Top 10 Arrows F1 drivers ranked: Hill, Warwick, Fittipaldi and more – Autosport

A team that began its time in Formula 1 under controversial circumstances, Arrows’ 24-year spell in the championship came to an end in 2002 amid mounting financial problems.
Still the team with the most world championship race starts (counting the Footwork years) under its belt – at 382 – without ever taking a victory, Arrows came close to troubling the top step of the podium throughout its curious history – but fell short each time.
The British squad, started up by former Lotus F1 driver Jackie Oliver, Alan Rees and Franco Ambrosio, went through multiple ownership changes in its latter years. It spent six seasons as Footwork in the 1990s, before Tom Walkinshaw took over for 1997 and restored the Arrows name.
Although the team made an encouraging start under his tenure, with the Scot’s investment helping to bring 1996 champion Damon Hill and famed designer John Barnard into the team, it arguably over-reached its capabilities with an in-house engine project.
The future briefly looked bright having claimed a title sponsorship deal with telecoms giant Orange ahead of the new millennium, but Arrows – and Tom Walkinshaw Racing – began to hit money troubles and thus closed its doors in the middle of the 2002 season.
Two decades on, it’s high time to rank the team’s drivers. Unlike many of our previous lists, there’s no win count to help – and thus it proved a difficult task to come up with a definitive top 10…
Fittipaldi made a good impression during his single season with the team in 1994, peaking with fourth in Aida
Photo by: Motorsport Images
Arrows/Footwork year: 1994
Arrows/Footwork starts: 16
Points with team: 6
Nephew of two-time champion Emerson, Christian Fittipaldi was underrated during his time in F1 and came to Footwork’s attention after his heroics with Minardi.
Fittipaldi set an immediate impression on joining Footwork in 1994, making the most of a decent FA15 penned by Alan Jenkins on a relatively tight budget. Although outqualified by Gianni Morbidelli in the Interlagos season-opener, Fittipaldi 11th to Morbidelli’s sixth, the Brazilian reversed the damage by claiming ninth on the grid next time out and then charged to an excellent fourth in the Pacific Grand Prix at Aida.
The Footworks lined up sixth and seventh at Monaco, Fittipaldi once again ahead of Morbidelli, but the former’s gearbox packed up while running in fifth place – with a very real chance of a podium finish taken away. Sixth at the Canadian GP for Fittipaldi was then chalked off because his FA15 was underweight.
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The car then proved uncompetitive at Magny-Cours and Silverstone, as Footwork looked set for a slow slump into the lower midfield reaches as the team struggled to deal with the myriad emergency changes made to the cars on safety grounds following the deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at Imola.
But the team benefited from a series of pile-ups at the start of the German GP at Hockenheim, which proved to be an attrition-hit affair. Fittipaldi and Morbidelli kept their Footworks on the road to bag fourth and fifth respectively, netting a decent haul of points to bring the team above Minardi in the standings.
Fittipaldi upped sticks to race in CART for 1995. Footwork, at that point opting for more monied drivers as cashflow became more precarious, signed Taki Inoue.
Morbidelli ended his two-year spell on a high with a podium in the 1995 Australian Grand Prix
Photo by: Sutton Images
Arrows/Footwork years: 1994-95
Arrows/Footwork starts: 26
Points with team: 8
Unlike Fittipaldi, Morbidelli stayed on for 1995 to continue his good work, but it was a slightly more fraught experience as money troubles continued to escalate.
After enjoying a strong initial part of the 1994 season, Morbidelli puts the loss of performance in the FA15 down to the mandated diffuser cuts among the safety changes made mid-season. Regardless, the Italian had three points to his name that year, adding to his two points from Germany with a sixth at Spa.
Morbidelli continued his ubiquity in the midfield in 1995 and was around three seconds faster than Inoue in qualifying for the opening three rounds. But despite Morbidelli’s best efforts in qualifying consistently between 11th and 14th in the opening events, Footwork couldn’t get onto the scoresheet until the sixth race of the year at Montreal.
