Top 10 Tyrrell F1 drivers: Alesi, Brundle, Stewart and more

Dissatisfied with the chassis available on the market, Ken Tyrrell became a constructor in his own right in 1970. His eponymous Tyrrell team lasted until 1998 before bowing out - with some truly world class drivers in the cockpit. Here's our top 10 Tyrrell aces

Top 10 Tyrrell F1 drivers: Alesi, Brundle, Stewart and more

Already a successful entrant of other people’s cars, Ken Tyrrell became a Formula 1 constructor at the end of 1970. By the time his team closed its doors at the end of 1998, after being bought by British American Tobacco, Tyrrell had racked up 23 world championship grand prix victories, two drivers’ titles and a constructors’ crown.

While much of that success came in the team’s early days, the well-organised squad was highly respected throughout its three decades and ran some great drivers, including up-and-coming talents.

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Despite its financial problems in the second half of its life, Tyrrell is 10th on the all-time world championship wins list, behind Benetton and ahead of BRM.

For this top 10, we considered the amount of success the drivers scored with Tyrrell, the impact they had on the team and the circumstances of their time there. We didn’t include their achievements elsewhere and have excluded the period during which the team ran Matra and March chassis, though that would have made no difference to the final ranking…

 

10. Jonathan Palmer

Jonathan Palmer won the Jim Clark Trophy in 1987, for drivers with naturally aspirated engines

Jonathan Palmer won the Jim Clark Trophy in 1987, for drivers with naturally aspirated engines

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Tyrrell years: 1987-89
Tyrrell starts: 45
Tyrrell wins: 0
Tyrrell podiums: 0

Didier Pironi, who scored two podiums in his 31 starts for Tyrrell, nearly made this list, but Palmer gets the nod for two reasons. One is that he was something of a mainstay for the squad during a difficult period.

The second is Palmer’s victory in the 1987 Jim Clark Trophy, essentially a ‘Class B’ world championship for those running normally aspirated engines.

Palmer joined Tyrrell for 1987, after three years with poor RAM and Zakspeed machinery. At the same time, the team – following just two seasons with Renault turbo power – returned to Ford Cosworth motivation when it became clear that forced induction would be phased out of F1. The Jim Clark and Colin Chapman trophies were introduced for those switching back to natural aspiration and the DG016 was one of the sub-category’s better cars.

Palmer beat team-mate Philippe Streiff and Larrousse Lola driver Philippe Alliot to the title. He also took his best overall finish for Tyrrell with fourth in that year’s Australian GP, while his performance on his way to fifth at Monaco also attracted acclaim.

Palmer was a sensational ninth quickest in first practice at Jerez in 1988, though fell back to 22nd when his engine expired and he had to switch to his spare car as others improved. He scored five points during a season in which team-mate Julian Bailey failed to qualify more often than not.

Palmer made it into Autocourse’s top 10 drivers in both 1987 and 1988, but the arrival of Jean Alesi in 1989 took the wind out of his sails. Palmer also suffered some misfortune and his F1 career came to an end after he failed to qualify for the season-closing Australian GP.

9. Mika Salo

Salo took the distinctive Tyrrell 025 to fifth at Monaco in a no-stop strategy

Salo took the distinctive Tyrrell 025 to fifth at Monaco in a no-stop strategy

Photo by: Ercole Colombo

Tyrrell years: 1995-97
Tyrrell starts: 50
Tyrrell wins: 0
Tyrrell podiums: 0

Another Tyrrell star in the days long after the team had ceased to be an F1 force. Salo made mistakes in his rookie campaign in 1995, a bad one for Tyrrell, but soon got the better of Ukyo Katayama. That shouldn’t be taken lightly as the Japanese driver had done well enough in 1994, often outpacing team-mate Mark Blundell and making it into seventh in Autocourse’s driver ratings.

Amid poor engine reliability, Salo emerged as “the team’s biggest asset” in 1996, according to Maurice Hamilton in Autocourse. Salo scored points (then awarded to the top six) in Italy, Japan and Australia, and was in contention for more at the San Marino GP before engine problems struck.

