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Present Drivers versus the Past

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Present Drivers versus the Past

Postby Lawrence on Tue Nov 06, 2012 4:19 pm

With my return to the forum...deciced it was time to stir the pot in an area that some claim to hate to discuss: comparing present drivers to past drivers.

Just going through the list of current winners I note that:

Fernando Alonso has 30 wins and a 15.31 win percentage. Nigel Mansell has 31 wins at 16.23%. Are they comparable as drivers?

Sebastian Vettel was 26 wins at 26.26%. That puts him between Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart on the all time win list. Is Sebastian Vettel really a driver in the same league as Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart? Jackie Stewart always considered Jim Clark in a different league than him, so is Vettel (26.26% percent wins) really in the same league as Jackie Stewart (27%).

Going further down the list is Lewis Hamlton with 20 wins (18.52 percent) and Kimi Raikenen with 19 wins (10.92 percent). Same league as Mika Hakkinen (20 wins), Damon Hill (22 wins), Nelson Piquet (23 wins)? One could certianly make that argument.

Further down the list is Jenson Button with 14 wins (6.19%). Now that puts him in interesting company: Jack Brabham, Graham Hill and Emerson Fittipaldi. Is Button really as good of a driver as those three?

Finally we get to the much maligned Felipe Massa (11 wins at 6.47%). That puts him on par with Jacques Villenueve and Ruben Barrichello. Is he as good as them? He is ahead on the all time win list of Ronnie Peterson, Jody Schecter, James Hunt and Gerhard Berger (all 10 wins).

Then there is Mark Weber (9 wins at 4.64%), a driver than everyone has an opinion about. That puts him ahead of Denny Hulme and Jacky Ickx (8 wins). Interesting.

Three other drivers in the field have won one race (Heikki Kovalainen, Nico Rosberg and Pastor Maldonado) and one has won 91 races...but it has been a while since his last win. We do have an F1 field with 11 race winners in it and the top three teams are all fielding pairs of race winning drivers (although one can argue there is an implied 1-2 at some of the teams).

How do the current drivers stack up with their statistical peers?
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Re: Present Drivers versus the Past

Postby f1datavis on Tue Nov 06, 2012 7:54 pm

The win rate is probably a fair comparison, the total number of wins is not. When there are 8 races in a season compared to today's 20, it is simply a statistical lie to compare the two and decide which is "best".

Alonso on a par with Mansell? Sounds about right to me. Mansell should have one at least one more championship, and only didn't because of a poorly made tyre....

Webber the same as Hulme? Nope, no fair.

All these stats do however need a correcting for the car. I suggest a correction factor based on the proportion of season's podium places filled by the driver's team; whether themselves or their teammates. This would therefore penalise drivers such as Schumacher where as often as not Barrichello was 2nd, but promote drivers such as Alonso whose teammates often finished far behind him.
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Re: Present Drivers versus the Past

Postby Lawrence on Tue Nov 06, 2012 8:31 pm

f1datavis wrote:The win rate is probably a fair comparison, the total number of wins is not.


Well, win rate is a better stat, but I was too lazy to calculate it for every driver. But even then, it is skewed if the driver has to spend years working his way up through smaller or less competitive teams (Webber and Mansell) or if they decide to drive for a team for several years run by their brother (Fittipaldi). Probably the most useful comparison is to their teammate.

Alonso on a par with Mansell? Sounds about right to me. Mansell should have one at least one more championship, and only didn't because of a poorly made tyre....


Well, at least two and maybe three. Not always the most calculating of drivers. But an interesting comparison.

Webber the same as Hulme? Nope, no fair.


Well, there is one other factor here, it is that there are a whole lot more professional drivers who have been racing a lot longer these days than there were back in the 1960s. So, it is sort of my impression that the calibre of the driver throughout the field nowadays is higher than it was 40-50 years ago. That said, I also have a hard time putting Webber at the same level as Hulme.

This would therefore penalise drivers such as Schumacher where as often as not Barrichello was 2nd, but promote drivers such as Alonso whose teammates often finished far behind him.


Maybe...maybe Barrichello was a better driver than Alonso's teammate.
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Re: Present Drivers versus the Past

Postby LewisA on Sun Nov 11, 2012 12:10 pm

While not a huge fan of ranking drivers in terms of "greatness" and ability across the decades, it is quite fun to look at stats and observe the record books.

Sadly, total points-amassed is no longer (and to be fair, never was) valid, but races won, pole positions, fastest laps are all fun to look at, and see how the drivers of the modern era are climbing the stats.
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