Sometimes, although quite rarely, the driver who wins the World Championship does so driving for a team who fall short in their quest for the Constructor’s Championship. Here are ten such years where the Champions made the difference and dragged a car that wasn’t quite the best all the way to glory._
1982: Keke Rosberg driving for Williams. Constructor’s Champions: Scuderia Ferrari.
1982 was a troubled year for Formula One. Both Ferrari drivers suffered tragic accidents during the season, with Gilles Villeneuve killed during qualifying, and Didier Pironi critically injured in a crash at Hockenheim. Young rookie Ricardo Paletti was killed in a startling crash in Montreal, and the FISA-FOCA war was in full swing.
Pretty much everyone else had a go at winning a race during the year, Michele Alboreto, Elio de Angelis, Nelson Piquet, Riccardo Patrese, Patrick Tambay, Rene Arnoux all won a race apiece, while Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, John Watson & Pironi all managed two wins. However, the World Champion ended up being Keke Rosberg. Despite only taking one win at the Swiss Grand Prix, his three runner up spots and two third place finishes were enough to snaffle Keke the World Championship by five points.
Ferrari won the championship despite their two drivers being different to the ones they started the season with. Gilles Villeneuve was replaced by Patrick Tambay, with Ferrari running just one car in Monaco, Detroit and Canada, while Pironi was replaced by Mario Andretti. Again, the team ran just one car between Germany and the final round at Caesars Palace. Despite all these travails, they still won the Constructor’s Championship. Williams had a revolving door policy for their second driver throughout much of 1982, and regular team-mate to Rosberg Derek Daly wasn’t able to match Rosberg’s consistency…his season best result was 5th place.
1994: Michael Schumacher driving for Benetton. Constructor’s Champions: Williams Renault.
The next tumultuous year in Formula 1 after 1982 was arguably 1994, and it definitely ranks as one of the sourest seasons of the modern era. San Marino is of the course the main culprit for this, with Simtek driver Roland Ratzenberger killed during qualifying, before Williams lost their Champion driver Ayrton Senna during the race itself. Jordan’s Rubens Barrichello also was badly injured during practice, while Karl Wendlinger fell into a coma after a smash at the next race in Monaco.
At the halfway point of the season, Michael Schumacher enjoyed a comfortable lead of 27 points over Williams’ Damon Hill, the Englishman having been thrust into the role of team leader after Senna’s death. Promoted to the race team was David Coulthard, who was replaced for the closing rounds by 92 Champion Nigel Mansell.
With Coulthard proving talented and ready to step up, he secured his first podium at the Portuguese Grand Prix, while Nigel Mansell won the final race in Australia. Benetton had several drivers alongside Michael during the season, JJ Lehto, Jos Verstappen and Johnny Herbert, none of whom could match Michael Schumacher.
Mansell’s final victory came after the infamous collision between Schumacher and Damon Hill for the championship win. Schumacher’s lead had been eroded after being forced to sit out two races for ignoring a black flag at the British Grand Prix, while also being disqualified from two rounds. Hill made hay while the cat was away, and took wins in Belgium, Italy and Portugal but lost out in the championship duel to Michael after Schumacher showed his ruthless side and collided with the Williams in Adelaide.
2007: Kimi Raikkonen driving for Ferrari. Constructor’s Champions: Ferrari.
OK OK, this one is cheating and bending the rules, which is exactly the reason why McLaren ended up being stripped of what should have been their Championship. The two McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton & Fernando Alonso scored 218 points between them, which was 14 more than what Champions Ferrari managed. Neither driver was disqualified from any races, but the team were eliminated from the championship for their part in the ‘Spygate scandal’, which revealed that the McLaren team were in possession of Ferrari data and blueprints.
Raikkonen and team-mate Felipe Massa almost matched the McLaren’s points over the course of the season, but the self-implosion of McLaren allowed Kimi Raikkonen to sneak up and snatch the title at the final round in Brazil. The Finn won the most races over the course of the season, and his victory in Brazil meant he snuck his sole title so far by just a single point.
2008: Lewis Hamilton driving for McLaren. Constructor’s Champions: Ferrari.
In a role reversal of sorts, McLaren would respond to their 2007 defeat in the best possible way, by snaffling the 2008 Driver’s Championship away from Ferrari after the final chequered flag had dropped.
Defending Champion Raikkonen had a poor season after a strong start to his campaign. Leading the championship after the Spanish Grand Prix, Kimi’s form dropped away and he could only manage a single second place over the remainder of the season, as well as a handful of third places. Team-mate Massa did the opposite, starting badly but rising to the occasion magnificently to challenge Lewis Hamilton for the title. Massa would win 6 races to Lewis’s five, but an engine failure while leading in Hungary and a critical error while pitting during the Singapore GP meant Felipe had to win the final race in Brazil to even stand a chance of taking the title. This he did, and with Lewis Hamilton mired in 6th place on the final lap, Ferrari had claimed both titles. However, Lewis reclaimed 5th place at the final corner and snatched the title by a solitary point.
Ferrari’s two drivers enjoyed greater consistency over the season, as McLaren’s new second driver Heikki Kovalainen failed to live up to expectation. Heikki would take just three podium finishes, with a win, 2nd, and 3rd place scattered through the season.
1973: Jackie Stewart driving for Tyrell. Constructor’s Champions: Lotus.
Tyrrell driver Jackie Stewart had already won the Driver’s Title by the time the F1 circus rocked up at Watkin’s Glen for the final round of the championship. He and young team-mate Francois Cevert had enjoyed a successful mentor-student relationship throughout the season, and Jackie had already decided that the US round would be his final race in the sport.
