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CFM: The Greatest Never to Win

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Published at Chequered Flag Motorsport on 20th April 2006

In Formula 1, only one driver can win a race (OK, sometimes in the 1950s you could have shared drives). Therefore there must be losers. Most of these never go on to win a race, of which many never really deserved to win anyway, like Alex Yoong! These drivers below arguably did. Some never got a shot in a decent car while others did but just suffered tremendous bad luck. But all of them didn’t win a single race in Formula 1:

Andrea De Cesaris

Andrea’s career spanned 14 years from his debut in 1980 at Montreal to his final race at Jerez in 1994. He started out with the last two races of 1980 for Alfa Romeo after a promising F2 season with Ron Dennis’ Project Four outfit. He moved to McLaren for 1981 but it was a disaster. As team mate John Watson won the British GP, De Cesaris took the dubious honour of most crashes in one season.

He moved back to Alfa for 1982 and ‘83, and almost immediately at Long Beach, round 2 of the season, he led, before being passed by the eventual winner Lauda and later crashing out. At Monaco he could have won, but ran out of fuel. There were a few near misses in ‘83, when the car broke when well placed, particularly at Spa where he comfortably led. Andrea then left for Ligier for 1984, where the crashes returned, the main one being a massive barrel roll at the Osterreichring in ‘85, soon after which he was dropped.

The next few years were up and down for the erratic Italian, with seasons at Minardi, Brabham and Rial, which failed to produce much, the highlights being a few good performances for Brabham in ‘87 and a superb 4th for Rial at Detroit.

He then spent two years at Dallara, after which he surprisingly joined new boys Jordan. In one of his best years, he was incredibly unlucky at Spa again when his engine failed while in 2nd. He then spent two seasons in the increasingly uncompetitive Tyrrell team, and by the end of 1993, it looked like it was all over. But Eddie Irvine’s suspension saw him called up for two races for Jordan, followed by nine final races at Sauber in place of Karl Wendlinger, which brought just one finish and one point in a disappointing end to a long career.

In 2005, he returned to motor racing with the GP Masters series and looks set to challenge for wins in this year’s series

Teams: Alfa Romeo, McLaren, Ligier, Minardi, Brabham, Rial, Scuderia Italia, Jordan, Tyrrell, Sauber.
Best Result: 2nd (1983 German GP, 1983 South African GP)

Stefan Bellof

If it wasn’t for the tragic accident at Spa in 1985 that cost him his life, Stefan would surely have gone on to win races and maybe championships.

Having turned down an offer to join minnows ATS in 1983, he signed for Tyrrell for ‘84. At Monaco in the famous rain-soaked race won by Alain Prost, he was a brilliant third and was at the time catching Prost and Senna ahead. Many believe he could have won if the race had been allowed to go its full distance. However, despite some great performances, the Tyrrell team’s disqualification in all the races meant all his efforts counted to nothing. On the side, he set the endurance racing world alight, winning the endurance driver’s championship in a works Porsche.

In 1985, he stayed with Tyrrell, scoring four points, but during the Spa 1000 km race, he tried an audacious overtaking manoeuvre on ex-team mate and former F1 star Jacky Ickx at Eau Rouge. The two cars collided and Stefan’s car hit the barrier head on at high speed, killing him instantly. It was a sad end to a promising career

Teams: Tyrrell.
Best Result: 4th (1985 United States GP) *

* 3rd at Monaco 1984, but Tyrrell later excluded from results

Jean Behra

Behra was one of the greats of the 1950’s but was often unlucky in F1, although in non-championship races, he won many races. He came from bikes, where he was French champion three years in a row. He had started his four-wheeled racing career just before the start of the official championship, but only at the start of the ‘51 season did he begin his serious motor racing career.

It was ‘52 that he became recognised as a top driver. Driving for French team Gordini, he challenged the might of Ferrari with a succession of decent results on tracks like Bremgarten, the Nurburgring, and winning the non-championship Reims GP, which made him a national hero. He stayed with Gordini until the end of the ‘54 season, where often there would be heart-breaking failures whilst in good positions. But at a non-championship race at Pau in ‘54, he beat Maurice Trintignant of Ferrari by a mere 60 yards.

He moved to Maserati for ‘55, after the legendary could only equal his time at a test at Monza. Once again, in the championship races, he was out of luck, but he took four sports car wins, before an accident in the Tourist Trophy resulted in his ear being sliced off, after which he received a plastic replacement. For ‘56, he dropped to the number two seat after new signing Stirling Moss, but still enjoyed his best season, even if he still couldn’t manage a maiden win.

