Ranking the Top 10 Formula 1 Drivers of the 1960s
The swinging '60s were a roaring time for sport, fashion and rock and roll. It was also a golden era for Formula One racing.
Names such as Hill, Surtees, Clark, Brabham and McLaren will be forever linked with a period of racing that was as exciting as it was dangerous.
Here are 10 of the finest and bravest of men from that era.
Honourable Mentions: Stirling Moss and Richie Ginther
Having finished world title runner-up an agonising four times in the 1950s, Moss switched to Rob Walker Lotus for the first time at the start of the 1960 season and won his first race behind the wheel of the Lotus 18 at Monaco.
A fourth-place finish in Holland followed, but he was then badly injured after a huge accident at the Burnenville Sweep in an event that also saw Mike Taylor’s career ended after a crash and Chris Bristow and Alan Stacey tragically killed during the race. Moss missed three races but returned to win the season-ending U.S. Grand Prix.
He again began the 1961 season with another victory at Monaco and would win again at a wet Germany against the might of the new “sharknose” Ferrari 156 cars. Four retirements meant he had to settle for third in the championship. He would retire from competitive racing after a heavy crash at Goodwood.
American Richie Ginther just misses out on the top 10 but was a mainstay of the '60s, his Formula 1 career spanning eight seasons.
Ginther made his F1 debut for Ferrari and stayed there for two seasons, achieving a second-place finish at Monza and Monaco and further podiums at Spa and Silverstone.
Three seasons driving a BRM for Owen followed and although Ginther managed six second places and three third places against the might of Graham Hill, Jim Clark and John Surtees, that elusive first win evaded him.
It finally came in the final race of the 1965 season in Mexico, when he secured Honda’s first Grand Prix victory and the only win for a non-British driver that season.
10. Jochen Rindt
Although Jochen Rindt is best remembered for posthumously winning the world title in 1970, all of the groundwork leading up to his most successful season was done in the 1960s.
Rindt made his F1 debut courtesy of the Rob Walker Racing team driving a Brabham BT11 in the 1964 Austrian Grand Prix before his first full season for Cooper the following year.
It was the 1966 season that announced Rindt as a future world champion, the Austrian finishing second in Belgium and the U.S.A and third in Germany en route to third place in the drivers’ championship.
He quickly gained a reputation as being an exceptionally fast driver with lightning reflexes, but it wasn’t until 1969 and a move to Lotus that he really began to shine. His maiden win came at Watkins Glen that year, and he also finished on the podium twice. But his Lotus 49B was also unreliable, and six retirements meant fourth in the championship.
9. Bruce McLaren
New Zealander Bruce McLaren joined the Cooper factory team alongside Australian legend Jack Brabham in 1959 and became the youngest ever winner of a Grand Prix when he won the US Grand Prix of the same year aged 22 years and 80 days.
He won the 1960 Argentine Grand Prix en route to being title runner-up and also claimed the Monaco Grand Prix in 1962. McLaren founded Bruce McLaren Motor Racing in 1963 and took a historic victory driving his own car at the 1968 Belgian Grand Prix.
In doing so he became only the second team owner after Jack Brabham in 1966 to win a Grand Prix driving a car bearing his own name.
As a result, a legend was born.
8. Dan Gurney
American Dan Gurney competed in Formula 1 from 1959 to 1968 and was the first driver to win races in Sports Cars, F1, NASCAR and Indy Car.
Gurney began his career with Ferrari and scored two podium finishes in 1959 before a disappointing year with BRM.
He joined the factory Porsche team in 1961 and secured his first victory at the French Grand Prix of the following season and the only for Porsche as an F1 constructor.
The following year he was hired by Jack Brabham to be his teammate and would secure two victories for Brabham at France and Mexico in 1964.
Along with Carroll Shelby, Gurney decided to start his own team, Anglo American racers.
And with his victory in the Eagle-Weslake at the 1967 Belgian Grand Prix, he became the only driver in history to score maiden Grand Prix victories for three different manufacturers: Porsche, Brabham and Anglo American Racers.
7. Phil Hill
Gurney may have set a number of individual records, but it was his countryman Phil Hill who achieved the ultimate goal of becoming America’s first ever Formula 1 world champion.
Hill drove the majority of his F1 career for Ferrari and scored his maiden victory for the Maranello team at the 1960 Italian Grand Prix.
But it was the 1961 season that put Hill down in history, six podiums and victories in Belgium and Italy securing the title albeit in tragic circumstances as teammate Wolfgang von Trips and 12 spectators died after the German collided with Jim Clark’s Lotus before bouncing off the guardrail and into the crowd.
