewards of winning over any future tactical advantage that he may gain in the champion hall of fame.
        Conclusion: Hulme will lose at the expense of Fittipaldi’s (literally, because Fittipaldi didn’t win, therefore no bonus to him, nor will the argument carry much weight when the public votes) all because Hulme, who’s skill and tactics (like every other champion on the list that decade) were inferior to Fittipaldi’s.

        1. You lost me. You do know that this is a vote by readers of F1Fanatic and that the drivers are not really involved? :D

          Anyway, I reckon Hulme has a good shot and should be considered a vote for this round.
          He started F1 in 1965. 2 years later champion, that’s not far off what Emerson achieved. He may not have to outright speed with only 1 pole, but his more cautious approach brought the title in 1967 when others suffered mechanical failures.

          Ironically, Denny could have been a double world champion if not for suspension failure in 1968 in the final round.

          By the time he was racing with Fittipaldi he was past his prime, so direct comparison of being teammates should not be a factor. You wouldn’t put Nico Rosberg above Schumacher over both careers now would you?

        2. what are you on about?

        3. did you smoke some pot or what?

        4. You lost me there, I got the fact, that you do not agree with me that it is close between the two of them and believe instead, that Emo is miles ahead.

          But as for the rest it makes reading like a russian novel.

          1. Auto-translated?

            I voted for Hulme but I’m not 100% convinced either way. At least this is one of the closer battles in Round 1.

          2. I thought it great comedy, myself. Well done Lee – or maybe get some sleep and distance :)

            Fittipaldi is an interesting character, although the only racing I have really seen from him was in Indycar I think, due to my age (or was that his son already?) :O

            Both of these did a lot of racing, battling with rather unreliable cars. Hulme seemed to not be an outright speed devil, with only one pole, but he does manage to get the points in; Fittipaldi has the better record though, even including those five years of driving with his brothers team – I guess it worked a bit like BAR/Honda for Button, except he didn’t get a Brawn year to end it in F1.

  5. This is a really good matchup actually, very close. For me though – Fittipaldi gets it. He is still a pretty active racer as far as I know and is still competitive – and won CART and the Indy 500.

    1. Hm, that’s true, I loved seeing him still racing Nigel Mansell in CART in the 90ties. Very impressive (I think Mario Andretti was still racing at the time as well)
      Maybe I should have voted for him instead (Fittipaldi, not Andretti, LOL).

      1. Their battles in the GP masters series would have been great too had it continued!

      2. Emerson FIttipaldi and Mario Andretti are, in my view, right up there with Stewart, Clark, Piquet and even perhaps Mansell, beacause they displayed their versatility quite long into their career, when other drivers would consider themselves to be too old to be brave and sit in the cockpit.

        I think Fittipaldi wins here, but between Andretti and Stewart…Stewart’s stats are just too lofty to put aside. So Andretti, inspite of all his versatility (race winner in midgets, sprint cars, USAC single seaters, F1, NASCAR, IndyCars) has to bow out of the duel.

    2. Agreed, Emmo by a nose. Emmo’s success in CART is matched by Denny’s success in Can Am.

  6. Fittipaldi but not by much. Hulme was a very resilient driver, impressive in all the cars he drove, including CanAm (and not everybody died of a heart attack actually driving a race car). He also really supported McLaren after the death of Bruce McLaren. I remember that in 1973 he was, within the Yardley McLaren team, referred as “Big Bear” as opposed to “Little Bear” (Jody Scheckter) and they looked physically like father and son. But Emmo was really impressive against Stewart in 1972 and Lauda in 1974. He was wrong going with Copersucar in 1976 but what he did in Indy cars afterwards really shows his raw talent. Two F1 titles, one CART title and two wins at Indianapolis can’t be ignored.

    1. jihelle, you’re absolutely right.

      However, in 1972 Jackie Stewart wasn’t at his competitive best thanks to his severe intestinal problems. He even missed a few races, if I’m not mistaken.