Salo battled on with a decent chassis in the 025 that was held back by a power deficit and, arguably, Bridgestone’s advantage over Tyrrell’s Goodyears at the back of the field in 1997.

The Finn managed the team’s only points of the season with a non-stop drive to fifth in the wet Monaco GP and had a small edge over team-mate Jos Verstappen in what was one of Tyrrell’s better line-ups in its later years.

8. Stefan Bellof

Bellof is one of F1's great 'what if?' stories, after his starring role at Tyrrell and tragic accident in 1985

Bellof is one of F1's great 'what if?' stories, after his starring role at Tyrrell and tragic accident in 1985

Photo by: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch / Motorsport Images

Tyrrell years: 1984-85
Tyrrell starts: 20
Tyrrell wins: 0
Tyrrell podiums: 0 (1 on road)

Bellof or Martin Brundle? The 1984 Tyrrell team-mates are evenly matched in this contest. Both had star performances in the Cosworth-engined 012 against the turbocars and both had their efforts annulled thanks to the team’s controversial exclusion from the season.

While some feel Bellof’s raw pace would have made him a world champion, he only marginally edged Brundle in their qualifying battles across 1984 and the first races of 1985. Had the team not lost all its points from 1984, Brundle would have been ahead, though the half-points for the rain-shortened Monaco GP contribute to that.

It’s that day in Monte Carlo that really stands out in Bellof’s F1 career. From 20th on the grid, Bellof rose to third and was catching Ayrton Senna’s Toleman, which in turn was catching the McLaren of leader Alain Prost, when the race was red-flagged. There’s a good chance the German would have won had the race gone its full distance.

It was Bellof who managed Tyrrell’s two points scores in 1985 and would probably have been higher on this list had his ill-judged move on Jacky Ickx in the 1985 Spa 1000Km not had fatal consequences.

PLUS: Reassessing Stefan Bellof

7. Martin Brundle

The future of British F1 commentary - Murray Walker with Brundle at Monaco in 1985

The future of British F1 commentary - Murray Walker with Brundle at Monaco in 1985

Photo by: David Phipps

Tyrrell years: 1984-86
Tyrrell starts: 38
Tyrrell wins: 0
Tyrrell podiums: 0 (1 on road)

Brundle just pips Bellof on this list because he was closer to his highly rated team-mate than many remember and was at the team for longer, leading the line in the wake of Bellof’s death until the end of 1986.

Interestingly, Autocourse said that both Bellof’s and Brundle’s 1984 performances showed Ken Tyrrell had “made a shrewd move” in signing the duo and that they were stars of the future, but left both out of its top 10…

Brundle also has an equivalent to Bellof’s Monaco drive, falling just 0.8 seconds short of a charging victory in the 1984 Detroit GP. Brundle started 11th – five spots ahead of Bellof – before moving forwards as others hit trouble and closed on leader Nelson Piquet’s cruising Brabham late on. It’s a second that doesn’t show up in the history books following Tyrrell’s later exclusion. Bellof crashed out.

Brundle had also been a brilliant fifth – also no longer recorded – on his world championship F1 debut in Brazil, having outpaced Bellof in practice.

There were no points in 1985, but Brundle outqualified Ivan Capelli and Streiff on their Tyrrell appearances. He then managed four point-scoring finishes in 1986, including a fourth at the dramatic Australian GP finale, despite Tyrrell running only the ninth-fastest machinery of the season.

6. Jean Alesi

Alesi's heroics for Tyrrell led to a tug of war between Williams and Ferrari for 1991

Alesi's heroics for Tyrrell led to a tug of war between Williams and Ferrari for 1991

Photo by: Ercole Colombo

Tyrrell years: 1989-90
Tyrrell starts: 23
Tyrrell wins: 0
Tyrrell podiums: 2

A key part of Tyrrell’s last hurrah, Formula 3000 star Alesi burst into F1 with fourth place on his world championship debut at the 1989 French GP. His pace hastened the end of Tyrrell incumbent Palmer’s career and Alesi became a feature near the front of the field in the excellent Harvey Postlethwaite/Jean-Claude Migeot 018 and 019 chassis.

