Ayrton Senna vs Graham Hill

Champion of Champions

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Champion of Champions: Ayrton Senna vs Graham Hill

Ayrton Senna and Graham Hill not only won the world championship on more than one occasion, they were also runner-up several times too.

Senna won the title three times and was runner-up twice, whereas Hill won the championship twice and placed second in three consecutive years, from 1963 to 1965.

But while Hill set a record for competing in 18 seasons – a record equalled last year by Rubens Barrichello – Senna’s was tragically curtailed when he was killed at Imola.

However the final years of Hill’s career came after he was badly injured in a crash at Watkins Glen in 1969. It clearly impaired his later performances and his days of driving for top teams like BRM and Lotus were soon over.

Both Senna and Hill also shared a team with another of the great drivers of their day.

Senna was partnered with Alain Prost at McLaren in 1988 and 1989, winning a title apiece. Hill joined Jim Clark at Lotus in 1967. That partnership was brought to an end by Clark’s untimely death in 1968.

In 1969 Hill won the Monaco Grand Prix for the fifth time – a record, until Senna scored his sixth Monaco victory in 1993.

Coincidentally, Senna’s final team mate was Graham’s son Damon – his opponent in the first round of Champion of Champions.

But which of these drivers should go through to the quarter-finals? Vote for which you think was best below and explain who you voted for and why in the comments.

Ayrton SennaGraham Hill
Ayrton Senna, Williams, 1994Graham Hill
Titles1988, 1990, 19911962, 1968
Second in title year/sAlain Prost, Alain Prost, Nigel MansellJim Clark, Jackie Stewart
TeamsToleman, Lotus, McLaren, WilliamsLotus, BRM, Brabham, Embassy
Notable team matesAlain Prost, Gerhard Berger, Mika HakkinenRichie Ginther, Jackie Stewart, Jim Clark
Wins41 (25.47%)14 (8.00%)
Poles65 (40.37%)13 (7.43%)
Modern points per start111.686.02
% car failures220.5033.14
Modern points per finish314.709.00
NotesWon three titles in four years with McLarenNarrowly lost 1964 title to John Surtees after being hit by Lorenzo Bandini
Controversial clash with Prost sealed second titleWon second title in 1968 following team mate Jim Clark’s death
Killed in third race for Williams in 1994Died in a light aircraft accident shortly after concluding then-record 176-race career
BioAyrton SennaGraham Hill

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

Round one

Which was the better world champion driver?

  • Graham Hill (11%)
  • Ayrton Senna (89%)

Total Voters: 538

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Images ?? Williams/Sutton (Senna), Brian Waddell (Hill)

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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68 comments on “Ayrton Senna vs Graham Hill”

  1. Me thinks this will be Senna 2 Hills 0.

    1. Agreed.

      Senna should ease into the next round.

      1. No great surprise really is it. I can think of 3 or 4 drivers who should stand a chance against Senna, but really only 2 who I think might beat him.

        1. Let me guess: Prost and Schumacher?

          1. And Clark and Fangio, so perhaps 4.

          2. I’d guess those two would be Clark and Fangio… Prost or Schumacher might beat him

          3. I think Clark, Schumacher.. Fangio is kinda hard to compare.. but he’s certainly up there

          4. I was actually think Schumacher and Fangio are the ones who might beat him.

            Others who I think are worthy in comparison are Prost, Clark and Stewart.

    2. Surely. Almost the same numbers of races, but Senna on wins and poles is easily and widely ahead.

  2. They are surprisingly similar in their achievements and statistics. Hill very much faded in his later years though – we never got to see if Senna would do the same, but gut feeling says that he wouldn’t have.

    Hill is the only driver to have won the triple crown of motorsport though.

    The decision is more difficult than people let on. Senna will obviously win, but its closer than you’d think. My vote goes for Senna

    1. I agree in the fact that it’s closer than you’d think at first glance, although my vote goes for Senna as well.

    2. I’m going to have to disagree with this: Senna has less starts but 3x as many wins & 5x as many poles…plus an extra championship & 1 more win @ Monaco ;) (who is the real Mr. Monaco?)

      1. to counter that – Hill has a lot more car failures and raced well beyond his prime in cars that weren’t capable of points finishes, let alone wins.

        Hill only finished 6 races in his first 3 seasons.

        Senna had championship winning cars for the majority of his career.

        Remember that seasons were much shorter in Hills career – he has so many starts because he competed in so many seasons. I’m not trying to say that Hill is greater than Senna, as I voted the other way, but the statistics presented are simply statistics – and not a genuine reflection of what it was like to race in that era/the comparative difficulty of getting a car that would finish the race, let alone in the points.

        For those who haven’t seen it, there is a great documentary on Graham Hill called Driven (there was a series of them, one about Clark, one about Hill and one about Stewart). I’m sure its now on youtube in various different parts – do look it up and watch it. Really shows some insight into his career, and also, in my opinion, justifies why this is such a close comparison.

        1. Great film isn’t it, my favourite one out of the Driven series.

          Is “Embassy” the right name for his team – isn’t that like calling a Renault a “Lotus”?!

