Top 10 BRM F1 drivers ranked: Fangio, Stewart, Hill and more

BRM - or British Racing Motors - was Britain’s first Formula 1 team and one of the leading squads of the 1960s. Here are its best drivers across the squad's history

Top 10 BRM F1 drivers ranked: Fangio, Stewart, Hill and more

The outfit that, like Ferrari, manufactured its own parts including the engine, scored 17 wins and 11 poles between its world championship debut in the 1951 British Grand Prix and its final proper F1 start, as Stanley BRM, in 1977.

Some of the era’s best drivers appeared for BRM and seven won points-paying races.

For this list Autosport assessed the amount of success the drivers scored with BRM, the impact they had on the team and the circumstances of their time there. We didn’t consider their achievements at other teams.

‘BRM starts’ include both world championship and non-championship F1 races, partly because the team persevered with F1 even when F2 became the focus for others in 1952-53.

10. Peter Gethin

Gethin winning the 1971 Italian GP by 0.01s

Gethin winning the 1971 Italian GP by 0.01s

Photo by: Motorsport Images

BRM years: 1971-73
BRM starts: 23 (15 championship, 8 non-championship)
BRM wins: 2 (1 championship, 1 non-championship)

Gethin was already a multiple Formula 5000 champion when he joined BRM from McLaren partway through 1971. His third race for the team was the Italian GP, which became one of F1’s most famous events and helps to explain Gethin’s place on this list.

After losing the leading pack early on, Gethin worked to get himself back into slipstreaming range of the battle for victory. He then won a remarkable drag race to beat Ronnie Peterson’s March to the line by 0.01 seconds as 0.61s covered the top five. Gethin averaged a then-record 150.76mph.

Race of My Life: Peter Gethin on the 1971 Italian GP

The rest of Gethin’s time at BRM was more troubled as the team gradually lost competitiveness with its ageing V12 engines. He did, however, win the non-championship 1971 Victory Race at Brands Hatch, a contest shortened by the fatal crash of his team-mate Jo Siffert.

9. Jo Bonnier

Bonnier's time at BRM gave the team much-needed momentum going into the 1960s

Bonnier's time at BRM gave the team much-needed momentum going into the 1960s

Photo by: Motorsport Images

BRM years: 1958-60
BRM starts: 24 (17 championship, 7 non-championship)
BRM wins: 1 (championship race)

Though not of the first rank, Bonnier was a solid performer and will always have a place in BRM history as the driver who gave the team its long-awaited maiden world championship Grand Prix victory.

Bonnier first raced for BRM at the end of 1957 and did so again at the close of 1958 before a full campaign the following season. Reliability was still a problem but the front-engined P25 was competitive, arguably the third quickest car of 1959.

After extensive testing at Zandvoort, BRM was ready for the Dutch GP. Bonnier took BRM’s (and his own) first world championship pole position, just ahead of the Coopers of Jack Brabham and Stirling Moss.

Bonnier was always in contention and, when the early challenge of Masten Gregory’s Cooper faded and late charge by Moss ended with transmission failure, the BRM came home to win, 14.2s clear of Brabham.

“He had never been out of first or second place and never made a mistake,” said BRM co-founder Raymond Mays in BRM, written with Peter Roberts. “This victory meant so much, all the world to [designer] Peter Berthon and me. There was enthusiasm everywhere.”

Bonnier would only score once more during the season, with fifth at the German GP, but his 10 points – combined with the two scored by team-mate Harry Schell in Portugal and six picked up by Moss in BRP’s P25 – helped BRM to third in the constructors’ table.

Bonnier stayed for 1960, as BRM went rear-engined with the P25-based P48, and was joined by Graham Hill and Dan Gurney. Predictably, they proved quicker but continued unreliability problems meant Gurney scored no points while Bonnier managed a fair of fifth places as BRM finished fourth in the constructors’ championship. Both he and Gurney then headed to Porsche.

8. Jean-Pierre Beltoise

Beltoise on his way to his sole F1 victory in the 1972 Monaco GP

Beltoise on his way to his sole F1 victory in the 1972 Monaco GP

Photo by: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch / Motorsport Images

BRM years: 1972-74
BRM starts: 45 (40 championship, 5 non-championship)
BRM wins: 2 (1 championship, 1 non-championship)

Beltoise’s main reason for being on this list is that he scored BRM’s last world championship GP success – and it was one of the finest in the team’s history. The Frenchman’s dominant performance in the wet 1972 Monaco GP makes him one of the greatest one-hit wonders in motorsport history.

