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FI World Champion Drivers

Fernando Alonso - F1 World Champion 2005, 2006

Name: Fernando Alonso
Nationality: Spain
Date of birth: July 29, 1981 - Oviedo

Alonso's father built him a kart when he was only two years old but it was not until he was 13 that he was able to do any serious racing. He won the Spanish cadet national kart title in 1994. Two years later he won the World Junior Karting title and he continued in karts until 1999 when he moved into car racing in the Nissan Open series in Spain, driving for former F1 driver Adrian Campos's team. He won the title at his first attempt and then moved into Formula 3000 with backing from Telefonica. He raced for Team Astromega and won the Spa race and finished fourth in the series. He was signed to a management contract by Flavio Briatore and as a result was soon named as a Minardi test driver and in 2001 became the number one driver for the team, which had just been bought by Australia's Paul Stoddart. After an impressive first season Alonso took the decision to become the Renault test driver in 2002, in the knowledge that he would graduate to the race team in 2003. He joined Renault as expected and with the impressive R23 was able to well and won his first victory in Hungary in August. Life was rather more difficult in 2004 but in 2005 he was a strong challenger early in the season and then settled back to defend a World Championship lead. He did this with much maturity and as a result won the World Championship, becoming the youngest ever F1 title winner. Within a couple of months, however, it was announced that he would be moving to McLaren in 2007. Despite this Alonso stayed on at Renault in 2006 and won the world title for a second time.

The move to McLaren did not prove a success. Alonso quickly found himself overshadowed by new kid on the block, Lewis Hamilton, his own teammate. Furthermore he was implicated in a spy scandal when it was revealed that Ferrari information had been leaked to McLaren. Four wins were not enough to get the Championship and, once the season was over, he returned to Renault.This was not a success and he was soon being linked to a drive at Ferrari in 2009.

Mario Andretti, Spanish GP 1970
Mario Andretti - FI World Champion 1978

Name: Mario Andretti
Nationality: United States of America
Date of birth: February 28, 1940 - Montona, Italy

Mario Andretti's life story captured the essence of the great American dream. Born near Trieste in the early months of the Second World War, his family spent the first seven years of his life in a displaced person's camp before emigrating to the USA in 1955. Childhood memories of Alberto Ascari and the Mille Miglia fueled Mario's passion for racing. He competed in the Indianapolis 500 for the first time in 1965 and won this classic American race four years later. He qualified a works Lotus 49B on pole position for the US Grand Prix at Watkins Glen and won his first Grand Prix victory at the wheel of a Ferrari in South Africa three years later. Yet the whole point about Mario was his passion for racing. Sure, he made a living out of it, a good one, but the basic thing was to be battling away behind the wheel. He was one of the most versatile drivers of all time, winning regularly in F1, Champcars, oval racers and long distance sports car races. In 1978 he drove the sensational Lotus 79 to the World Championship title and raced intermittently in F1 through to the end of 1982. He would be 53-years old when he won his last Champcar race at Phoenix, Arizona, in 1993 and although he celebrated his 60th birthday at the start of 2000 he was still angling after a drive at Le Mans. Mario continued to hang out in racing circles and even tested for his son Michael's team in 2003 but a huge accident from which he emerged unscathed finally convinced him to stop tempting fate.

He remains the elder statesman of US racing and is now helping to guide the career of his grandson Marco, who tested an F1 car for Honda in December 2006.

Alberto Ascari, Swiss GP 1953
Alberto Ascari - FI World Champion 1952, 1953

Name: Alberto Ascari
Nationality: Italy
Date of birth: July 13, 1918 - Milan, Italy
Date of death: May 26, 1955 - Monza, Italy

Alberto Ascari was the son of a famous father. Antonio Ascari was the star of the Alfa Romeo team in the 1920s but died in a racing accident at Montlhery in 1925. Alberto was seven and did not look like a racing driver. He was chubby with a jovial air but he had a great desire to emulate his father.

He began racing motorcycles and then at 22 switched to cars, competing for the first time on the Mille Miglia in 1940. His career was immediately interrupted by the war and so it was not until he was nearly 30 that his career really took off. Tutored by Gigi Villoresi he began winning in 1948 and joined Alfa Romeo, his father's old team. In 1949 he went to Maserati but soon switched with Villoresi to join Ferrari.

