There have been 33 drivers who have been crowned Formula 1 world champion, but with a few different turns of fate the list could look very different. Here are our top five drivers who deserved to get their name on the trophy, but never did.
5. Eddie Irvine
Northern Irishman Eddie Irvine landed in F1 with a splash late in the 1993 season, getting into a spat with the legendary Ayrton Senna after his debut in Japan.
Irvine was hired by Ferrari in 1996 to back up Michael Schumacher’s title assault – an arrangement which suited the playboy Irvine just fine. But that didn’t stop him qualifying ahead of Schumacher for their first race together.
When Schumacher broke his leg at Silverstone in 1999, Irvine was thrust into the number one role, and didn’t disappoint with wins in Austria, Germany and Malaysia.
Irvine should also have won at the Nurburgring that year, but a disastrous pitstop saw him finish seventh. He still led the championship going into the final round, but finished the race third, losing the title by two points to Mika Hakkinen.
4. Peter Collins
There is no shortage of anecdotes from the 1950s – Formula 1’s era of gentleman racers – but one of the most enduring concerns Peter Collins giving up his chance to become Britain’s first world champion.
Joining a formidable Ferrari line-up for 1956, Collins scored two wins and two second places from the first five events of the season and arrived for the finale at Monza trailing his teammate Juan Manuel Fangio by eight points.
Fangio, still considered one of the all-time greats of motorsport, retired from the race with mechanical trouble. But Collins, rather than take advantage, handed his car over to Fangio to allow the Argentinian to claim his fourth championship.
3. Ronnie Peterson
Nicknamed SuperSwede for his exciting driving style, Ronnie Peterson took ten wins and 14 pole positions in an F1 career that lasted from 1970 until his untimely death in 1978, and finished second in the championship twice.
During his final season, Peterson acted as a dutiful number-two driver to his Lotus teammate Mario Andretti, who claimed the 1978 title. Four times that year Peterson finished a close second behind the American, and scored his two victories of 1978 in races where Andretti ran into trouble.
2. Gilles Villeneuve
It takes more than raw speed to win the F1 world championship, but if that were the only criteria, Gilles Villeneuve would have surely won multiple titles.
The fearless Canadian once topped a wet practice session after lapping Watkins Glen 11 seconds faster than anyone else.
After conjuring two wins from a dreadful 1981 Ferrari, Villeneuve, the 1979 championship runner-up, was finally given a contender of a car in 1982, but suffered a fatal accident in qualifying for the fifth round of the season at Zolder in Belgium
1. Stirling Moss
Stirling Moss achieved 16 wins from just 66 starts in world championship races, and was runner-up in the standings each year from 1955 to 1958.
A true all-rounder, Moss won 212 of the 529 races he entered across a host of motosport categories during his career, driving 84 different makes of car.
Moss would have won the title in 1958 had his rival Mike Hawthorn’s disqualification from the Portuguese Grand Prix been upheld, however Moss himself interjected on Hawthorn’s behalf and the stewards reversed the decision. Ferrari driver Hawthorn would go on to deny Moss the championship by a single point.