  7. Fittipaldi. Anyone with chops like that gets my vote.

    1. there is also some truth to this :D

  8. Jeez now this is a tough one. If you look at it purely on stats you really can’t split them.

    When you look at Denny’s career as a whole you have to admit he was more of a good driver than an outstanding driver. But when you look at his results he was always there though, pretty much always competitive and challenging at the pointy end. In 67 he did exactly what he had to do to beat Sir Jack, and that certainly wasn’t an easy feat! He also set fastest time in his first ever F1 practice.

    But then Emerson was stronger than his stats show too. His last few years trying to establish his own team really blew out the numbers, and even then he managed to get a few surprising results in a car which probably didn’t really deserve to be there.

    As much as I like Denny due to his driving for Brabham, I think you’d have to say Emerson. If he hadn’t tried to run his own team and stayed with established teams, this would certainly be a lop-sided battle.

    1. i agree with this. if you discount his later career (as surely we will with many champions) his record is very impressive. this is a close round though.

      it should be noted that both drivers drove an impressive number of GPs in an era when getting killed was the most likely way of ending a career.

      did anyone else ever play Grand Prix Legends? a bit of a nod to 1967 but my head says this should be emerson’s.

  9. Jeffrey Powell
    10th January 2011, 14:09

    Emerson by a whisker Ha Ha! and for two other reasons his continuing love of the sport and the fact that, his great maiden win sealed the Championship for my then departed hero Jochen Rindt.

  10. This is the first time I’ve found it tough to choose a winner.

    Reading the headline I thought this was an easy one for Fittipaldi, I have always had a soft spot for 2 times champ Emo and especially enjoyed his drives in Champ Car in the 80’s & 90’s.

    However upon reading the post by Keith, even with the unflattering Hulme comment in the 1st paragraph, I actually found myself having the same thoughts as Dan Thorne on this towards Denny.

    So, having scanned wiki for championship years ’75 back to ’66, ignoring the years Emo spent in his brothers car… Fittipaldi was consistently the better driver, consistently putting it on the podium every year. Whereas, ’67 aside, Denny’s results appear very inconsistent and all over the place.

    So I gave it to Emo.

  11. Fittipaldi was along with Stewart my first F1’heroes’ and for that sentimentality he gets my vote. He was a great racer and got me hooked on the sport. He also performed well outside F1. As others have said if he made better choices he could have left with more on his F1 cv.

  12. I voted for Hulme simply because Fittipaldi’s latter years (in F1) were so poor. Bit like J Villeneuve with BAR.

    1. Another way to look at it- Fittipaldi scored points and even a podium (2nd at Rio in ’78) in that dog of a car.

  13. One of the most fifficult ones so far in my oppinion.

    Hulme was a great driver, who was still winning in his final year of competition, but I have to feel that id Jack Brabham hadn’t been so keen on being the first to try out new parts on his car in 67, and thus have poorer reliability, it would have been him who would have taken the title instead of hulme…

    Fittipaldi didn’t win for the last 5 years of his carreer in F1, which kind of lowers his overall stats, but bear in mind, he did spent those years with his brother’s team… And he went on to be a succesfull driver in Indy cars for many years to come.

    But for me, what speaks most for Fittipaldi is that in 73 he beat Petterson…no mean feat in my book!

    So Fittipaldi gets my vote…but only on a55% to 45% devision in in my head…

  14. Hulme had just one pole. I don’t know for sure, but I think that is unique for a f1 champion.

  15. Just like Graham Hill, Fittipaldi switched from competitive frontrunners to back markers, just because the team bore his name. Unlike Brabham and McLaren before them, they both couldn’t make it work. Would Fittipaldi have stayed at McLaren he probably would have won more GPs and maybe another world title.

    And since they both competed in the same car in the same year and Fittipaldi won in the end, Fittipaldi gets my vote.

    1. they competed in the same car but in a different team. Am i wrong?.
      Fittipaldi was the first f1 name i can recall. He was fast, spectacular, twice world champion. He was good at setting up the car. And a romantic… That stopped him from may be have better numbers. But still one of the greats.
      Hulme on the other hand, was good. But not great. You could see that, in the last victory with the mclaren. Everybody was expecting someone else to come first, but he had that special something, that champions have. Victory seems to come onto them effortlessly.
      My vote goes to emerson.

