F1 stats: the probability of winning

February 8, 2018

Interesting table below. As of the end of the 2017 season, 767 drivers started a World Championship event (again, I will resist the temptation of reconciling this list with the 759 and 766 in previous posts), 107 of them won a race and 33 became World Champions. Many of these drivers only participated in the Indy 500 between 1950 and 1960, so the next line excludes those drivers – 664 started, 97 won, 33 became champions.

Interestingly, the probability of winning given a start is around 1 in 7 – it is not straightforward to win! However, the probability of becoming champion given a win is around 1 in 3, and once a driver wins twice, almost half became world champions – see the last line.

The odds to get to Formula 1 in the first place are for another post…

Entry Started Wins Champions
All 851 767 107 33
(90%) (14%) (31%)
Excluding Indy 500 748 664 97 33
(89%) (15%) (34%)
Excluding Indy 500 and  drivers with one single win 723 639 74 33
(88%) (12%) (45%)
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F1 stats: breaking the total wins record

January 2, 2018

Juan Manuel Fangio was the most successful driver of the 1950s and set a record of 24 wins by 1957, with arguably his most brilliant win at the Nordschleife. He also achieved this record in only 54 races, a hit rate of almost 45%! (he would participate in another 4 GP after his last win, reducing the rate to “only” 41%).

It took 11 years for this record to be beaten – Jim Clark won his 25th race in 1968 in South Africa, right before his tragic F2 accident prevented him from undoubtedly winning more races.

Another 5 years and Jackie Stewart broke the record, with his 26th victory in the Dutch GP of 1973 – he would win one more race before his retirement.

It took 14 years for Alain Prost to break this record with his 28th victory at the 1987 Portuguese GP (I was there!). Alain would win another 23 GPs to bring the total win record to 51.

Coincidentally, it took 14 years for the record to be broken again, this time by Michael Schumacher at the 2001 Belgian GP. Michael would of course go well beyond 52 wins to a grand total of 91 wins by 2006.

16 years after that race in 2001, there is no sign that the record will be broken anytime soon. With 62 wins, Lewis Hamilton is the closest contender to Schumi but would need at least 3 seasons if he matches his win rate of the last three years in a dominant car. Could we see the record broken again in 2021?

The sequence of record-breaking number of wins has also grown exponentially (24 in 1957, 25 in 1968, 26 in 1973, 28 in 1987, 52 in 2001, and will be 92 when it happens again) – a testament to how long F1 careers are nowadays and the much higher number of races in a season. Although for this number to continue growing we will need NASCAR-style seasons with 30-odd races.

F1 stats: the drivers that only raced once!

January 2, 2018

759 drivers had the distinction of starting a World Championship event according to StatsF1.com … (actually found a slight disagreement in another source – GP Guide – which said 766, but will resist the temptation of reconciling the two lists).

Of these, an amazing 162 only had one race start – bear in mind this includes the Indy 500 from 1950 to 1960, so the figure will be somewhat lower if we exclude this effect, but it is still 139.

Only 3 of these had their one-off chance in the 2000s – Stephane Sarrazin (2001), Markus Winkelhock (2007) and Andre Lotterer (2014). Seems to be something that occurs every 6-7 years these days, with most drivers being signed for a full season (or having one-off returns like Jenson Button, Paul Di Resta or Jerome d’Ambrosio).

By the way, I believe, but have not checked, that Markus also holds the notable distinction of leading the only race he started. Famously, he started from the back of the grid in the 2007 European GP with wet tyres and managing to get to the lead when everyone else pitted at the end of the first lap (well not everyone – Kimi Raikkonen missed the pit entrance due to the wet conditions but was so slow in slick tyres that Winkelhock managed to overtake his Ferrari driving a Spyker).

The 1990s saw only 2 drivers starting a single race – Marco Apicella in 1993 (famously having an F1 career lasting 800 meters) and Roland Ratzenberger in 1994 (for tragic reasons).

In the great 1980s, four drivers had the once in a lifetime privilege of starting a race – Tiff Needell (1980), Miguel Angel Guerra (1981), Jean-Louis Schlesser (1988 – contributing famously to the end of McLaren’s 100% win record)  and Pierre-Henri Raphanel (1989).

As you’d expect, one-off drivers were much more common in the 1970s with a grand total of 26 drivers making only one appearance. Notable names in the list include the beautifully named Paddy Driver (South Africa ’74), Gerard Larrousse of F1 management fame (Belgium ’74), Leo Kinnunen the last driver to compete with an open helmet (Sweden ’74) and my personal favourite Hans Heyer (Germany ’77) who managed to start a race he did not qualify for, accumulating a DNQ, DNF and a disqualification in the same event.

