1958: Mike Hawthorn (The 6 best results counted towards the championship)
Racing in 1958 was a lot more chaotic and Mike Hawthorn created history when he won the championship despite winning only one race in the entire season. Only the 6 best results counted towards the championship and there was logic behind this points system. Retirements were very common back then so this rule was in place to try and reduce the inherit uncertainty of the sport. Hawthorn was the only one among the top three who even finished 6 or more races and he was able to win the championship by just a single point in the end.
1964: John Surtees (The 6 best results counted towards the championship)
This was a rather unusual year in F1 as the man with the most wins actually ended up third in the championships. Jim Clark won 3 races but would only finish in the points in 5 races. Even more unusual was the fact that the man with the most points did not win either. Graham Hill would score 41 points but only 39 of those would count because of the scoring system and John Surtees would win the championship instead.
1967: Denny Hulme (The best 5 results from the first 6 races and the best 4 results from the last 5 races were considered)
Hulme would win this championship by beating the likes of Jack Brabham, Jim Clark, John Surtees, Graham Hill, and Jackie Stewart. Hulme would achieve this by suffering fewer retirements in comparison to his fellow drivers and would have still won the championship even if the unusual points scoring system was not in place.
1977: Niki Lauda (The best 8 results from the first 9 races and the best 7 results from the remaining 8 races were considered)
This year would mark the first of an era lasting more than a decade where the title was actually won more often by someone who didn’t win the most races. Niki Lauda would suffer a near-fatal crash during the 1976 season that would leave him permanently scarred. That did not deter him as he would continue racing and win another championship just a year later. He would do this despite winning fewer races that Mario Andretti who would end up finishing third in the championship.
1979: Jody Scheckter (The best 4 results from the first 7 races and the best 4 results from the remaining 8 races were considered)
This would be the year F1’s cult hero Giles Villeneuve would come closest to winning an F1 world championship. The points scoring system would actually bring him closer to eventual winner Jody Scheckter but not close enough. Alan Jones, the man with the most wins that season would end up in third.
1982: Keke Rosberg (The 11 best results counted towards the championship)
This would be the last time as of making this video that a driver would win the world championship despite winning only one race. He didn’t exactly have a great start to the season but wound finish the season strongly and consistently. It was, however, Didier Pironi, who was on track to win the championships before he suffered a debilitating crash at the German GP and would be unable to take part in the last five races of the season, despite which he would finish a close second to Rosberg.
1983: Nelson Piquet (The 11 best results counted towards the championship)
Alain Prost may be a 5-time world champion had it not been for a poor finish to the year in 1983. Despite winning 4 races, he would be pipped to the championship by Piquet who could only manage 3 wins but was able to score more podiums throughout the season.
1984: Niki Lauda (The 11 best results counted towards the championship)
History would repeat itself for the third time in a row when the champion was not the driver who won the most number of races that season. This would also mark the closest finish to a championship as Niki Lauda would beat Alain Prost by just half a point.
1986: Alain Prost (The 11 best results counted towards the championship)
After being on the receiving end in 83 and 84, this year would be Prost’s turn to win the championship despite fewer wins. Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet would start the last race of the season in Australia as title favorites but Mansell would suffer a puncture and teammate Piquet would be forced to make a precautionary pitstop allowing Prost to win the race and the championship.
1987: Nelson Piquet (The 11 best results counted towards the championship)
Nelson Piquet would get his redemption the next year with Nigel Mansell yet again being denied a championship despite winning the most races. Mansell would crash heavily during the practice session at the penultimate race in Japan that would end his season and title challenge prematurely.
1989: Alain Prost (The 11 best results counted towards the championship)
This would be the first of the two controversial title fights between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. The championship would be decided at the penultimate race when Senna would be disqualified for taking the escape road to re-join the race after crashing with none other than Alain Prost himself. Senna would allege for the rest of his life that his disqualification was political in nature.
2008: Lewis Hamilton (All race results counted towards the championship)
This would mark the first time that a driver would win the title with less wins in an era where all races counted toward the championship. After coming very close to winning a championship the previous year during his rookie season, Hamilton would finally win his first championship in 2008. Felipe Massa would win more races but double retirements in the opening two rounds and a pit-stop mishap involving a refuelling hose at Singapore Grand Prix would prove very costly for the Brazilian as Hamilton would beat him to the title by a solitary point.
2016: Nico Rosberg (All race results counted towards the championship)
Nico Rosberg would emulate his father as he would win 9 races to Hamilton’s 10 with a blown engine for Hamilton in Malaysia giving him one more retirement than Rosberg. It would be a unique year in recent times as it would mark the only instance when someone other than Sebastian Vettel or Hamilton would win the championship since 2009.
So there you have it, all 13 times where the champion didn’t win the most races.
Does not winning the most races affect your opinion on those seasons? Let me know what you think in the comments below.