    2. Hill did it because he wanted to have go at running a team…it was the only way he could stay in the game at that stage of his career. They really weren’t at it long enough to know whether or not it would have worked…it is true that at the end they had a good car and a very promising young driver, so who knows…

  16. I actually forgot Denny Hulme even won the title…. he has to be the most obscure champion in F1 history, surely?

    1. It was for me, until I bought Grand Prix Legends for my PC over 10 years ago and looked up who won the 1967 title.

    2. As a long time fan of his, I hate to say it, but you’re probably right.

  17. When thinking about champions and seeing first round is mostly multiple champion vs. one-time champion, I felt Fittipaldi is among those who could struggle from the multiple champions. But, as he was drawn among Hulme I still vote for Emmo. Anyway, this is the pair where I can’t see either getting past next round into top eight.

  18. Who’s left then?

    Off the top of my head I can think of:



    Multiple x:


    Unless I’ve missed anyone, that means some 1x drivers will need to be paired up!

    Who’s everyone’s favourite for the top 4?

      1. My apologies!

    1. You might put Senna or Prost up with Damon Hill, they were team mates for a couple of races after all / a season.

      And I would put up the most recent champs against each other. Button and Hamilton as they are team mates, or Vettel vs. Button and Kimi vs. Lewis as they were up against each other in their WDC years.

      1. Yep, that’d be good! That would be interesting results! I could see Button going out first round, but not sure about the other 3!

      2. Made another mistake! Prost has been up against Rosberg already! Dear me, apologies!

        1. Right, i forgot about that as well. So that would be Senna vs. Damon Hill then?

          1. Which, I think we all agree would be a rather one sided contest! Which is a shame as I like Damon Hill… he wouldn’t beat any of the remaining multiple champions on here though!

          2. As a Raikkonen fan, I am starting to fear a matchup with either Prost or Senna. :(

  19. I Went for Fittipaldi. Two hard fought world title win including Beating Lauda in the Ferrari which went on to be the strongest combination of the era. Theres no doubt he ruined his carear joining Wilson’s team but this is about best driver so Emmo wins for me

  20. The both were probably equaly strong. I voted fot Emmo, pure because he won more. For the rest of it, they we’re both very good champs, but not top-ten-ever material.

  21. I voted for Hulme, pretty much because many people will probably be finding themselves in the same situation last year, i.e. discovering this guy even existed.

    But it’s more than that. I’ve always tried to approach the votes by the criteria the series is based on, but I’ll allow myself this one indulgence. Becoming world champion is hard and after hearing a lot of rubbish how Webber would have been an undeserving champion (mainly from a few passionate individuals), I thought I would honour that in this vote.

  22. Emmo, definitely. He won in his 1st season. How many drivers have achieved that? Hulme didn’t start winning until the year he won the title, but then again it was only his 3rd season. I’d still say Fittipaldi, he was a lot more successful despite spending the last 5 years of his career at a backmarker team.

  23. This is a tougher one then I thought it would be but then looking at the stats and reading some great comments it became quite close.
    I have good memories of Denny from CanAm at Mosport, but better memories of Emerson in the JPS.
    So being undecided at that point I went back to my first impression and voted Emerson Fittipaldi

  24. No brainer really, Hulme.

    To take a title in front of Brabham, Stewart, Clark, Hill, Surtees – you just don’t do that if you’re not “great”.

    1. To be fair, Stewart was driving in a BRM team heavily into its decline,q

    2. To be fair, Stewart was driving in a BRM team heavily into its decline, Surtees was aging in a rubbish Honda and Lotus (Hill and Clark) were in transition to the 49. But credit to Hulme, he also beat Brabham in his own team.

  25. I know very little of these two drivers, but after reading the comments and looking at the stats I chose Emerson, but not by much.