While Jackie had enjoyed undisputed leadership at Tyrell, Lotus drivers Ronnie Peterson & Emerson Fittipaldi had to split the spoils. They had three wins apiece by the final race, and Lotus led the Constructor’s Championship by a single point. It would be a very tight end to a thrilling championship.
Instead of a thrilling battle, and instead of a deserved swan song, Tyrell’s weekend was tragic. Francois Cevert was killed in practice at Watkin’s Glen, and the team immediately withdrew. This handed the title to Lotus, who cemented their position at the top by winning the race with Ronnie Peterson.
1981: Nelson Piquet driving for Brabham, Constructor’s Champions: Williams.
Nelson Piquet’s first title was won by just a single point. Defending Champion Alan Jones had remained at Williams alongside Carlos Reutemann, but the Australian had a disastrous campaign. He won the first race, and that was it until the final round, which he also won. A handful of retirements and non points finishes meant he fell four points short of the new Champion Piquet.
Nelson’s season was only a little better than Jones. He won three races, but more importantly, usually scored points when he finished a race, only recording one single non-points finish. Carlos Reutemann had a similar season as well, winning two races, and he finished three points ahead of Jones after recording an extra third place finish.
Piquet’s team-mate that year at Brabham was Hector Rebaque, who retired from more races than he finished, and only scored four points out of the occasions where he finished.
1976: James Hunt driving for McLaren, Constructor’s Champions: Ferrari.
The story of 1976 is an oft-told one, with James Hunt being left behind somewhat in the championship before Niki Lauda endured his life-threatening and changing crash at the Nurburgring.
Lauda had dominated the championship up until that point, the reigning Champion finished on the podium in every race up to Round 8 in France, and immediately returned with a win at Round 9 at Brand’s Hatch. James had won two races up to the Nurburgring, but retired from four of them. That all changed after Niki was sidelined though, and James racked up the wins in Canada, United States, Germany and the Dutch Grands Prix. As well known now, Hunt & Lauda ended up going head to head after Lauda’s return at the Italian Grand Prix, culminating in the Japanese race which saw Niki withdraw fearing for his life.
Hunt’s team-mate Jochen Mass was never up to James’ level that year. Despite enjoying more finishes than James, he would only score two podium places, two third place finishes, and would end the year in 9th place overall. Despite Ferrari sitting out the Austrian Grand Prix, Clay Regazzoni proved a more able backup to Lauda, and he finished the year in 5th position, helping Ferrari to the Constructor’s title.
1999: Mika Hakkinen driving for McLaren, Ferrari Constructor’s Champions.
While extenuating circumstances did intervene during the 1999 season, Ferrari ended up winning the Constructor’s Championship despite being missing their lead driver for almost half the season. Michael Schumacher broke his leg on the opening lap of the British Grand Prix and was replaced by Mika Salo while he was out. The stand-in Finn was somewhat inconsistent, almost winning the German Grand Prix before allowing team-mate Eddie Irvine through, before disappearing during the Hungarian and Belgian Grands Prix.
Irvine himself had a good year, winning the opening round in Australia, before challenging for the title by means of wins in Austria, Hockenheim and Malaysia on Schumacher’s return. McLaren managed to throw away points left right and centre, with multiple retirements and errors from team and drivers. Race ending mistakess for Hakkinen in San Marino and Monza, coupled with a loose wheel at Silverstone, a collision with team-mate Coulthard in Austria, and a high speed blow-out at Hockenheim meant a lot of extra pressure was put on team-mate Coulthard to pick up the slack, but he fared little better. David crashed out of the Japanese Grand Prix, as well as spinning out of the lead of the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring.
McLaren did their very best to lose both titles after being handed an open goal that year, and managed to miss on the Constructor’s front. Mika Hakkinen, when the chips were down, rose to the occasion in Japan and managed to take the Driver’s title.
1986: Alain Prost driving for McLaren, Constructor’s Champions: Williams.
A stronger pairing at Williams allowed Grove to snatch the Constructor’s Championship. This was after driver Nigel Mansell lost out on the Driver’s Championship at the very last round in Australia after suffering a heartbreaking tyre failure while on course to claim the title.
Prost won just four races for McLaren, compared to the Williams drivers who won nine races split between them, Mansell on 5, Piquet on 4. Alain enjoyed being the only McLaren driver to take the spoils, as 1986 team-mate Keke Rosberg struggled with the turbocharged McLaren and could only manage a solitary podium through the season.
1983: Nelson Piquet driving for Brabham, Constructor’s Champions: Ferrari.
Going into the season, it appeared Nelson Piquet was more ably backed up in 1983 by Riccardo Patrese, but that didn’t stop Riccardo from retiring from 8 of the first ten Grands Prix, only finishing in the points on one occasion. A further three retirements from the next six races ensured that all the pressure for a Constructor’s title lay on Piquet’s shoulders, and he coped admirably…finishing on the podium or winning most of the races he finished.
Over at Renault, championship rival Alain Prost was in the same boat. Team-mate Eddie Cheever was a scarcely stronger proposition than Patrese at Brabham, and Eddie would finish on less than half the points scored by Alain Prost, although did score four podium finishes along the way.
Piquet’s Brabham would actually in third place in the Constructor’s table though. Ferrari had Rene Arnoux and Patrick Tambay driving for them, and the all French pairing won four races between them and numerous podium finishes. They ended up third and fourth in the Driver’s standings behind Piquet and Prost, and as the strongest combination of drivers, won the Constructor’s title ahead of Brabham and Renault.