After two years of Alfa Romeo domination, the formula was changed and the Ferrari F500 became the force to be reckoned with. In 1952 and 1953 Ascari was the man, winning every Grand Prix in which is he competed in 1952 and half of those in 1953. His record of nine consecutive wins remains unbeaten.

After winning two consecutive World Championships Ascari found life more difficult. He had switched to the Lancia team and his only victory was the Mille Miglia as the team was not ready with its planned F1 challenger. Ascari had to make do with a number of unsuccessful outings with a Maserati. The Lancia D50 appeared at the end of the year and Ascari immediately put it on pole position in Spain, leading the race until the car retired.

The Lancia would be a challenger in 1955. Ascari's great rival, Juan-Manuel Fangio, won the first three races that year in his Mercedes-Benz and then at Monaco Ascari got it wrong and crashed into the harbour, emerging unhurt from the experience.

A week later while testing a Ferrari sports car at Monza he crashed at the corner which now bears his name and was killed. The accident had no eyewitnesses and has never been fully explained.

Jack Brabham, French GP 1967
Jack Brabham - FI World Champion 1959, 1960, 1966

Name: Jack Brabham
Nationality: Australia
Date of birth: April 2, 1926 - Hurstville, nr Sydney

The grandson of a Londoner who emigrated to Australia in 1885 and opened a grocer's shop in Adelaide, Brabham was born in Sydney where his father worked as a dealer in flour. Brabham grew up fascinated by machinery. He was studying mechanical engineering when he was called up to work for the Royal Australian Air Force and worked as a mechanic on Beaufighters based in Australia. When the war ended he was demobilised and immediately began to build a midget racer which was raced by an American called Johnny Schonberg. When he decided to stop racing Brabham decided to try himself and he took part in his first race at the Paramattta Speedway in the suburbs of Sydney. He was soon winning races and in the years that followed became one of the stars of the midget racing scene in Australia until his original engine blew itself up.

Brabham very nearly quit the sport after that but a meeting with a young engineer called Ron Tauranac resulted in a switch to hillclimbing in 1951 and from there moving into road racing with a Cooper-Bristol which had been shipped out from Europe. He found sponsorship to run the car but the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport forced him to remove the name of his sponsor from the car and Brabham decided that he would go racing in New Zealand instead. This brought him into contact with a number of international drivers who raced each winter in New Zealand and in 1955, having seen that he could be competitive with some of the best international racers, Brabham went to England. He raced a Cooper-Alta but it was not very successful and so he switched to a Bristol engine and things then began to improve and he was soon working for the Cooper Car Company in Surbiton, Surrey. He was not paid but was instead allowed to build up a car which he raced and then sold, which enabled him to buy a Maserati 250F for the 1956 season. It was not a success and Brabham went back to Cooper, racing for the works team in Formula 2 and in sports car events.

In 1957 the Climax engine in his Cooper F2 car was stretched to 2.2-litres and Brabham went to Monaco for the Grand Prix. He crashed and a deal was struck with Rob Walker to put Brabham's engine into one of Walker's chassis and Brabham raced the car. He was running third with three laps to go when the engine failed although he pushed the car to the finish and was classified sixth. Brabham and Cooper continued to develop the car and the engine and in 1959 Brabhham began to win European F1 races, his first being the Daily Express Trophy. This was followed by wins in the British and Monaco Grands Prix, success which took him to the World Championship. The following year he did it again but Cooper's domination was ended by a change in the rules which saw Ferrari dominating in 1961. It was during that year that Jack and Tauranac established Motor Racing Developments Ltd and began building a Formula Junior car in a shed in Esher. The project was kept secret as Brabham was still a Cooper driver.

At the end of the year Brabham left Cooper and the Brabham company moved into new workshops in Surbiton and began to design a Formula 1 car. Brabham bought a Lotus with which to start the 1962 season and then in July 1962 the Brabham BT3 appeared at the German GP. Cars for other championships followed but success in F1 did not come until 1964 when Brabham driver Dan Gurney won the team's first Grand Prix at Rouen. Brabham himself did not win a race in one of his own cars until 1966. A new engine formula was introduced that year and in preparation for that Brabham convinced the Repco company in Australia to build an engine for his team, based on an aluminium Oldsmobile V8. This proved to be the most effective engine of 1966 and 1967 and enabled Brabham to win his third Drivers' Championship and the team's first Constructors' title. In 1966 he was created an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his services to motor racing.