F1 stats: “most of something without achieving something better”… and which of these will be beaten soon?

January 2, 2018

As of the end of the 2017 season:

Most entries in F1 events without a single race start (14) – Claudio Langes (Italy); no active driver is in the running as DNPQ / DNQ have in practice ceased to exist

Most race starts without a point (50) – Luca Badoer (Italy); again, no active driver in the running here, especially now that we have points until 10th place… all active drivers have scored points (except 2018 rookies)

Most points without a podium finish (405) – Nico Hulkenberg (Germany), who is still active so will probably be the holder until he finally gets a podium in F1 (will it happen??)

Most podiums without a win (13) – Nick Heidfeld (Germany); Romain Grosjean with 10 is the closest contender although it will be challenging to achieve podiums in a Haas

Most wins but no world championship (16) – Stirling Moss (GB), who recovered this distinction in 2016 from Nico Rosberg (Germany); closest active driver is Daniel Ricciardo with 5 wins

Some more combinations…

Most race starts without a podium (135) – Nico Hulkenberg (Germany), finally achieving this distinction after beating Adrian Sutil (Germany) who was the holder for a long time with 128 starts

Most starts without a win (208) – Andrea de Cesaris (Italy); it will take Hulkenberg (135 starts) a long time to get there – will he?

Most starts without a championship (322) – Rubens Barrichello (Brazil); most likely he will hold this for a long time – Hulkenberg is 10 seasons away from beating this and he is already 30 years old

Most points without a win (467) – Sergio Perez (Mexico), who took over from Valteri Bottas (Finland) in 2017; Sergio is likely to add to this tally in 2018

Most points without a championship (1,167) – Felipe Massa (Brazil), again taking over from Nico Rosberg in 2016; Daniel Ricciardo could be the next holder of this record after Massa’s retirement – he is currently at 816 so needs another 351 points (probably two seasons, although I’d prefer to see him winning a championship)

Most podiums without a championship (68) – Rubens Barrichello (Brazil); again he will be the holder for a long time – Ricciardo has 27 podiums and he will hopefully win a championship at some point!

Italians, Germans and Brazilians are certainly over-represented in the list of current holders (even more so before Rosberg won the WDC).

Adding some new dimensions…

Most race starts without ever being on pole position (160) – Johnny Herbert (GB) – now commentator for Sky TV; Sergio Perez could challenge this with some imagination – currently at 134

Most race starts without ever leading a lap (158) – Martin Brundle (GB) – also commentator with Sky TV; unlikely to be challenged by current drivers – Marcus Ericsson at 76 starts would need a lot of money to keep himself in F1 for that long

Most pole positions without ever leading a lap (3) – Teo Fabi (Italy) – this one is not easy to achieve… and is unlikely to be beaten by any current driver

Most laps led without ever winning (183) – Chris Amon (New Zealand); Hulkenberg would need a lot of bad luck to get close (currently at 43)

Most pole positions with no win (5) – Chris Amon (New Zealand); could Hulkenberg get 4 more poles to equal this? Unlikely!

Most pole positions with no podium (1) – Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) is the only driver in F1 history with this achievement

Most laps led with no podium (43) – Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) again – still alive and kicking

Most laps led with no championship (1,181) – Stirling Moss (GB), taking over from Nico Rosberg in 2016; Valteri Bottas is the closest active driver at 192 so we’re looking at a long time for this to be beaten

Most pole positions with no championship (18) – Rene Arnoux (France), taking over from Rosberg again in 2016; Valteri Bottas is again the closest active contender with 4 poles – could he surpass Arnoux in the next 2 years? Not very likely…

Some of these can also be flipped around, like…

Most race wins without ever being on pole position (4) – Bruce McLaren (New Zealand) and Eddie Irvine (GB); I reckon Max Verstappen at 3 wins could beat this in 2018

Most laps led without ever being on pole position (174) – Max Verstappen (Netherlands), one of many records he holds but probably not the one he’s proudest of

Most podiums without ever leading a lap (9) – Martin Brundle (GB), a very established motorsport commentator; he could be a long holder as both KMag and Lance Stroll would need another 8 podiums without ever leading a lap to match this

Most podiums without ever being on pole position (27) – Bruce McLaren (New Zealand); Max Verstappen at 11 is the closest contender and will probably score a pole sometime soon

Most championships with no pole position – this has never been achieved but Denny Hulme (New Zealand) has come close – 1 championship with only 1 pole position in his career

Again, some interesting patterns in the list, like TV commentators and Kiwis…