Ruthless Champions

April 3, 2013 at 7:03 pm


Search for a definition of the word “ruthless” and you find it to mean “having no compassion for others or showing pity”. Perhaps when we try to define the greats of racing (especially those of the past thirty years) we can put ruthless next to car control, outright speed and the ability to adapt to conditions.

Go through the list of driver’s who have a won multiple world championships over the past thirty years and each can be defined as being ruthless in one way or another: Lauda, Prost, Senna, Piquet, Schumacher, Alonso and now add Sebastian Vettel to the list after the muti-21 incident. It’s possible that being ruthless is the key component that separates the very good from the great.

In a Motorsport Magazine podcast in 2012, Derrek Warwick told stories about the ruthless nature of two of the greats mentioned above. In 1986, Warwick had agreed in principle to drive for Lotus that season only to have Senna block him from being on the team. Senna viewed Warwick as a threat due to talent and being a British driver on a British team and instead approved of Johnny Dumfries (a decent driver in his own right but not on the level of Warwick). In 1991 Warwick nearly came to blows with Michael Schumacher after a week in which Warwick’s younger brother was killed in a British F3000 race and Schumacher chopped Derrek off while he was going for pole during a World Championship sportscar round. Warwick said Schumacher was only allowed to race the next day if he apologized to Warwick. which according to Warwick he did in a half hearted mumble.

The stories go on and on about the ruthlessness of these driver’s: Piquet saying Senna was a homosexual and the verbally abusing Nigel Mansell and his wife, Prost putting the pressure on to get Senna DQ’ed from the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix, etc.

The rise of ruthlessness has much to do with decrease of ethics, standards and romanticism of Grand Prix racing. No longer is it pedestal which all is measured against but just another show.