In 1967 Brabham's number two driver Denny Hulme won the title but in 1968 a new Repco unit proved to be less effective and the arrival of the Cosworth DFV left all opposition standing. In 1969 Brabham joined the teams using the DFV and continued to win races. At the end of 1970 he announced that at 44 it was time for him to retire. He sold his half of the Brabham company to Tauranac and went back to Australia. He retained his shareholding in John Judd's Engine Developments Ltd, which was originally known as Jack Brabham Conversions.

His three sons Geoff, Gary and David have all enjoyed successful racing careers, David getting to Formula 1 in the early 1990s with the ill-fated Simtek team, in which Brabham was a shareholder.

Brabham was knighted in 1979.

Jim Clark, German GP 1965
Jim Clark - FI World Champion 1963, 1965

Name: Jim Clark
Nationality: Great Britain
Date of birth: March 4, 1936 - Kilmany, Scotland
Date of death: April 7, 1968 - Hockenheim Circuit, Germany

To many, Jim Clark remains the greatest racing driver in history.

He won 25 of his 72 Grands Prix, and his victory in the 1965 Indianapolis 500 crushed the American racing psyche. He had a towering ability to get the maximum out of any car he drove, without appearing to be trying hard. Motor racing found in this gentle Scottish farmer a World Champion of great humility, for Clark appeared to have trouble appreciating just how great his own talent was. He raced in an era when chivalry was still an intrinsic part of the game, and he never resorted to underhand tactics.

He started racing in a friend's cars, initially without the knowledge of his parents. Before long he had graduated to the famous Border Reivers team's Jaguar D Type, and soon the motor racing world was taking notice of his prowess. He won races in a Lotus Elite and a Lister Jaguar to underline his ability, but when a drive with Aston Martin's Grand Prix team collapsed together with the project, he signed for Formula Two and Formula Junior with Lotus. It was to prove the start of one of the most remarkable team owner/driver relationships in history.

Clark would drive exclusively in Formula One for the innovative Colin Chapman at Lotus, who more often than not produced the fastest cars. Clark certainly benefited from the first pukka monocoque F1 car, the Lotus 25, in 1962, and again from the power of the Ford DFV V8 in the Lotus 49 in 1967. Yet Chapman's elegant creations were frequently fragile. Clark lost both the 1962 and 1964 World Championships in the final races through mechanical frailty, and had the 49 been more reliable in 1967 he would have triumphed then, too. Races surrendered to his magnetic genius. But perhaps the best index was not so much what happened when he won, as what happened when he performed in adversity, such as at Zandvoort in 1966. There, giving away a full liter to the 3 liter Brabham Repcos of Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme, Clark was set to win in his 2-liter Lotus Climax when the engine started overheating, dropping him back.

He was a private man who loved retiring to the tranquillity of the family farm in Duns, just over the border in Scotland, though in later years he became more cosmopolitan, less reserved and more relaxed in the international spotlight. The tragedy of his passing is that he was becoming more rounded in all respects.

He died following a sudden rear tire failure in a Formula Two race at Hockenheim on April 7 1968, when his Lotus slid off the track at high speed. There were no barriers. Clark hit a small tree, and had no chance. His close rival and friend Chris Amon spoke for a shattered community when he said: "If this can happen to Jimmy, what chance do the rest of us have?"

Juan-Manuel Fangio, Italian GP 1957
Juan-Manuel Fangio - FI World Champion 1951, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957

Name: Juan-Manuel Fangio
Nationality: Argentina
Date of birth: June 24, 1911 - Balcarce, Argentina
Date of death: July 17, 1995 - Balcarce, Argentina

Clark, Stewart, Lauda, Prost, Senna, Mansell and Schumacher all went on to win more than his 24 Grands Prix, but only Schumacher has ever been able to beat Juan-Manuel Fangio's record of five World Championships. And the Argentinean, who died the day after the British GP in 1995, is still championed by many the world over as the best racing driver there has been.

In his lifetime he was revered across the globe as the epitome of the sporting champion, a short, bandy-legged character with a high-pitched voice and penetrating clear blue eyes. An icon who spoke no English, yet whose startling charisma was its own language.

'You must always strive to be the best,' he once said, 'but you must never believe that you are.'

The son of Italian immigrants who settled in Balcarce, a small town south of Buenos Aires, Fangio was a veteran of stamina-building cross-country marathons in his homeland. First he raced a Model T Ford, later a more potent V8. Then his neighbors helped him to buy a Chevrolet, and over the next seven years he fought against arch rival Oscar Galvez for top honors.