There, the Pesaro-born driver was the first of the lapped runners in an attritional Canadian GP, but nonetheless kept Tyrrell’s Mika Salo out of the top six. But after the next race at Magny-Cours, Morbidelli was benched as Footwork needed Max Papis’s money to stay afloat.
But Papis was a significant downgrade on his countryman, and was even outqualified by Inoue in Hungary, Belgium and Portugal. Oliver made the decision to recall Morbidelli for the last part of the season after seven races away.
In his last race at the squad, Morbidelli bagged third in a madcap season finale at Adelaide, he and second-placed Olivier Panis two laps down on winner Hill. Following Oliver’s sale of the team to Walkinshaw, Morbidelli was not retained and his F1 career ended with a bit-part – and injury-hit – campaign at Sauber in 1997.
Hard-trying Verstappen’s effort could not be faulted across his two spells with the team, although opportunities to score points were rare
Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images
Arrows/Footwork years: 1996, 2000-01
Arrows/Footwork starts: 50
Points with team: 7
After starting his F1 career with Benetton, Verstappen was farmed out to Simtek for 1995 before joining Footwork for 1996.
Despite an underpowered and unreliable car, Verstappen was able to haul it into the midfield during qualifying. He outqualified both McLarens at Buenos Aires, taking seventh on the grid and held on to record one of four finishes through the year – grabbing an impressive sixth ahead of David Coulthard and Panis’s Ligier. It was to be the team’s only point of the year, as Walkinshaw decided to invest into 1997 rather than update the car.
Verstappen joined Tyrrell for 1997, did a half-season with Stewart and then threw his lot in with Honda’s abortive F1 project before returning to Arrows for 2000.
By then, Walkinshaw had cancelled the troubled Brian Hart-led in-house engine project to pick up a supply of Supertec engines, which powered the team’s nimble A21. Elevating the team to a points contender after a year of battling the Minardis at the back, Arrows’ strength was in straightline speed, while Verstappen was evenly matched against Pedro de la Rosa.
De la Rosa got the team off the mark with sixth at the Nurburgring, as Verstappen followed that up two races later with fifth in Canada. The Spanish driver impressed with fifth in qualifying for the German GP, taking sixth in a rain-hit race and then outqualifying Verstappen in the next three rounds.
But the Dutchman proved stronger in the races, taking fourth at Monza as de la Rosa was wiped out in a huge first-lap crash at the Variante della Roggia. De la Rosa was dropped on the eve of 2001 as Red Bull stumped up the cash to get Enrique Bernoldi in the car.
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That year’s A22 was less potent than its predecessor, partly owing to Asiatech’s ex-Peugeot engines powering the car. It also had a smaller fuel tank relative to the other cars on the grid, and thus Verstappen’s early-race charges through the order with a lighter car made him a fixture at the sharp end of the field… before tumbling down again.
Arrows scored a solitary point in 2001 through Verstappen in Austria, but was let go as Heinz-Harald Frentzen came in to replace him.
Surer found points hard to come by in 1984’s A7 as the team began its BMW-powered era
Photo by: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch / Motorsport Images
Arrows years: 1982-84, 1986
Arrows starts: 47
Points with team: 8
The Swiss driver was part of BMW’s junior squad in the 1970s before graduating to F1 with the uncompetitive Ensign outfit in 1979. A season with Gunther Schmid’s ATS squad was interrupted in a leg-breaking shunt at Kyalami, but Surer was back after three races on the treatment table. He returned to Ensign for the first half of 1981 where he scored four points, before joining Theodore Racing for the second half.
Arrows was sufficiently impressed to bring him into the team for 1982, but another Kyalami crash in pre-season testing delayed his start with the team by four races. Surer told F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast that he’d “lost some movement” in his legs after those crashes and learned to drive around those limitations, grabbing seventh on his return at the Belgian GP.