PLUS: The "completely mad" nosejob that transformed F1 design

Alesi’s status as a star of the future was underlined by his performance at the season-opening 1990 United States GP. Alesi qualified fourth and then led the early stages.

His headline-grabbing moment came when Senna’s McLaren-Honda powered by into the lead down the inside at the end of the main straight. Senna left a gap to the left for the following left-hander and Alesi put his Tyrrell into it, audaciously retaking the lead.

Senna made sure of the job at his next attempt, despite a combative Alesi failing to give in, but the French-Sicilian’s second place got everyone’s attention.

The Ford Cosworth-powered package was most competitive on tight, street circuits, Alesi’s acrobatic style yielding a fine second place at Monaco. Remarkably, though, having scored 13 points in the first four GPs, Alesi scored no more for the rest of 1990.

Perhaps predictably for a rookie, there were errors – he crashed out in tricky conditions in Canada and, following a brilliant opening-lap charge past both Ferraris, spun out of third in Italy. But Alesi was still ranked ninth in the Autocourse driver list and had helped Tyrrell to fifth in the constructors’ table for two consecutive seasons. That was its best result since 1979 and Tyrrell would never scale such heights again.

Alesi moved to Ferrari for 1991 but arguably never looked better than when he was taking on F1’s giants with Tyrrell.

Podcast: Jean Alesi Race of My Life

5. Michele Alboreto

Alboreto celebrates victory at the 1982 Caesars Palace Grand Prix - flanked by Eddie Cheever, Diana Ross and John Watson

Alboreto celebrates victory at the 1982 Caesars Palace Grand Prix - flanked by Eddie Cheever, Diana Ross and John Watson

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Tyrrell years: 1981-83, 1989
Tyrrell starts: 46
Tyrrell wins: 2
Tyrrell podiums: 4

F1 rookie Alboreto struggled at first against the more experienced Eddie Cheever in 1981, but he was another example of Ken Tyrrell taking a chance with rising talent. And Alboreto delivered.

With Cheever off to Ligier/Talbot, Alboreto became team leader and comfortably outpaced both Brian Henton in 1982 and Danny Sullivan the following year.

Autocourse rated Alboreto eighth at the end of 1982, during which he finished in the top six, seven times, though the publication expressed some disappointment at his lack of progress the following year, placing him just outside the top 10.

Alboreto’s undoubted Tyrrell highlights came with his two victories, which were to be the team’s last.

At the 1982 season finale at Caesars Palace, Alboreto outqualified all except the fast-but-fragile turbocharged Renaults. When both Rene Arnoux (engine issues that eventually caused his retirement) and Alain Prost (tyre vibration) hit trouble, Alboreto moved to the front to take a well-judged victory nearly half a minute clear of John Watson’s McLaren.

Turbo grunt was very much in charge in 1983 but Alboreto gave both Tyrrell and the Ford Cosworth V8 line of engines their last success in Detroit. After qualifying sixth, non-stopping Alboreto climbed the order as others hit trouble or made a pitstop. He inherited the lead on lap 51 of 60 when Piquet’s Brabham suffered a puncture.

Video: The 10 worst F1 cars to win a GP

It looked as though Alboreto’s return to the team in 1989 – after a stint at Ferrari – was well-timed. Postlethwaite’s first Tyrrell design, the 018, was a good one and Alboreto was fifth at Monaco before taking the squad’s first podium in six years (since his own victory in Detroit) in Mexico.

Unfortunately, tensions with Tyrrell became strained. When the team got Camel sponsorship and Alboreto refused to cut ties with rival Marlboro, the Italian was replaced by Alesi.