More: F1’s top 10 one-hit wonders

Beltoise joined BRM just as it began fading for the final time, despite Marlboro sponsorship. Tony Southgate’s P180 was not a success and the V12 started to be left behind by the constantly developing Cosworth DFV.

Aside from his Monaco success, Beltoise failed to score any points in 1972, though he was second in the Silverstone International Trophy and won the Brands Hatch Victory race, both non-championship events.

During his tenure, Beltoise tended to lead the line when BRM ran a bewildering number of drivers and up to five cars in some races. “Beltoise was good,” recalls Southgate. “Good feedback and lovely to work with.”

Beltoise was a more consistent points threat in 1973 in the P160E, outscoring new team-mates Niki Lauda and Clay Regazzoni, before taking BRM’s final podium in the 1974 South African GP with the P201. The struggling team was a fading force and Beltoise retired from F1 at the end of the campaign, as did the Owen ‘factory’ support, leaving Stanley BRM to soldier on for three fruitless seasons.

7. Richie Ginther

A consistent challenger for BRM, Ginther never truly hit the heights for the team

A consistent challenger for BRM, Ginther never truly hit the heights for the team

Photo by: Motorsport Images

BRM years: 1962-64
BRM starts: 41 (29 championship, 12 non-championship)
BRM wins: 0

Although there were no wins, Ginther scored nine world championship podiums for BRM (and another two in non-championship events), a tally only bettered by Hill.

A respected test driver, Ginther joined the team from Ferrari just as BRM’s new V8 helped lift it to the front of 1500cc F1. Ginther had a more troubled season than title contender Hill but was part of BRM’s first world championship 1-2 on a famous day at Monza.

The proven P57 and Ginther’s mechanical sympathy helped produce an incredibly consistent 1963 campaign. The American scored points in eight of the 10 races, including five podiums, and finished third in the standings behind Lotus’s runaway champion Jim Clark and Hill.

Ginther suffered a troubled 1964, both in his personal life and on the track, but managed two more runner-up spots in the fine P261. Ginther left to join Honda for 1965, after helping BRM to first and two seconds in the constructors’ table during his three seasons there.

PLUS: Celebrating America’s forgotten F1 winner

6. Juan Manuel Fangio

Fangio joined BRM during the toughest stage of its existence

Fangio joined BRM during the toughest stage of its existence

Photo by: Motorsport Images

BRM years: 1952-53
BRM starts: 6 (all non-championship)
BRM wins: 0

The ambitious and complex V16 had a tumultuous life and didn’t achieve its aim. By the time it was refined sufficiently, the world championship had temporarily abandoned F1 for F2 regulations and the BRM had become the butt of many a joke.

BRM nevertheless never took up the F2 challenge and continued with the 1.5-litre P15, entering it in non-championship F1 and Formula Libre races. And Mays managed to get 1951 world champion Fangio to come and test the machine his team had worked on for so long.

After an off, Fangio lapped the Folkingham test track faster than the V16 had gone before and agreed to race it. “Fangio was the first man who was complete master of it,” said Mays in BRM.

Fangio and team-mate Jose Froilan Gonzalez led the early stages of the 1952 Albi GP before both succumbed to engine issues. It was a similar story in the Ulster Trophy at Dundrod, but more was to come.

Rubery Owen had bought BRM from the original Trust ahead of the 1953 season. Alfred Owen had been a key supporter of the project since its earliest days and him taking control revitalised the outfit. And another boost came at the 1953 Albi GP.

The V16 had by now taken some minor successes but it had still to prove itself against the best F1 opposition. At Albi, where separate heats for F1 and F2 cars then produced a combined grid for the main race, BRM had a rare chance because Ferrari entered a 375 for Alberto Ascari, then on his way to a world title double. Giuseppe Farina was also present in the Ferrari-based Thinwall Special, so all three world champions were present.

Fangio beat Ascari to pole for their heat, with the BRMs of Gonzalez and Ken Wharton next and Farina fifth. Fangio narrowly beat Ascari into the first corner and was still leading a frantic race when the Ferrari cried enough.

Fangio won his heat and, with both Ascari and Farina out, BRM looked set to dominate the final. But the rubber wasn’t up to the prodigious power of the 500+bhp V16 and all three cars suffered tyre failures. Only Gonzalez was able to finish – in second behind Louis Rosier’s Ferrari – but Fangio had proved the V16 could take on the best in the world.

“This race meant the earth to us,” wrote Mays, who dedicated a whole chapter in his book to the event. “The BRM had redeemed itself. It was one of the great moments of my life as I listened to the cheering. Albi was the turning point.”