Although the Arrows A4 was not particularly successful, it had reliability in its favour and Surer got the team off the mark in Canada with fifth place. He took a third point of the year at Hockenheim from 26th (and last) on the grid.
Surer kicked off 1983 in good form, taking four points from the first four races, but then points quickly began to elude he and team-mate Thierry Boutsen. Goodyear introduced a new construction of tyre to fit the turbo cars, and Surer says this took away some of his confidence in the car.
In the early part of 1984, as Arrows persisted with the A6 before introducing the turbo BMW-powered A7, Boutsen had started to outperform Surer – before the new car’s unreliability often left both retiring early. Surer grabbed his only point of the year with sixth at the Osterreichring, with Boutsen fifth, before leaving Arrows at the end of the season as Gerhard Berger came in for 1985.
Surer had no drive for 1985, but was drafted into the BMW-powered Brabham team after Francois Hesnault underperformed. With minimal testing Surer picked up five points that year, earning a reprieve with Arrows for 1986.
He did five races in a poor car before a rally crash claimed the life of his co-driver and friend Michel Wyder, leaving Surer with serious injuries that forced him to give up on F1 for good.
Boutsen scored his first F1 podium with Arrows at Imola in 1985 and used it as a launching pad for a move to Benetton
Photo by: Motorsport Images
Arrows years: 1983-86
Arrows starts: 57
Points with team: 16
Granted his F1 debut by Arrows midway through 1983, Boutsen scored no points in his first year with the team but impressed by matching Surer for pace across the season. Thus, he earned an extended deal for 1984, where the Belgian kicked off the year with sixth in Brazil and a fifth at Imola before the squad switched from the normally aspirated A6 to the BMW turbo A7.
But the new car and new engine were plagued by chronic unreliability and, despite the BMW M12/13 boasting well over 1000bhp, Arrows struggled to get the best out of it. Boutsen got fifth in Austria, beating Surer by one place, and stayed on for 1985 alongside the incoming Berger.
Boutsen pretty easily had the measure of Berger in their year together, outqualifying the Austrian rookie 12-4 and outscoring him by 11-3 across the season – the highlight being his second at Imola.
Surer returned to partner Boutsen for 1986, but the A8 was beginning to show its age and the Heini Mader-prepared BMWs were falling behind the works units of Brabham and Benetton.
After Surer departed following his rally crash and was replaced by 1985 F3000 champion Christian Danner, Boutsen had more stiff competition – and Danner bagged the team’s only point as a mid-season switch to the A9 chassis proved to be a disaster, forcing Arrows to press the A8 back into service.
It was a miserable way for Boutsen to end his time at Arrows after a bright start with the team, but his performances had nonetheless earned him a switch to Benetton.
Mass took his first of three points finished in 1979 with Arrows at Monaco in the last appearance for the old A1
Photo by: David Phipps
Arrows years: 1979-80
Arrows starts: 24
Points with team: 7
An F1 winner by the time he joined Arrows, albeit under harrowing circumstances in the 1975 Spanish GP, Mass had enjoyed three solid years at McLaren before a dreadful 1978 with ATS – which brought him to Arrows in place of countryman Rolf Stommelen.
Immediately on pace with Riccardo Patrese, Mass took his first F1 point in over a year with sixth at Monaco after outqualifying his younger team-mate – the team’s last race with the A1 chassis before moving to the low-slung, bullet-like A2. But although the new car’s devotion to generating ground-effects aero was significant, it was significantly harder to drive than the old one.
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In qualifying, the A2 was worse than the old car; Mass’ qualifying average with the A1B stood at 16th place, while he was an average of 21st with the A2. That he failed to qualify for the Canadian GP, while Patrese took the A1B to 14th on the grid, arguably said something about the A2’s troubles.
And yet, Mass dragged the gold A2 to two sixth-place finishes, partially helped by attrition but also a result that can be attributed to the veteran German’s canniness.
