Top 10 Arrows F1 drivers ranked
Arrows has been in more Formula 1 races without winning one than any other team, but they have come close several times. Twenty years after the team went out of business, Topten10.net ranks its best drivers.
1. Riccardo Patrese
Arrows years: 1978-81
Arrows start: 57
Points with team: 30
Arrows was lucky to have its best driver as its first. Patrese’s accomplishments nearly led to early wins and set the stage for future success.
Oliver convinced Patrese to join Arrows in the first season. Patrese qualified seventh and took the lead on lap 27 of Arrows’ second race after Argentina. On lap 64, the Italian’s engine failed. It prevented the first win.
His year ended on a sour note when he was blamed for Ronnie Peterson’s death at Monza and barred from the Watkins Glen race. Patrese won Canada’s A1 final. Shadow sued Arrows midseason, claiming the FA1 copied the DN9.
Patrese got two A1 points in 1979 because his A2 switch failed. Patrese finished sixth in Brazil and second in Long Beach in 1980 before slowing down.
He won the pole for the team’s only Long Beach race in 1981. Patrese led 24-laps. Patrese’s car stalled because its engine misfired and couldn’t take in fuel. Carlos Reutemann took the lead when Patrese’s car broke down.
Patrese finished third in Brazil and second in Imola before falling. It meant another good season. Patrese won Monaco after four years with Arrows.
2. Derek Warwick
Arrows/Footwork years: 1987-89, 1993
Arrows/Footwork starts: 63
Points with team: 31
“To be honest,” Warwick says of his decision to join the Arrows in 1987, “it was the only thing I had to give.” Warwick feels that his career suffered when he chose Renault over Williams in 1985, and again in 1986, when Ayrton Senna refused to let him join Lotus.
Warwick’s first year with the club was not as profitable as Cheever’s, but things improved in 1988, when the team returned. Despite a difficult season, Warwick ended tenth with 17 points, one less than current world champion Nelson Piquet (Lotus).
However, Warwick’s best chance to win came in 1989. He started eighth on the grid for the opening race of the season in Brazil, but when he was third, he had a “diabolical pitstop” and lost significant time, dropping him to fifth. Prior to the pit stop, Warwick was closing in on Alain Prost for second place. However, the time Warwick lost during the break was greater than the time gap between him and the eventual victor, Nigel Mansell.
Senna past Warwick and claimed the lead after four laps in wet Canada. Senna’s engine failed once more as he approached Warwick, denying him victory. Senna’s departure must have made the team aware of the A11’s vulnerability. Despite the British team’s severe decline, Warwick joined Lotus in 1990 after Arrows failed to improve.
Despite the fact that he scored all four points for the team that year, Warwick claims he had disagreements with head designer Alan Jenkins because he believed Jenkins was furious with him for replacing Michele Alboreto. Warwick made the decision to leave Formula One at the end of the season.
3. Damon Hill
Arrows years: 1997
Arrows starts: 16
Points with team: 7
Hill’s 1997 Hungarian GP exploits came the closest to delivering the team its first victory. The stars seemed to align when the reigning champion qualified third and his Bridgestone tyres performed admirably in the scorching conditions, propelling him into the lead that seemed ready to be turned into the team’s first victory. Then there was the hydraulic issue, which devastated Hill’s pace, making him easy pickings for Jacques Villeneuve to swoop and grab away victory – a 50p washer being the culprit in denying Hill, who finished second.
When being sacked by Williams during his title-winning season with Frentzen, Hill chose to sign with Arrows after Walkinshaw pitched him on the organization’s vision – as well as a fair financial package – to entice him to the side. However, the Yamaha-powered A18 proved troublesome at first, with Hill failing to start the season opener at Albert Park due to a jammed throttle. Things had improved by mid-season, with Hill opening his account for the team with sixth at Silverstone, but Arrows remained rooted in the midfield until its day in the sun at the Hungaroring.
Hill found the A18 to be uneven, finding enough balance in the car on certain days to qualify solidly within the top 10, but being outqualified by teammate Pedro Diniz on others. The Brit finished his Arrows career fourth on the grid at Jerez, but a gearbox failure midway through the race ended his chances at points.
4. Eddie Cheever
Arrows years: 1987-89
Arrows starts: 46
Points with team: 20
Arrows made some modifications for 1987 after such a disastrous season. After the A9 forced previous technical director Dave Wass to depart the team, Eddie Cheever and Derek Warwick were hired in as replacement drivers, and a youthful Ross Brawn took over the design of the A10.
The two new drivers made an excellent team, and while Warwick defeated Cheever in qualifying, Cheever beat him in points in their first year together. The American finished fourth in Belgium and sixth in Detroit. Warwick’s first points with the car came at Silverstone. Later that year, Cheever finished sixth in Portugal and fourth in Mexico, defeating Warwick 8-3.