Fangio, who would reportedly go on to call the BRM “the most fabulous car I have ever driven”, raced the V16 three more times. He never managed a win – as Gonzalez, Reg Parnell, Wharton and later Peter Collins did – but Fangio was the one who proved it on the biggest stage and his endorsement meant the most.

5. Jo Siffert

Siffert leading the 1971 Austrian GP for BRM

Siffert leading the 1971 Austrian GP for BRM

Photo by: Motorsport Images

BRM years: 1971
BRM starts: 15 (11 championship, 4 non-championship)
BRM wins: 1 (championship race)

Siffert joined BRM for 1971 and largely played second fiddle to team-mate Pedro Rodriguez, who was also his great rival in the JW Automotive Gulf Porsche sportscar squad.

Frustrating problems, including ignition coil issues, denied both drivers strong results in the early part of the season. Then BRM lost Rodriguez to a fatal crash in a Ferrari at a Norisring Interserie race in July and Siffert became team leader.

“After losing Pedro, when Jo took over he instantly went quicker,” reckons Southgate, designer of the 1971 P160. “I don’t know why.”

The Swiss sensationally won the Austrian GP from pole, heading Jackie Stewart in the early stages and coping with a slow puncture late on. He probably would have won next time out at Monza, where team-mate Gethin did take victory, had it not been for a gearbox issue, normally a BRM strong point.

PLUS: The 10 greatest drives of lost legend Jo Siffert

Siffert’s second place at the season-closing United States GP meant BRM pipped Ferrari to runner-up in the constructors’ championship and the 35-year-old took a career-best fifth in the drivers’ table.

Sadly, there was still one more F1 event on the schedule, the non-championship Victory Race at Brands Hatch. Siffert qualified on pole and was recovering from a bad start when a mysterious failure – different theories still persist – pitched him into the barriers approaching Hawthorns. Siffert, trapped in the car, perished in the subsequent inferno and BRM lost its second lead driver in less than four months.

PLUS: Remembering Switzerland’s first F1 winner

4. Jean Behra

Behra

Behra "lived, talked, dreamed and thought motor cars" according to BRM co-founder Mays

Photo by: Motorsport Images

BRM years: 1957-58
BRM starts: 15 (9 championship, 6 non-championship)
BRM wins: 2 (non-championship races)

BRM was at a low ebb in 1957. Mike Hawthorn and Tony Brooks had both left following poor reliability and pretty major crashes, the P25 not yet having fulfilled its potential.

Behra, who had established himself as a top driver at Gordini and Maserati, then drove a P25 (entered under his own name) at the Caen GP. It wasn’t the strongest field but Behra’s victory from pole was an enormous boost for BRM and the Frenchman followed it up by leading a team 1-2-3 in the BRDC International Trophy at Silverstone.

“He lived, talked, dreamed and thought motor cars,” recounted Mays. “Wherever we were, whatever the occasion, he did nothing but talk about how we could improve the car. He was full of enthusiasm for the firm whose car he was driving.

“Caen might not have been a grande epreuve but to us it was triumph. After two years the four-cylinder car had found success at last. A new spirit swept through the whole Bourne organisation.”

Behra joined full time in 1958, leading the early stages of the Monaco GP and finishing third in the Dutch round, albeit behind team-mate Harry Schell thanks to an ignition fault. Sadly, unreliability restricted Behra to just one more points finish for the rest of the campaign.

He left to join Ferrari but it was a tumultuous relationship that broke down mid-season. Behra was well-liked at BRM and it’s quite possible he would have found his way back to Bourne for 1960 had he not been killed in an Avus crash while driving his own Porsche sportscar.

3. Jackie Stewart

Stewart charges to victory at the 1966 Monaco GP

Stewart charges to victory at the 1966 Monaco GP

Photo by: Motorsport Images

BRM years: 1965-67
BRM starts: 35 (29 championship, 6 non-championship)
BRM wins: 3 (2 championship, 1 non-championship)

Reigning British F3 champion Stewart’s 1965 season was one of the finest rookie campaigns in F1 history. The Scot won the non-championship BRDC International Trophy at Silverstone, his fourth start for BRM and fifth in F1, and scored four podiums from his first six world championship starts.

His first GP victory came after a mistake by team-mate Hill as the duo dominated the Italian GP and Stewart finished third in the 1965 standings, behind Clark and Hill.

After securing the 1966 Tasman title, ahead of Hill and Clark, Stewart won the Monaco GP. He was one of many to be caught out in an early downpour at the Belgian GP, suffering a crash that helped trigger his safety crusade and forced him to miss the subsequent French GP.