He had a better initial run with 1980’s A3, taking sixth at Kyalami and fourth at Monaco, but had to take two races out after an injury sustained in an Osterreichring practice crash in which he rolled his car multiple times. He returned for the last two races of the year but departed at the end of the season to drive Porsche’s 936 sportscar.
Cheever formed one half of arguably Arrows’ strongest line-up alongside Derek Warwick and scored two podiums – beating the Briton to third at Monza in 1987
Photo by: Motorsport Images
Arrows years: 1987-89
Arrows starts: 46
Points with team: 20
Arrows rang the changes for 1987 after such a poor season, bringing in a new driving line-up of Eddie Cheever and Derek Warwick, while a young Ross Brawn came in to oversee the design of the A10 – the A9 causing former technical director Dave Wass to walk out on the team.
The new driver pairing was incredibly well matched and, although Warwick had the edge in qualifying head-to-heads, Cheever bettered the Brit on points in their first year together. The American took fourth at the Belgian GP and sixth in Detroit, as Warwick needed until Silverstone to get his first points with the car. Cheever then claimed sixth in Portugal later in the year and another fourth in Mexico, outscoring Warwick 8-3.
But Warwick found an extra gear in the following season, the last of the original turbo era, as Arrows continued with the now Megatron-badged BMWs. It had been transformative in fortunes, as Cheever wasn’t able to hit the heights of his team-mate as consistently. But after engine specialist Mader solved the pop-off valve issues that precluded the Arrows from running at full boost, Cheever powered to third at Monza – a scant half-second up the road from Warwick. Their results culminated in Arrows’ best-ever season with fifth in the constructors’ title and 23 points.
The duo stayed for the pure normally aspirated era, with Brawn’s A11 powered by the ubiquitous Ford Cosworth DFR. Cheever was considerably poorer in qualifying compared to Warwick in 1989, being outqualified in all but one race and was even outpaced by stand-in rookie Martin Donnelly in France when Warwick was out with a back injury.
But for all of his qualifying travails, Cheever still collected another podium with third on his home streets of Phoenix, adding a fifth at Hungary to his tally. After 1989, Cheever moved back to the US to join Chip Ganassi Racing in CART.
Hill didn’t get the win Arrows craved, but came very close at the Hungaroring in 1997
Photo by: Motorsport Images
Arrows years: 1997
Arrows starts: 16
Points with team: 7
Of all Arrows’ near misses, Hill’s 1997 Hungarian GP exploits were closest to granting the team its first win. The stars seemed to have aligned when the reigning champion qualified third and his Bridgestone tyres were on song amid hot conditions, carrying him into the lead that looked set to be converted into the team’s maiden triumph. Then came the hydraulic issue that decimated Hill’s pace, leaving him easy pickings for Jacques Villeneuve to swoop and snatch away victory – a 50p washer the culprit in denying Hill, who ultimately finished second.
After being dropped by Williams in his title-winning year for Frentzen, Hill opted to sign for Arrows as Walkinshaw had him sold on the team’s ambition – plus a decent financial package to lure him to the team. But the Yamaha-powered A18 was initially unreliable, Hill failing to start the season-opener at Albert Park with a stuck throttle. Things improved by mid-season, Hill opening his account for the team at Silverstone with sixth, but Arrows was still planted in the midfield until its day in the sun at the Hungaroring.
Hill found the A18 inconsistent, on some days finding enough balance in the car to qualify well within the top 10, but on others getting outqualified by team-mate Pedro Diniz. The Brit signed off from his time at Arrows with fourth on the grid at Jerez, but a gearbox failure midway through the race ended his shot at points.
After a single season with Arrows, Hill left to join the upwardly mobile Jordan team – replacing the Benetton-bound Giancarlo Fisichella.
Warwick twice had winning opportunities fall through his fingers in 1989, in Brazil and again in Canada
Photo by: Sutton Images
Arrows/Footwork years: 1987-89, 1993
Arrows/Footwork starts: 63
Points with team: 31
“Without being blunt, it was the only thing I had on offer to be honest,” Warwick assesses in his move to Arrows for 1987. He admits that his career lost a lot of momentum after electing to stay at Renault rather than move to Williams for 1985, then having his 1986 deal to join Lotus vetoed by Ayrton Senna.