For ‘57 he was number two to Fangio at Maserati, and he dominated the British GP before his car’s clutch failed. As usual, in non-championship events, the bad luck which dogged him in the championship took a break and he won three races for Maserati and two for BRM, whom he joined for ‘58. Again, an F1 victory eluded him with more bad luck, but the victories continued to come in F2 and sports cars. Ferrari were now after him and Behra couldn’t refuse their offer. He won the Aintree 200 and finished 2nd at Syracuse in another great season of non-championship races, but once again there were no F1 wins. At Reims, after a great drive, his engine failed, and a scuffle in the pits with the team manager saw his exit from the Scuderia.

He entered for both the F1 and sports car races at AVUS running his own Porsches, but in the wet sports car race, he crashed and died at the age of 38.

Teams: Gordini, Maserati, BRM, Ferrari, Several Privateer Entries.
Best Result: 2nd (1956 Argentinian GP, 1957 Argentinian GP)

Martin Brundle

Now a commentator for ITV, Brundle had a long career, but always seemed to join teams at the wrong moments. Starting with Tyrrell in 1984 alongside Stefan Bellof, having gone head to head on many occasions with a young Ayrton Senna in F3, he finished fifth in his first race, and at Detroit he finished a brilliant second. But at Dallas he broke his ankles in a practice crash, meaning no more races that year, and not long after, Tyrrell were disqualified from all their previous results and all of Brundle and Bellof’s brilliant performances came to nothing.

In 1985 and ‘86, Tyrrell were way off the pace, so for ‘87 he opted to move to Zakspeed. However, this turned out to be a mistake, despite a great drive at Imola to take fifth, so for ‘88 he joined Jaguar for a season of sports car racing and winning the World Sports Car drivers’ title and sharing the winning car in the Daytona 24 Hours. In F1, he had a one-off drive for Williams. Had the team been anything like the previous year, he may have won, but the team was struggling with Judd power, having lost the Honda engines to the all-conquering McLaren.

For ‘89, he joined Brabham, who by now were on the decline. He still managed to get the car into the point three times, but decided to take another year out in sportscars with Jaguar, winning Le Mans with John Nielsen and Price Cobb. His connections with Tom Walkinshaw, his old Jag boss, led to a drive with Benetton. Unfortunately a bad start damaged his prospects with the team, and despite scoring in every round bar Canada after Imola, he was dropped in favour of Riccardo Patrese.

He joined French team Ligier, and although the car wasn’t brilliant, he still took a podium at Imola and a few other point-scoring finishes. He was then given a seat at McLaren for ‘94, which had been a race-winning car the previous year. But this year, it was not quick enough or reliable enough to win races, although he did take a 2nd place at Monaco.

Nigel Mansell took his seat for ‘95, so Martin moved back to Ligier, sharing a seat with Japan’s Aguri Suzuki. At Magny-Cours, he narrowly missed out on a podium, hounding David Coulthard right to the line, and at Spa, he finished 3rd having been passed on the last lap by Damon Hill.

In his 12th and final year in F1, he joined his F3 team boss Eddie Jordan. In a difficult year for the team, of which the ‘highlight’ was a spectacular roll at Melbourne, both he and team mate Rubens Barrichello were dropped for ‘97, leaving Martin to take up a roll in the ITV commentary box, where he remains today.

Teams: Tyrrell, Zakspeed, Williams, Brabham, Benetton, Ligier, McLaren, Jordan.
Best Result: 2nd (1992 Japanese GP, 1994 Monaco GP)

Eddie Cheever

Another driver to be participating in GP Masters, the American has won races in every series he’s raced in except F1 and GPM. He started out in F1 in 1978 with minnows Theodore before moving on to the declining Hesketh – a step down from the Ferrari drive he had been offered the year before (which he turned down when Gilles Villeneuve was signed).

He went back to F2 with Osella for ‘79, and stayed with them when the Italian team moved up to F1 the following season. This, like many future Osella drivers, was a tough year, and Cheever moved to Tyrrell for ‘81. It wasn’t a great car but he scored on five occasions, moving to Ligier for ‘82. After a superb year, which included a 2nd at Detroit, he moved to another French team, Renault, for ‘83, alongside Alain Prost. The problem now was he was being compared to Prost, who nearly won the title. No wins for the American didn’t look good and he switched to Benetton. Two years of unreliability and bad luck followed.