Stewart nevertheless narrowly failed to pip Hill in the standings and became team leader when the 1962 world champion left to join Clark at Lotus.

BRM was now in the middle of its H16 aberration and Stewart had his only winless F1 season in 1967. Even then, there were still starring moments, including finishing second at Spa despite having to hold the car in gear.

PLUS: Jackie Stewart’s greatest F1 drives

Stewart left to join Ken Tyrrell’s Matra operation in 1968. It’s true to say his impact at BRM was limited, but the inexperienced Scot still led the line and managed more wins than all but one of the drivers in this list.

2. Pedro Rodriguez

Rodriguez after victory at the 1970 Belgian GP

Rodriguez after victory at the 1970 Belgian GP

Photo by: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch / Motorsport Images

BRM years: 1968, 1970-71 (plus privateer entries in 1969)
BRM starts: 41 (33 championship, 8 non-championship)
BRM wins: 2 (1 championship, 1 non-championship)

Rodriguez’s first stint at BRM in 1968 was solid. He scored three podiums and starred in the wet French GP. But it is really his second period with the team that gets him this high on our list.

BRM had suffered a difficult 1969 season, resulting in several changes that included Southgate joining. He penned the P153 and, though reliability remained poor, it launched BRM back up the grid.

Rodriguez gave BRM its first win in four years with a brilliant drive at the Belgian GP, holding off Chris Amon’s March throughout.

PLUS: Pedro Rodriguez’s greatest races

Rodriguez then scored points in four of the final five races and only lost victory at Watkins Glen due to a splash-and-dash in the closing stages.

Joined by Siffert in 1971, Rodriguez remained the lead driver in what was now once again a top F1 team, armed with BRM’s last great car, the P160.

Rodriguez won the non-championship Spring Trophy at Oulton Park and took a superb second in the wet Dutch GP after a duel with Jacky Ickx’s Ferrari.

Despite losing a probable second place in the French GP thanks to a coil failure, Rodriguez was still in contention for second in the championship as the halfway mark approach. Except the Mexican would never start another GP, suffering fatal injuries at an Interserie race on a rare weekend not on duty for BRM.

The team had lost its talisman.

PLUS: Remembering Mexico’s finest F1 driver

1. Graham Hill

Hill lands BRM its F1 world title double in 1962

Hill lands BRM its F1 world title double in 1962

Photo by: Motorsport Images

BRM years: 1960-66
BRM starts: 98 (64 championship, 34 non-championship)
BRM wins: 14 (10 championship, 4 non-championship)

If the Clark-Lotus combination was the one to beat during the 1500cc F1 era, the Hill-BRM package was its most consistent rival.

Hill joined BRM in 1960 and had two tricky seasons before the P57 and V8 1500cc engine was ready for 1962, though he did star with a headline-grabbing drive through the field in the 1960 British GP.

PLUS: Graham Hill’s greatest races

The 1962 season became a duel between Hill and Clark, winning seven of the nine races between them. The Lotus 25 was usually the quicker, but the P57 was more reliable. When Clark suffered an oil leak in the South African finale, Hill swept by to take victory and the drivers’ title, while BRM secured the constructors’ crown.

Hill was limited to two wins in 1963 as Lotus and Clark dominated, but that was enough for the runner-up spot in both tables.

Hill, Clark and Ferrari’s John Surtees were all in contention for the 1964 title. Each of them experienced their share of bad luck and the fight went down to the wire in Mexico.

Given Clark’s late problems, Hill might have been champion had he not already been involved in a controversial collision with Lorenzo Bandini’s Ferrari. He is one of only two drivers (the other being Alain Prost in 1988) to lose the drivers’ crown thanks to a dropped-scores rule, which put him on 39 instead of 41. Surtees scored 40…

Hill had to play second fiddle to Clark again in 1965, when he was challenged by team-mate Stewart. Hill held off the rookie and scored arguably his greatest victory at Monaco, but could see BRM’s focus drifting in the wrong direction as the three-litre era began.

There were no wins in 1966 and Hill left for Lotus to form a superteam with Clark the following year. Nevertheless, Hill’s record and fastidious approach to car set-up makes him the comfortable winner in this list.

His 1962 title gave BRM the world-topping result for British industry it had been set up to achieve.

Hill rightly takes top spot in this list for leading BRM to the peak of F1

Hill rightly takes top spot in this list for leading BRM to the peak of F1

Photo by: Sutton Images

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