  26. Personally I consider Fittipaldi as a bit better driver then Hulme, but both are not in my top 30 of Formula One drivers…

    1. not top ten someone said. I can cope with that, but not top 30!!!! come on. That’s nonesense.
      I think emerson is a top ten. In the mold of mika, nelson piquet, mansell or andretti. And a little behind lauda, stewart, fangio, prost, schumacher, clark and senna.
      Anybody outthere is with me, or am i crazy?

      1. My ten would go something like this:

        G Villeneuve
        G Hill
        Piquet (Snr)
        K Rosberg
        Montoya (yes, Montoya)

        Each to their own though.

      2. Yes, for me clearly NO TOP 30 for Fittipaldi and Hulme, because I am looking at the way HOW their top results were achieved, if only because of other retirements or because of their pace and strength…
        In terms of laps led is
        Fittipaldi 39th and Hulme 40th in official statistics, which is quite poor, especially for the Brazilian who is 2x World champion… Using the percentage
        laps led/race attended, he will be even the worst of all champions… So, overated as hell…

  27. Back in the early 70’s, I was as big a fan of the Can-Am series as I was F1. Getting to watch the likes of Denny Hulme, Revson, Stewart, Cevert, Donohue, et al, have at it in what was essentially an unrestricted formula was a sight to behold. The McLaren M8D and M20 were absolute brutes, and Hulme seemed to be particularly suited to manhandling those incredible machines. I’ve always liked him for that. But we’re talking F1 here, and it was a tough choice. On the strength of almost double the amount of wins, and 2 titles over 1, I had to (somewhat reluctantly) vote for Fittipaldi. Close call.

  28. Fittipaldi makes my top 20 and Hulme doesn’t, so this one goes to the Brazilian.

  29. schooner – Thanks for remembering Hulme in the CanAm series. Yes this is an F1 poll but wasn’t it grand when F1 drivers were allowed to be all around racers.

  30. Tough one. Each worked mighty hard, uphill it seemed. Saw Emmo’s first win – to brighten the despondency over Rindt. Met him on the Queen Mary in Long Beach in ’77 or ’78. His wins in Indycar were huge.

    On the other hand Hulme was a partner in the “Bruce & Denny Show” (CanAm late ’60’s). Dominant is an insufficient word. Plus he went and won the WC in the year that Our Jim should have taken it in the Lotus 49.

    Nod to Bear.

  31. Denny won his WDC because of Lotus’s unreliability. Emerson was genuinely faster than JYS in 1972 and the achievement of becoming the youngest ever world champion is not to be understated. He is still the 3rd youngest WDC and he did this in the days before karting really took off as a path to F1. To win the WDC at such a young age in such a brutal era is incredible. That and the fact that in F1 alone, I’m yet to see what was particularly special about Denny Hulme, wins it For Fittipaldi for me.

    1. And Fittipaldi won in 1974, because of Ferrari s unreliability…:) In both seasons /1972 and 1974/ he was not the driver, who spent the most laps in lead… This was the case of Stewart /1972/ and Lauda /1974/, who should be both champions for those years, if strong car reliability wasn t a key to result in races…

  32. Fittipaldi, the most important stat says he has one more WDC then Hulme. Add to that CART and Indy and it’s an easy vote.

    On top of that, to go and drive for your family is a very nice thing to do, it shows he had his heart in the right place.

    1. yes he has the heart in the right place. I agree on that one. That cost him in his profesional carear, but with the numbers he has, i don’t think he minds. If he was more like niki lauda, may be he would be three times world champion, but, to me he is more or less at the same level. And he doesn’t have any bad word for a fellow driver, like lauda does. Like i say, same talent, different personality.

  33. Although Denny Hulme spoke to me once in New Zealand when I was working for McRae I voted for Emerson who I had only seen in the pits in the US but I never talked to him.

    Denny was a terrible thrasher of dog rings in the Hewland transaxle; they would never last through practice, let alone the race.

    Emerson at least tried new car construction with an Aluminum honeycomb tub in the Copersucar which was way ahead of it’s time.

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