For 1986, he had just one race for Beatrice Haas in place of Tambay, but drove for TWR Jaguar in endurance racing. He returned to F1 the following year with Arrows. Over the next three seasons, the team remained a midfield runner, but at Monza in ‘88 and Phoenix in ‘89, he took 3rd places. The relationship with the team wasn’t a brilliant one, and after the ‘89 season, he departed for Indycar, where he won the Indy 500 in ‘98.

He stood down from driving duties in 2002 having already set up his own team five years before. However, he returned in 2005 in the GPM and has since decided to return to the IRL and Grand Am for 2006

Teams: Hesketh, Theodore, Osella, Tyrrell, Renault, Ligier, Alfa Romeo, Haas Lola, Arrows.
Best Result: 2nd (1983 Canadian GP)

Chris Amon

New Zealander Amon will go down in history as one of, if not the greatest driver never to win an F1 race. In a long F1 career, for which he drove for many top teams, bad luck was his partner and he was denied on countless occasions the victory which he surely deserved.

He started his career in 1963 at just 19 with Reg Parnell’s team, but his best finish for the team in his three years there was a 5th at Zandvoort in ‘64. He spent ‘66 on the sidelines after the proposed season with McLaren failed to take shape, winning at Le Mans for Ford with Bruce McLaren.

For ‘67, Ferrari snapped him up, and he was soon under immense pressure as Ferrari’s other drivers, Bandini, Parkes and Scarfiotti left for one reason or another. He put together a string of good results and performances, nearly winning the ‘68 British GP at Brands Hatch after a classic battle with Jo Siffert.

By ‘69, though, the Italian team were slipping backwards, and he moved to March. There were more great performances, including a 2nd place at Spa, but he jumped ship again at the end of the year to Matra. It was here in ‘71 where he came closest to victory. Leading at Monza, he lost his visor and dropped back, and at Charade, he was again leading when he suffered a puncture.

Matra’s withdrawal after ‘72 saw Chris move back to March, but he was sacked at the start of the year. This saw the beginning of a downward spiral for the Kiwi. For ‘73 he joined struggling Tecno before two appearances for Tyrrell. The following year saw him set up his own team, Amon, but it was a complete disaster and they retired from their only start. He then moved on to BRM for two races at the end of the season, but it looked like it was the end.

But in late ‘75 he joined another minnow, Ensign, and suddenly, the old Chris was back, taking a 5th in Spain. Unfortunately the car was fragile and it broke on a number of occasions. For Canada, he joined Wolf but was injured in a practice accident. It was the end for Amon, after 95 starts, from which he retired 45 times. He had 11 podiums, 3 fastest laps, 7 poles and 83 points; but wins proved elusive.

Teams: Reg Parnell Racing, Lotus, Ian Raby Racing, Cooper, Ferrari, March, Matra, Tyrrell, BRM, Chris Amon Racing, Ensign, Williams, Wolf.
Best Result: 2nd (1968 British GP, 1970 Belgian GP, 1970 French GP)

Other great non-winners

Eugenio Castellotti: Seriously quick Ferrari driver killed before his peak.

Alessandro Zanardi: After strong outings with Minardi and Lotus in the early 1990s, the Champ Car superstar failed to gel with Williams in 1999.

Derek Warwick: World Sportscar Championship, Le Mans 24 Hours and BTCC winner struggled with teams well past their best. Spent a lot of time in the gravel or upside down.

Ivan Capelli: Leyton House giant-killer turned Ferrari also-ran in. Nearly won the 1990 French GP for Leyton House, until his car developed a misfire.

Hans-Joachim Stuck: German Tourenwagenmeister won all before him in touring cars, but did not have the right car to win in F1.

Pierluigi Martini: Faenza golden-boy led a race in a Minardi and put one on the front row at Phoenix 1990, but never had a car good enough to win in.

Jenson Button: 178 points, 13 podiums, 3 pole positions, 1 fastest lap, and third in the 2004 WDC. But still waiting for that race win … [EDIT – Jense finally got that first win!!]

Mika Salo: The ‘other’ Flying Finn denied victory at Hockenheim 1999. Retired from F1 after driving for Toyota factory outfit in 2002.

Jan Lammers: Sports car specialist who never got a decent car; bizarre 13 year gap between stints in F1 (1979-1992).

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Written by James Bennett

December 23, 2010 at 22:52

One Response

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  1. Apologies for the correction here, but the gap between Lammers’ stints in F1 was “only” ten years – he entered six races in 1982 with Theodore (but qualified only once, at his home race at Zandvoort).

    And, of course, it was in 1980 when he somehow plonked his ATS fourth on the grid at Long Beach.

    Des Elmes

    January 6, 2017 at 16:47


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