However, Warwick discovered an extra gear in the next season, which was the final of the original turbo era. Arrows continued to use the BMWs, which now bore Megatron branding, while Warwick discovered an extra gear. It impacted Cheever’s luck so drastically that he couldn’t consistently attain the same heights as his teammate. Cheever finished third in Monza, just a half-second ahead of Warwick, after engine specialist Mader rectified problems with the Arrows’ pop-off valves that prevented them from running at maximum boost. Arrows’ finest season ever, with 23 points and fifth place in the constructors’ championship.
The two drivers remained together until the conclusion of the era of naturally aspirated engines. The standard Ford Cosworth DFR powered Brawn’s A11. Cheever performed far lower in qualifying than Warwick in 1989. With the exception of one race, he was outqualified, and when Warwick was out with a back injury in France, rookie Martin Donnelly beat him.
5. Jochen Mass
Arrows years: 1979-80
Arrows starts: 24
Points with team: 7
Mass had three strong years at McLaren before a terrible 1978 with ATS – which took him to Arrows in stead of countryman Rolf Stommelen – and was an F1 winner by the time he joined Arrows, albeit under harrowing circumstances in the 1975 Spanish GP.
Mass got his first F1 point in over a year with sixth at Monaco after outqualifying his younger teammate – the team’s final race with the A1 chassis before switching to the low-slung, bullet-like A2. However, despite the new car’s dedication to generating ground-effects aero, it was substantially more difficult to drive than the old one.
The A2 performed worse in qualifying than the A1B; Mass’ qualifying average with the A1B was 16th, while he was 21st with the A2. The fact that he failed to qualify for the Canadian GP while Patrese drove the A1B to 14th place on the grid spoke something about the A2’s problems.
Nonetheless, Mass led the gold A2 to two sixth-place results, aided in part by attrition but also as a result of the veteran German’s cunning.
He made a better start with 1980’s A3, finishing sixth in Kyalami and fourth at Monaco, but he had to miss two races due to an injury received in an Osterreichring practice crash in which he rolled his car several times. He returned for the final two races of the season before leaving to drive Porsche’s 936 sportscar at the end of the season.
6. Thierry Boutsen
Arrows years: 1983-86
Arrows starts: 57
Points with team: 16
In the middle of 1983, Arrows gave Boutsen his F1 debut. He didn’t collect any points in his first year with the squad, but he impressed by staying with Surer full season. As a result, he was given a longer contract for 1984. The Belgian began the year with sixth and fifth place finishes in Brazil and Imola, respectively, before the team upgraded from the normally aspirated A6 to the BMW turbo A7.
But the new car and engine were constantly breaking down, and even though the BMW M12/13 had more than 1000bhp, Arrows struggled to get the most out of it. Boutsen finished fifth in Austria, one spot ahead of Surer. He and Berger both stayed on until 1985.
Boutsen handily defeated Berger throughout their year together. He qualified 12 points ahead of the Austrian rookie and outscored him 11-3 over the course of the season, with his second at Imola being the best.
Surer rejoined Boutsen in 1986, but the A8 was beginning to show its age, and the Heini Mader-prepared BMWs were lagging behind the Brabham and Benetton factory cars.
Boutsen faced tougher competition after Surer retired following his rally crash and was replaced by 1985 F3000 champion Christian Danner. When Arrows’ mid-season upgrade to the A9 chassis proved to be a fiasco, Danner scored the team’s lone point.
Boutsen had a poor conclusion to his stint with Arrows after a promising start, but his performance was good enough to land him a move to Benetton.
7. Marc Surer
Arrows years: 1982-84, 1986
Arrows starts: 47
Points with team: 8
The Swiss driver was a BMW junior in the 1970s. In 1979, he joined the Ensign F1 team. Surer’s season with Gunther Schmid’s ATS team ended after a Kyalami crash. After three races on the treatment table, he returned. He scored four points for Ensign in 1981. He switched to Theodore Racing later.
Arrows signed him for 1982, but an incident at Kyalami pushed him back four races. Surer told F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast that the crashes caused him to “lose some movement” in his legs, but he learned to drive around them and finished seventh in Belgium.
The Arrows A4 wasn’t fast, but it was reliable, and Surer finished sixth in Canada. At Hockenheim, where he started 26th and last, he scored his third point.
Surer scored 4 points in the first 4 races of 1983. Both he and Thierry Boutsen lost ground after that. When Goodyear introduced a new turbocharged tire, Surer felt less confident in his car.
In 1984, when Arrows stuck with the A6 instead of the turbo BMW-powered A7, Boutsen outperformed Surer. Due to the faulty new car, both drivers had to leave early. Surer’s lone point of the season came in sixth at the Osterreichring. Boutsen was 5th. In 1985, Gerhard Berger replaced Surer at Arrows.
Surer didn’t have a ride in 1985, but when Francois Hesnault underperformed, he joined Brabham. Surer scored five points in limited testing, earning him a 1986 contract with Arrows.