          1. i’d urge everyone to watch this. Might even watch it again!

          2. scrap that, I am watching it again. Its such a great documentary

          3. I had never seen that before. Very cool indeed. Thanks for the link :)

          4. Man… just makes me want to race all the more. Thanks for the link, Bullfrog!

          5. Embassy cigarettes was the team’s prime sponsor. I think the “official” team name was Embassy Hill.

        2. Just watched it, really worth it :D

        3. I’ll third the recommendation of Driven. Really good documentary.

        4. Of course I voted for Senna on this occasion but I do feel Hill was an overall under-rated champion….but just to pick up on a point made by sw6569…. I am not sure you can say that Senna had championship winning cars for the majority of his career:
          1984: Toleman
          1985-1987: Lotus
          1988 – 1990 – Mclaren and Championship winning cars.
          1991 – 1993 – Mclaren and not championship winning cars (williams best car out there)
          1994: Never had a chance to see but overall Bennetton considered the best of the field.

          So all in all he had three years out of 10 of clear championship winning cars. That is not the majority.

          1. 1991 was a championship winning car – hence, he won the championship. 1994 likely was as well, it was at least on a par with Bennetton. To clarify – my definition was meaning a car that was capable of winning the championship, which doesn’t necessarily mean that it was the best car (because otherwise Senna only won his championships while he had the best car, something that Senna fans wouldn’t be happy with as thats a criticism of Button too).

            Certainly, he was in cars capable of winning for the majority of his career, though i’ll concede that 4 years out of 10 (or 5/11 if you count 94) for championship winning cars isn’t quite a majority. I admit to hyperbole.

  3. Wow, by the end of this, Senna is going to have a matching pair of Hill-shaped notches in his holster.

    1. Is Phil Hill still in this? Senna v Hill round 3 would be too much of a coincidence!

  4. Agreed, Senna will win, but dispite the statistics showing otherwise , it is actually closer then most people will think.

    Hill won the triple crown, drove in one of the most competative era’s of the sport. But then again, so did Senna, but I’ve always felt Hill was an underappreciated champion. His reputation marred by his drop in form after is accident, and his (too) long stay in the sport.

    Nevertheless, I must vote for Senna

    1. It’s a subjective way of picking a winner, there is no way of getting a definitive answer to the question of who is the greatest world champion.

      I think Senna will comfortably win overall, because fans like him. Eventually, he will have to face Schumacher, Stewart, Fangio or Prost (that’ll be a good one). Schumacher has a lot of people who dislike him, Stewart and Fangio’s careers were too long ago, and Prost always seemed to be the villain in their rivalry.

      One thing I would like to see is a tournament draw table so we can see future matches.

      1. don’t forget clark, DavidS.
        And i agree with you that prost was the villian of the two at the time, but nowadays the younger generation of fans, based on what schumacher did a few times, have the perception that was the other way around.
        I vote for senna on this one, even though i have the upmost respect for graham.
        But this is senna we are talking about. For me his agresive way of driving, that some fans consider a flaw, i consider an asset. Only used when it was necesary, with more decency than the german.

      2. Stewart and Fangio’s careers were too long ago

        Stewarts career too long? He retired as champion age 34

        1. The keyword is “Ago”.

  5. Although my vote goes to Senna and I think he will easily win this round, I agree with some previous comments in that it is closer than the final results will probably show.

  6. SennaNmbr1 (@)
    23rd January 2011, 12:36

    This is where not seeing one of the guys race really does force the decision. My vote goes to Senna.

  7. Keith, just out of curiosity, when do you close voting for a poll in this series? Raikkonen vs. Stewart is currently the third article on the blog, and given that it’s a Sunday, it will probably stay up in the queue for some time. Does voting close when the next round of Champion of Champions opens, or does it close when we’ve gone through the set of eight match-ups?

    1. Good point, as the totals for the “G Hill v J Rindt” and “A Senna v D Hill” have summing anomalies.

  8. I voted Senna.

  9. Hey, you’re kidding right?

    Just because their stories sound similar, the numbers crush Hill. Not fair, even though I believe will reach the finals anyway.

  10. Argh, dammit I have to go with Senna as much as it pains me.

  11. The only fact that wants me to vote for Graham is that he is the only man on earth with the Crown of Motorsport [*], all others say vote for da Silva (which I have done) ;p

    [*] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triple_Crown_of_Motorsport

    1. That’s impressive by the way.

      It clearly shows that Graham was not a ‘bad’ driver or champion at all – in fact he was one of the best.

      He just hit overwhelming opposition in this second round.

    2. Just for your information – “da Silva” is his mother’s last name. In the Spanish naming convention – “Senna” is his father’s last name.

    3. Thats why I voted for graham Hill here. Although it is a tough choice.

  12. You might have noticed this by the time I post this comment, but the banner at the top of the page is the one for Round 1 – Senna vs. Damon Hill.

  13. Poor Hills. :) Ayrton anyway.

  14. For me, this is similar to the Andretti-Stewart match up, ie, IMHO one rates better overall (Andretti and Hill) while the other rates better in F1 (Stewart and Senna). As I did before, I voted for the one who rates better in F1- Senna.

