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Project: single point-scoring rule

January 19, 2010

Even though all F1 fans run away from this subject, it does not take too long until someone start a debate over which was the best driver ever. Some take into consideration raw numbers, others look at a driver’s talent behind all kinds of situations, and some prefer to stay biased and stick with their favourite drivers.

Another way of telling who was the best (or getting a vague idea of who did well over the course of their careers) is to look at a driver’s total career points. That may prove quite effective when considering drivers who raced in the same eras, such as Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, but makes it unavailable when we put into the equation drivers such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart and Niki Lauda. Formula 1 had so many different kinds of point-scoring systems over the course of its sixty years, and comparing an era where race-winners were awarded eight points to another where second-placed drivers earned the same amount seems unfair to say at least.

For an example, Rubens Barrichello could become the third best-scorer of all time in the sport – he has 607 points to Ayrton Senna’s 614. In past years, Rubens would need no less than a race win if he wanted to overcome the three times world champion in one race. Under last year point-scoring system, he would need to finish at least second. Next year, a miserable fifth place will be enough to take that spot. And to add more to the discrepancy, most of Senna’s wins where conquered at a time when winners were awarded nine points. Are comparisons such as this fair?

That was the question that triggered the following idea inside my head: why not rewrite all Formula 1 results under a single point-scoring rule? The next question was which point-scoring system should be used. I took the decision myself to use my favourite system: the 10-6-4-3-2-1 used from 1991 to 2002. A simple and fair system – values the winner and does not have the overly complicated and bizarre rules such as “best results count” and points for pole-position and fastest lap – which should equalize the comparisons between drivers from different eras.

Please note that the objective of this equalized points table is not to determine which was the best driver ever – the answer for this question is passive of interpretation and personal bias, therefore likely to be never answered – but to make statistical comparisons more fair (or less unfair, depending on your point of view).

This is a massive undertaking which will likely take weeks to be done, but when we complete it, it will become a regular feature on The Art of Formula 1, with its own page and updates after every race! And until I’m done with it, I’ll leave the honours of writing new articles to Steph, something she is pretty much handling all by herself already… :)

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2010 3:13 pm

    Quite an undertaking, good luck with that, should be fascinating to see. Will you be taking into account the fact there are more races in recent years compared to the 50’s and 60’s? Modern day drivers have and have had more chance to score points. And also the length of a driver’s career; concerning those tragic drivers who’s lives were cut short?

    • January 19, 2010 3:39 pm

      Spoke to Gilly and he is even going to break the results down to compare throughout a few years son we can have a look closely at different times and situations.
      Lots of things to be considered as this will be purely stats but it will be facinating to see the results.

  2. Ratboy permalink
    January 19, 2010 7:29 pm

    I like the look of this, i’m definately going to be watching this work out.

    Keep up the good work you two!!!

  3. January 19, 2010 8:21 pm

    Wow sounds like an amazing project. Can’t wait to see this :D

  4. January 19, 2010 10:47 pm

    @Kate: no, I’ll consider all races. If I were to consider only a pre-set number of races/season, this means I’d have to apply the “best results count” rule, which is not my intention. I also understand that safety and improved reliability means that modern drivers would have the edge over the ones from the past but there’s simply nothing we could do about that when we are looking at the numbers. It’s up to the reader to understand that Schumacher had much more time to score than Fangio =P

    @Ratboy: thank you =)

  5. January 21, 2010 2:11 pm

    “It’s up to the reader to understand that Schumacher had much more time to score than Fangio =P”

    Absolutely! Stats can only show so much but that doesn’t stop me being fascinated by the outcome. Looking forward to seeing your results.

  6. james permalink
    January 21, 2010 5:02 pm

    good luck,Schumi will be top

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