The vaults of Formula One hold several stories of champs failing to match their feats of the season before. Whether it be poor form, a poor machine under them or just a poor attitude, the Badgerometer is back and ready to count down these tales of riches to rags!

Jacques Villenueve

1997  81 points (Champion) — 1998 21 points (5th)

Canada’s only F1 champion to date won a closely fought battle with Michael Schumacher to win in 1997. The following season, his Williams team was in disarray with the withdrawl of long term engine supplier Renault and the smart Rothmans blue being replaced with the garish Winfield red (not that colours affect race cars, we at Badger just hated it).

Villeneuve went from smiles... - Photo: The Cahier Archive
Villeneuve went from smiles… – Photo: The Cahier Archive
...to frowns. - Photo: The Cahier Archive
…to frowns. – Photo: The Cahier Archive

The usual development pace of the Grove team was also poor, with rumours that the 1998 car was the same as the previous seasons, with modifications to fit the new regulations. The only race where the Canadian challenged for the lead was at the start in Belgium, but when Coulthard binned it (as did everyone else) Jacques was eliminated at the re-start. A pair of late season podiums was the best he could manage, before slinking off to the new BAR team in ’99.

Mario Andretti

1978 – 64 points (Champion) — 1979 14 points (12th)

America’s last great Grand Prix driver had the might of Colin Chapman behind him during the ’70’s, and with ground effect starting to become the must-have gadget of the time the Lotus man didn’t disappoint with the Lotus 79. Five wins in 1978 for Andretti made the 79 the class of the field, and it was thought that the follow up to it, the Lotus 80, would push the boundaries of grip even further.

Lotus went from black and gold... - Photo: The Cahier Archive
Lotus went from black and gold… – Photo: The Cahier Archive
...to green and old. - Photo: The Cahier Archive
…to green and old. – Photo: The Cahier Archive

Of course, as with all things Grand Prix, that was not the case. The Lotus 80, although innovative, was a disaster. Mario managed a podium on it’s first outing but it was too reliant on ground effect and mid-season the team switched back to the 79, but by then the rest of the field had caught up (and surpassed) the British outfit and the American only managed another 5th place finish before the season’s end. Andretti managed two more full seasons in F1, one with Alfa Romeo, and a few cameos for Williams and Ferrari before returning to IndyCar for the twilight of his career.

Damon Hill

1996 – 97 points (Champion) — 1997 7 points (12th)

After years in Schumacher’s shadow, Damon Hill finally won a title for Williams in ’96 after dominating all season long. But, during the negotiations for the following season, Hill held out for more money from Frank Williams and the team boss unceremoniously dumped the champion-elect for German Heinz-Harold Frentzen. With every other top team either with seats filled or unwilling to pay a large salary Hill signed for the Arrows team to defend his No.1 status.

Photo: The Cahier Archive
Photo: The Cahier Archive
Photo: The Cahier Archive
Photo: The Cahier Archive

The season, of course, wasn’t exactly perfect. It took until France to finish a race and Britain before points were scored. But in Hungary, the impossible nearly happened when the combination of sticky Bridgestone tyres and Hill’s expertise of the Hungaroring had him in the lead until a faulty washer slowed him to second place. After two more seasons with Jordan (including winning that Belgium race), Damon bowed out of the sport.

Jody Scheckter

1979 51 points (Champion) — 1980 2 points (19th)

Before Jody Scheckter moved to Ferrari, he had already garnered a reputation for being a fast racing driver. He had wins to his name for both Tyrrell and Wolf and naturally when he signed for the Prancing Horse, several titles would not be far behind. With team-mate Gilles Villenueve also in great form it was expected for Ferrari to dominate in 1979, and Jody and Gilles became good friends and thrived in a great natured rivalry that produced three wins apiece. The South African countered the French Canadian’s superior all out speed with a more conservative points-collecting strategy that paid off and made him World Champ.

Photo: The Cahier Archive
Photo: The Cahier Archive
Photo: The Cahier Archive
Photo: The Cahier Archive

Many factors made sure that 1980 was a far less successful year for the reigning champ. Firstly, the Ferrari chassis, which made it’s debut it 1974, had been overtaken by many other teams in terms of ground effect. Only one points scoring result was achieved by Scheckter, a 5th place, and he also suffered the embarrasment of not qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix.

The season also saw many accidents,  like the ones that left Clay Reggazoni and Jean-Pierre Jabouille seriously injured, and a testing one that cost Patrick Depailler his life. At the end of the year, with a championship to his name and the sport no longer what it once was to him, Jody retired from Grand Prix racing to set up several businesses.

“Our Nige”

1992 108 points (Champion) — 1993 (Did not compete)

The moustached hero to many Brits was renowned for his temperamental ways, the best probably being personified in the way he retired from full-time F1. In 1992, Mansell finally sealed an F1 World Title, something that had been eluding him since 1986 and dominated the whole season in his Williams. But the politics that would follow was almost like an episode of Jeremy Kyle.

The wily Frank Williams had eyes on Alain Prost signing for 1993 (after the Frenchman took a sabbatical from Ferrari and their “truck”), but also had Ayrton Senna offering to drive for absolutely nothing. Nigel didn’t like Alain after a year at Ferrari where the Brit accused the Frenchman of taking all the best parts and not sharing. Alain didn’t want Ayrton after their bust-up at McLaren. Ayrton just wanted to drive the best car. Ayrton and Nigel was Frank’s best option, but Alain had already signed a contract (keeping up?).

Photo: The Cahier Archive
Photo: The Cahier Archive
Photo: The Cahier Archive
Photo: The Cahier Archive

In the end, Mansell quit full-time racing rather than be Prost’s team-mate, which went to Damon Hill. He found a new home in IndyCar and won that title at his first attempt, being the only man ever to hold both F1 and IndyCar titles at the same time.

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