In 1948 a contingent of European racers of the highest caliber went to race in Argentina. Among them was the emergent Jean-Pierre Wimille, believed by many to be one of the most underrated and underwritten drivers of all time. Fangio impressed Wimille so much that he put the word around. The government sponsored Fangio and Galvez on a sortie to Europe, and repeated the gesture the following year. Armed with a Maserati 4CLT, Fangio astonished the Europeans by winning in San Remo, and then again at Perpignan, Marseilles, Pau, Albi and Monza.

From 1950, when the World Championship was officially inaugurated and he had been invited to join Alfa Romeo, until his abrupt retirement in the middle of 1958, he was the man to beat. Cool, unruffled and possessed of tigerish strength and endurance, he drove only just as fast as he needed to win, though as he revealed on days such as that at the legendary Nurburgring in 1957, he could take on and beat the world's best even though he was then well into his forties. In that race he shrewdly started with a low fuel load and built a healthy lead in his Maserati, only to lose double that advantage in a disastrous pit stop. Undaunted, he returned to the battle to challenge and conquer the young English lions Mike Hawthorn and Peter Collins in their Ferraris, to win the greatest of all his triumphs. Even Fangio admitted afterwards that he had never driven so hard, for so long.

A quiet, self-effacing character out of the cockpit, Fangio was a tough competitor within it, and had the killer instinct of the natural winner. He was runner-up in 1950, won his first title in 1951, and then repeated the successes from 1954 through until 1957. Unlike almost all of his rivals, then and since, he had no compunction about leaving a team, even after a successful year, if he thought he would have a better chance with another in the ensuing season. In 1952 he joined Maserati when Alfa Romeo withdrew. Part way through 1954 he switched to Mercedes-Benz. When the Germans withdrew at the end of 1955, he spent an unhappy year with Ferrari before going back to Maserati for the remainder of his career.

In 1956 he didn't think twice about taking over teammate Peter Collins' Lancia-Ferrari at Monza, and his second place there was sufficient to secure him his fourth title. Yet when Mercedes-Benz teammate Stirling Moss beat him out of the last corner at Aintree the previous year, to triumph in his home Grand Prix, rumors abounded that Fangio had allowed the young Briton to win. Moss asked him frequently, but Fangio would always reply: 'No, you were better than me that day.'

Fangio could coax and cajole his machinery into giving a better performance, or into surviving long enough to finish. While he raced he was, as Moss, Clark, Senna and Schumacher would be, the yardstick by which others were judged, and by which they judged themselves.

Giuseppe Farina - 1950
Emerson Fittipaldi - 1972, 1974
Mika Hakkinen - 1998, 1999
Mike Hawthorn - 1958
Damon Hill - 1996
Graham Hill - 1962, 1968
Phil Hill - 1961
Denny Hulme - 1967
James Hunt - 1976
Alan Jones - 1980
Niki Lauda - 1975, 1977, 1984
Nigel Mansell - 1992
Nelson Piquet - 1981, 1983, 1987
Alain Prost - 1985, 1986, 1989, 1993
Kimi Raikkonen - 2007
Jochen Rindt - 1970
Keke Rosberg - 1982
Jody Scheckter - 1979
Michael Schumacher - 1994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004
Ayrton Senna - 1988, 1990, 1991
Jackie Stewart - 1969, 1971, 1973
John Surtees - 1964
Jacques Villeneuve - 1997

External links—The official site of Formula One Management; contains schedules, race results, live timing during each race, the official F1 shop, and some news
Current regulations—from the FIA website
Drivers Hall of Fame—A list of World Champions with links to short biographies from the official Formula 1 website.

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Comment by Bob Dompe on August 6, 2010 at 1:28am
Check my page for a photo album for Le Grand Prix du Canada 2010
Comment by Bob Dompe on May 9, 2010 at 1:58am
I'll be in Montreal for Le Grand Prix du Canada the weekend of 11-13 June. We have Grandstand 12 tickets.

Anybody else making the trip?
Comment by Scott Smith on March 6, 2009 at 3:32pm
Thanks Rick. I know what it's like dealing with the FIA.
Comment by Scott Smith on March 6, 2009 at 2:13pm
Be sure to brush up on your F1 test reports before the first race of the season at

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