6. Denny Hulme
Denny Hulme’s F1 career spanned 10 seasons from 1965 to 1974, and he remains the only New Zealander to have won the world title.
1966 marked Hulme’s first full season in Jack Brabham’s team, and a second-place finish and two thirds led to fourth in the drivers’ standings.
But it was the 1967 season that put Hulme into the F1 record books. Victories at Monaco and the Nurburgring and six other solid podiums meant that Hulme edged out teammate Brabham and Jim Clark for the title.
5. John Surtees
Having totally dominated the grand prix motorcycle scene from 1952-1960 with a staggering 38 wins from 48 starts and seven world titles, Surtees decided to make the switch from two wheels to four. How hard could it be?
He made his debut at the 1960 Monaco Grand Prix, driving for Lotus, and finished second at the British Grand Prix of the same year.
But it wasn’t until Surtees signed for Ferrari from 1963 that his transition really began to reap rewards. Surtees scored a maiden win in Germany before cementing his place in history the following season, edging out Graham Hill by a single point to win the title.
In doing so he became the only man to win world titles on two wheels and four.
4. Sir Jack Brabham
You have to be a pretty special person to be granted a knighthood if you’re not from the British Isles.
Take a bow Australia’s Sir Jack Brabham, the first post-war driver to be knighted when he received the honour for services to motorsport in 1978.
Brabham raced in Formula 1 from 1955 to 1970 and became only the second driver after the great Juan Manuel Fangio to net three world drivers’ titles having won in 1959, 1960 and 1966.
Brabham’s first two titles came driving for Cooper, but he set up his own team in time for the 1962 season with fellow Australian Ron Tauranac.
His team became the largest manufacturer of racing cars in the world during the 1960s, and in 1966 he became the first and only man to date to win the drivers’ championship driving one of his own cars.
3. Sir Jackie Stewart
Having won the Formula Three championship for Tyrrell in dominant style, Jackie Stewart burst onto the Formula One scene in spectacular fashion in 1965.
In only his second race he finished on the podium at Monaco and followed up with second places in Belgium, France and Holland before his debut win in Italy that helped him to third in the championship.
Two tougher seasons followed before he swapped his Owen Racing BRM for Matra in 1968, wins in Holland, Germany and U.S.A. seeing him second to former teammate Graham Hill.
But Stewart was already a driver to be feared, and it was no surprise when he totally dominated the following year, six victories helping him to win his first world title by 26 points from Jacky Ickx.
Two equally impressive titles followed in 1971 and 1973, and he only just misses out on the top two by virtue of races run in the decade and possibly a coin flip.
2. Graham Hill
With his distinctive moustache and racing helmet based on the London Rowing Club, Graham Hill played the role of the dapper English racing gent throughout the sixties.
Hill competed in F1 from 1958 to 1975, winning two world championships in 1962 and 1968. It wasn’t until the 1962 season that Hill recorded his first win in the season-opener at Zandvoort, but three more victories and two second places was enough to see him to the title ahead of Jim Clark.
Clark would gain his revenge in 1963 and 1965 as Hill finished runner-up to the Scot and to John Surtees in 1964. But a move to Lotus paid dividends when Hill won three times en route to his second title in 1968.
A true master of Monaco, Hill won five times around the Principality during the 1960s and is the only driver to have won the Triple Crown of motorsport the includes the Indianapolis 500, Monaco Grand Prix and 24 Hours of Le Mans.
1. Jim Clark
Arguably the greatest racing driver who ever lived, who knows what Jim Clark may have gone on to achieve had he not lost his life at a meaningless Formula Two race at Hockenheim in 1968.
It was Jim Clark who began the whole Lotus success story in 1963, the unassuming Scot driving the Lotus 25 to a remarkable seven wins en route to his first drivers’ title.
A problem with his car in the final race of the 1964 season handed the title to John Surtees, but Clark again dominated in 1965 with six victories in his Lotus 33 helping him to a second title.
Clark was third in the championship in 1967 and, having won the season-opener in 1968, another Clark romp to the title was considered a distinct possibility.
But it wasn’t to be as, due to contractual obligations with Firestone, he found himself driving an F2 event at Hockenheim. On the fifth lap of the first race, his Lotus veered off the circuit and crashed into the trees. A star was lost.
At the time of his death, he had won more Grand Prix races (25) and achieved more Grand Prix pole positions (33) than any other driver.