Warwick’s first year with the squad was difficult relative to Cheever, but results picked up for 1988 and the Hampshire native could watch that momentum begin to build once more. Four fourth places, two fifths and a sixth proved to be the return in a competitive year, taking Warwick to eighth in the championship with 17 points – five shy of reigning world champion Nelson Piquet (Lotus).
But 1989 represented Warwick’s best shot at victory: with eighth on the grid for the Brazil season opener, he endured a “diabolical pitstop” while running third and lost a hatful of time – which dropped him to fifth. Before the stop, Warwick was catching Alain Prost for second at a vast rate of knots, while the overall pitstop time loss was greater than the Arrows driver’s eventual gap to winner Nigel Mansell by the close of the race.
It was also close at a wet Canada, where Warwick led the race for four laps, but engine troubles once more denied him a shot at a win shortly after being passed by Senna for the lead. That Senna also retired surely would have left the team ruing the A11’s fragility – and Arrows’ struggle to progress led Warwick to move to Lotus for 1990, although the British squad was now in a heavy decline.
Warwick left F1 after that for two years, enjoying a successful period with both Jaguar and Peugeot in the world sportscar championship, before he was lured back to F1 by Oliver – with Arrows now the relabelled Footwork.
Although Warwick acquitted himself well and scored all four points for the team that year, he admits that he clashed with chief designer Alan Jenkins, feeling that Jenkins resented him for replacing Michele Alboreto at the team. Sensing it was time to stop racing in F1, Warwick called time on his career at the end of the year.
Patrese scored the one and only Arrows pole in 1981 at Long Beach, where the car let him down in the race
Photo by: Motorsport Images
Arrows years: 1978-81
Arrows starts: 57
Points with team: 30
That Arrows’ strongest driver was the team’s first arguably says something about how front-loaded its fortunes were. But it’s hard to look past Patrese’s achievements that almost resulted in early victories and set the foundations for future success that were ultimately never built on.
Oliver lured Patrese from Shadow to Arrows for its first year, with almost immediate success. At Kyalami, the third round of the 1978 season – Arrows’ second race after missing Argentina – Patrese qualified seventh and got his Arrows FA1 into the lead on the 27th lap. But heartbreak befell the Italian as his engine blew on the 64th tour of 77, denying the team a maiden victory.
He at least bagged a podium that year, finishing second behind the Brabham ‘fan car’ of Niki Lauda in Sweden, but his year ended in inauspicious circumstances as he was blamed for causing the accident at Monza that took the life of Ronnie Peterson – and thus was banned from taking part at Watkins Glen. However, Patrese returned for the Canadian finale and finished fourth with the A1, hurriedly introduced mid-season as Shadow took Arrows to court – successfully proving that the FA1 was a copy of its DN9.
Patrese scored just two points in the A1 in 1979, as the mid-season switch to the oddball A2 failed to work out. Luckily, the 1980 A3 was a much more conventional design and Patrese was able to trouble the scorers in Brazil after claiming sixth, and then took a podium two races later at Long Beach with second, before unreliability and car underperformance set in for the year.
His second near-miss followed taking pole for the 1981 Long Beach opener (the team’s only one), where Patrese led the first 24 laps. But a misfiring engine and fuel pick-up issues meant Carlos Reutemann easily swiped the lead as Patrese’s car faltered – eventually retiring after multiple trips to the pitlane.
Another front-loaded season beckoned when Patrese then took third in Brazil and a second at Imola, before the team once again dropped off the pace. After four years at Arrows, Patrese left for Brabham in 1982, where he took his first win in that year’s infamous Monaco GP.
Something of a Long Beach specialist, Patrese also finished second at the California track in 1980, matching his 1978 Swedish GP result
Photo by: Motorsport Images
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