  15. Senna wins this round. Hill was a brilliant driver, finishing in the top two of the championship 5 times against great opposition is no mean feat, particularly as he came to racing in Grand Prix comparatively late (much like his son); as well as winning the Indy 500 and Le Mans too.

    I would probably rate Hill in the top 10-12 of all time, but unfortunately Senna is definitely top 5 (probably top 3 in a lot of people’s book) and is consistently mentioned as one of the candidates for greatest ever. So there can only be one winner here.

  16. I know that Senna is going to win this. But I voted for Hill for the same reasons I voted for Andretti vs. Stewart. The Triple Crown is important.

    1. I also voted for Hill. Why? Well I believe that Senna won his titles with a superior performing car. He was up against Prost. Hill had Clark & Stewart. It was marginal but I would say Hill had the tougher opponents and tougher reliability to deal with.

      Hill and Senna were very similar. If you watched “Driven” as mentioned earlier you would have taken note to the way Graham prepared for the weekends, with notes about every setup. This matched with Ayrton’s knowledge of track and bumps that he would relay back in detail after a lap of the track.

      I admire both drivers and both are two of my favourites. It was a tough choice.

  17. Senna by a whisker. Hill was one of those all round kind of drivers, as shown in being the only Triple Crown holder in history, and that he went on (wrongly or rightly) for so long in an era when fate could have stepped in at any time. Ironic that Hill survived F1 for so long through its most dangerous days, when Senna was the last person to die in F1 when (at that time) it had never been safer, or so many believed, and was the last driver to die. Senna’s death, like Stewarts campaign in the 60’s/70’s has probably brought about as much of an impact on the way things are done in F1 from a saftey pospective as the impact his driving had on those that saw it.

    So on reflection, its Senna. But when he comes across some of the other drivers in the next/later round(s), I think il be casting my vote elsewhere.

    1. on schumacher perhaps.

  18. I predict Senna and either Schumacher or Clark in the final… That will be a toughie…

  19. Its going to be a final between MS and Senna XD

  20. Schumacher will not reach semi finals

  21. See my comment on the last Senna vote for my reasons in voting for another Hill.

  22. No competition. Senna is the man.

    1. i disagree. between these 2, hill is “the man”. he is also the man, and occasionally the “man”.

  23. Graham Hill against…God!
    Senna gets mine.

  24. OmarR-Pepper (@)
    24th January 2011, 13:25

    I’m not saying it’s unfair… I’ m saying Senna is a “monster” and round 3 will be much difficult.

  25. “Which was the better world champion driver?”

    Better in performances or better in etiquette?

    I’ve put Senna, but clearly (like Schuie) he gets deductions for bad track manners

  26. A no-brainer. Senna is really impressive – just imagine: he won every 4th race (25%)! Wow! And 40% poles – that’s almost every other qualifying!

  27. Senna was sublime almost every time he sat in a car, can anyone out there recall any of G.Hill’s finest moments? Senna for the final against any of JMF, MS, JC or Prost.. Personally I think Fangio depending on the draw configuration, its all up to Keith!

    ‘On a given day… you can fly very high’ has anyone in F1 ever flew higher…

  28. Champions of champions, Senna it is!

  29. I have said it many times before I am not a Senna fan at all, but this comparison to Graham Hill is kind of a waste of time. Senna was great driver and he deserves to advance over Hill.

  30. Raikkonen_Biggest_Fan (@)
    25th January 2011, 23:40

    Senna no doubt about it!

  31. I voted for Senna as well, and I think Senna may well win this COFC poll, or will be in contention till the final poll at the least. It’s kinda difficult not to vote for Senna.

  32. for me, Senna is the best ever

  33. David R. Turner
    20th February 2011, 21:30

    I don’t know why this comparison is being made. It’s difficult enough to compare drivers from different era’s. Graham Hill and Ayrton Senna are very different characters with very different skills. Senna is a natural and Hill was a very fast racing driver able to adapt to all kinds of Motor racing but not a natural. To bear in mind is that Graham Hill loved F1 racing so much he continued to race way past his best for a good 5 years or so when he had no chance of winning.
    Meanwhile Senna’s career was cut short with his unfortunate death in 1994 when he was still at his best. Stats are going to favour Senna by far so it’s an unfair comparison. Monaco was the only possible ground for comparison. As characters Graham Hill was a more balanced and well rounded person. Senna had antagonism against Prost despite proving he had the edge, yet he still found differences. Why?
    The Brazilian always found things to complain about which he saw as favouring Prost. Yet Graham Hill was matched up with two of the best F1 drivers of his time who had natural talent: On the day Jim Clark & Jackie Stewart were almost always faster than Hill. Yet Hill never showed any sign of envy or resentment towards his teammates as Senna did towards Prost. Hill joked about it in major events but had to take 2nd best.
    He was a a top racing driver and true Gentleman, Senna was a great racer and a sensitive man but no gentleman.
    I can’t vote for one or the other.

Comments are closed.