4. Patrick Depailler

For you, blue: Depailler perches next to George Harrison

For you, blue: Depailler perches next to George Harrison

Photo by: David Phipps

Tyrrell years: 1972, 1974-78
Tyrrell starts: 80
Tyrrell wins: 1
Tyrrell podiums: 17

Depailler wasn’t quite as quick as Jody Scheckter when they were Tyrrell team-mates, but the Frenchman is one of only five drivers who won a world championship GP with the team and was arguably the master of its most distinctive creation: the six-wheeled P34.

Depailler started a couple of races for Tyrrell in 1972 before taking Francois Cevert’s full-time spot for 1974 following the 29-year-old’s death at Watkins Glen.

As expected, Depailler largely played second fiddle to Scheckter in 1974-75 but scored his first pole and completed a Tyrrell 1-2 at Anderstorp in their first season together.

Things were different with the P34 in 1976. Although it was Scheckter who took the car’s sole pole and victory in the Swedish GP, the South African was not a fan of Derek Gardner’s unusual design. Depailler outqualified Scheckter 11-5, though finished a spot behind in the drivers’ standings. He was so good in the six-wheeler in 1976 that he was ranked third in Autocourse’s top 10 drivers, behind only Niki Lauda and world champion James Hunt.

It was a similar story in 1977. Highly rated Ronnie Peterson replaced Scheckter but struggled as the P34’s competitiveness fluctuated and fell away. Depailler outqualified the driver that some felt was the fastest in F1 9-8 and outscored him 20 points to seven.

The 008, originally conceived as a fan car but raced conventionally, was competitive and lifted Tyrrell from sixth in the constructors’ table to fourth. Depailler trounced rookie team-mate Pironi and took a long-awaited and well-deserved fine victory at Monaco, helping him to fifth in the drivers’ standings.

Depailler left for Ligier for 1979, where he again proved to be a frontrunner. He had scored the second-highest number of points for Tyrrell, narrowly pipping Scheckter by five points having stayed an extra two seasons. He also started more world championships GPs in Tyrrell chassis than any other driver and took more podiums than anyone except our number one…

Top 10: Ligier F1 drivers

3. Francois Cevert

Cevert was primed to lead Tyrrell into 1974, before his fatally tragic accident at Watkins Glen

Cevert was primed to lead Tyrrell into 1974, before his fatally tragic accident at Watkins Glen

Photo by: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch / Motorsport Images

Tyrrell years: 1971-73
Tyrrell starts: 37
Tyrrell wins: 1
Tyrrell podiums: 13

Is Cevert a lost F1 world champion? Friend and former team-mate Jackie Stewart thought so and Ken Tyrrell was prepared to have the Frenchman lead the team for 1974, following Stewart’s retirement.

That potential was never realised thanks to Cevert’s fatal crash during practice at Watkins Glen, ahead of the final round of 1973, but he still warrants a place high on this list.

Cevert was a long way off Stewart in his early days in F1 (first in Tyrrell-run March chassis and then the early Tyrrell cars) but made impressive progress as he learned from his team leader.

He really started to gather momentum in 1971, scoring second places (to Stewart) at Paul Ricard and the fearsome Nurburgring. He missed out on victory in the Italian GP slipstreaming epic by 0.09s and took his first world championship win in the US GP. Tyrrell won its only constructors’ title that season as JYS led a 1-3 in the drivers’ table.

The following year was harder for Tyrrell but still there were two podiums for Cevert and by 1973 he had become an established F1 frontrunner. He ably backed up Stewart in the tricky 006 and, despite there being no wins, Cevert scored six runner-up spots on his way to a posthumous fourth in the standings.

Cevert completed six Tyrrell 1-2s during the team’s heyday. Or, put another way, remove all-time great Stewart and Cevert would be a seven-time F1 winner for the team. Cevert was very much part of the Tyrrell family in the team’s early days and is the fourth-highest points scorer in the constructors’ history despite his tragically curtailed career.