Before his friend and co-driver died in a rally crash, he raced a terrible car in five races. Surer was severely injured and forced to leave F1.
8. Jos Verstappen
Arrows/Footwork years: 1996, 2000-01
Arrows/Footwork starts: 50
Points with team: 7
Verstappen started with Benetton. Simtek and Footwork hired him in 1995 and 1996.
Verstappen’s underpowered, unreliable vehicle qualified in the middle of the pack. In Buenos Aires, he qualified seventh, ahead of both McLarens. David Coulthard and Panis’ Ligier finished ahead of him. His fourth podium finish this year. It was the team’s only point in 1997 because Walkinshaw invested instead of upgrading the car.
Verstappen joined Tyrrell in 1997, then Stewart, Honda, then Arrows before 2000.
By then, Walkinshaw had abandoned Brian Hart’s difficult in-house engine project for Supertec engines, which powered the speedy A21. After a year of fighting the Minardis for last, the Arrows became a points contender. Verstappen and de la Rosa had similar straight-line speed.
In the team’s Nurburgring debut, De la Rosa finished sixth. In Canada, Verstappen finished fifth. In Germany, the Spaniard qualified fifth. In a rain-shortened race, he finished sixth and beat Verstappen in the next three rounds.
The Dutchman won. After de la Rosa crashed on the first lap at Variante delle Roggia, he finished fourth at Monza. Red Bull replaced De la Rosa with Enrique Bernoldi on December 31.
The A22 that year was less powerful than the one before it because of Asiatech’s ex-Peugeot engines. Verstappen’s early lead in a lighter vehicle was short-lived.
In 2001, Verstappen gave Arrows one point in Austria, but Arrows was replaced by Heinz-Harald Frentzen.
9. Gianni Morbidelli
Arrows/Footwork years: 1994-95
Arrows/Footwork starts: 26
Points with team: 8
Morbidelli, unlike Fittipaldi, stayed on in 1995 to continue his good work, but it was more difficult because his financial issues worsened.
Morbidelli believes that the FA15’s lack of speed is due to the compulsory diffuser cuts, which were implemented to increase safety after a promising start to the 1994 season. Despite this, the Italian finished the year with three points, courtesy of a sixth-place finish at Spa and two points from Germany.
Morbidelli stayed in the center of the field in 1995, and he was almost three seconds faster than Inoue in qualifying for the first three races. Despite Morbidelli’s best efforts, Footwork didn’t register a point until the sixth race of the season in Montreal. Morbidelli consistently qualified between 11th and 14th in the first several races.
There, the Pesaro driver was the first to get lapped in the Canadian GP, but he still prevented Mika Salo from breaking into the top six. Morbidelli was demoted after the next race at Magny-Cours because Footwork required the money from Max Papis to stay in company.
However, Papis was a significant step down from his countryman, and Inoue outperformed him in Hungary, Belgium, and Portugal. Oliver decided to bring Morbidelli back for the rest of the season after seven races away.
Morbidelli finished third in his final race with the team, the season finale in Adelaide. He and second-placed Olivier Panis trailed Hill by two laps. Morbidelli was not retained after Oliver sold the team to Walkinshaw. His F1 career ended in 1997, when he had a minor role at Sauber and was severely injured.
10. Christian Fittipaldi
Arrows/Footwork year: 1994
Arrows/Footwork starts: 16
Points with team: 6
Christian Fittipaldi, the nephew of two-time Formula One champion Emerson, was underappreciated during his career. Footwork became aware of him when he performed admirably with Minardi.
Fittipaldi made an immediate impression when he joined Footwork in 1994. On a tight budget, he made the most of a good FA15 penned by Alan Jenkins. In the opening race of the season at Interlagos, Gianni Morbidelli qualified ahead of Emerson Fittipaldi, who finished 11th to Morbidelli’s sixth. Fittipaldi made up for it the next time around by starting tenth and sprinting to fourth place in the Pacific Grand Prix at Aida.
The Footworks finished sixth and seventh in Monaco, with Fittipaldi again ahead of Morbidelli. However, Fittipaldi’s gearbox failed while he was in fifth place, ending his chances of finishing on the podium. Fittipaldi finished sixth in the Canadian GP, but he was disqualified because his FA15 was too light.
The vehicle was then uncompetitive at Magny-Cours and Silverstone. Footwork appeared to be slipping into the middle of the field as the team battled to deal with the numerous emergency adjustments made to the cars for safety reasons following the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at Imola.
However, the team was aided by a series of collisions at the opening of the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, which proved to be a challenging race. Fittipaldi and Morbidelli maintained their Footworks and finished fourth and fifth, respectively. This allowed the squad to go ahead of Minardi in the standings.
In 1995, Fittipaldi switched to the CART series. At the time, Footwork signed Taki Inoue because they needed drivers with more money because money was limited.