PLUS: Cevert, a lost champion

2. Jody Scheckter

Scheckter took the six-wheeled P34 to victory, despite his discomfort with the car

Scheckter took the six-wheeled P34 to victory, despite his discomfort with the car

Photo by: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch / Motorsport Images

Tyrrell years: 1974-76
Tyrrell starts: 45
Tyrrell wins: 4
Tyrrell podiums: 14

Tyrrell had Scheckter lined up to replace Stewart for 1974 even before the Scot’s retirement went public. The South African had shown obvious potential in his dramatic outings for McLaren in 1973 and made sense as the ‘new talent’ to come in, with Cevert becoming the team leader.

Cevert’s fatal crash at Watkins Glen thrust Scheckter into the team leader role, with just five world championship starts under his belt as the 1974 campaign began. But he rose to the challenge, took two wins and got to the season finale with an outside shot at the title.

Tyrrell’s competitiveness slumped in 1975, but Scheckter still held an advantage over improving team-mate Depailler and won his home GP.

Scheckter had an unhappier time in the six-wheeled P34 but, when the car had its best day at Anderstorp in 1976, it was he and not Depailler who took pole by 0.349s and won.

Ken Tyrrell was a little critical after Scheckter announced his departure to Wolf for 1977, suggesting that he had not dominated Depailler as much as he should have done given his extra experience. But that was probably more indicative of the tension over the P34 and, during their three years together, Scheckter outqualified Depailler 26-19 and outscored him 114-65.

“Scheckter’s decision to join Tyrrell in 1974 was the wrong one,” reckoned Mike Kettlewell in Autocourse at the end of 1976. “He found confidence and security, but the strict Tyrrell discipline caused him to moderate his ‘fire’. And ultimately the two lost mutual confidence.

“If Scheckter had joined Ferrari he would have been world champion by now.”

After two years at Wolf, Scheckter did join Ferrari and did become world champion. How much did his apprenticeship at Tyrrell prepare him for that chance?

1. Jackie Stewart

Tyrrell and Jackie Stewart were in symbiosis at the start of the team's foray into F1

Tyrrell and Jackie Stewart were in symbiosis at the start of the team's foray into F1

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Tyrrell years: 1970-73
Tyrrell starts: 39
Tyrrell wins: 15
Tyrrell podiums: 20

Even excluding his years driving for Tyrrell-prepared Matra and March chassis, Stewart tops this list by a mile. He was even instrumental in the creation of Tyrrell as a constructor before taking two drivers’ titles and scoring more wins (15 of 23), more poles (12 of 14) and more fastest laps (eight of 20) than any other Tyrrell driver.

After testing a Matra V12 at the end of his first title victory in 1969, Stewart knew he still wanted a Cosworth DFV engine for 1970. Matra stopped supplying Ken Tyrrell with chassis and most other constructors weren’t keen either, apart from newcomer March.

The 701 wasn’t very good and Tyrrell decided to produce his own car, with Gardner tasked with designing the 001 in secret and Stewart used to help get backing from Dunlop and Elf.

The 001 was fast almost immediately, Stewart taking pole for both the Canadian and US GPs, but was thwarted by unreliability. That sorted, Stewart dominated 1971 in 003, taking six wins and clinching the title as early as round eight of 11.

A duodenal ulcer and the previously unlocked qualities of Emerson Fittipaldi and the Lotus 72 made a title defence tough. Stewart even missed a round but still took four victories and runner-up spot in the standings!

The 006 was arguably only the third-quickest car of 1973 but Stewart put in one of the great F1 campaigns, taking five wins and stealing the crown from under the noses of Lotus drivers Fittipaldi and Peterson. He selected his recovery drive to fourth at the Italian GP as his greatest.

Podcast: Jackie Stewart’s Race of My Life

Following Cevert’s death in practice, Stewart withdrew from what would have been his final F1 race in the US GP. He retired as the undisputed best driver in the world and Tyrrell would never be quite the same without him.

The Tyrrell-Stewart combination should be regarded in similar terms to Clark-Lotus, Schumacher-Ferrari and Hamilton-Mercedes.

PLUS: Jackie Stewart’s greatest races

Jackie Stewart, Tyrrell 006 Ford

Jackie Stewart, Tyrrell 006 Ford

Photo by: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch / Motorsport Images

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