F1 2009: The year in stats (Part 1)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Sebastian Vettel was the best qualifier of 2009
Sebastian Vettel was the best qualifier of 2009

Next week’s installment of the F1 Fanatic post-season review will include the driver rankings, which I’m writing at the moment (and keeping a close eye on your suggestions in the forum).

To help me work out who’s done the best job this year I’ve compiled some statistics on the drivers’ performances in 2009. Who was the best qualifier? Who made the best starts and overtook the most people during races? Find out below.

Making up places

Drivers total position changes on lap one (excluding retirements)
Drivers total position changes on lap one (excluding retirements)

One of the regular features of races in 2009 was how the KERS-equipped cars were able to make terrific progress at the start of races.

So it’s something of a surprise that the best starters of 2009 were not necessarily those who had KERS cars all year: Giancarlo Fisichella only had one for six races and Nico Rosberg was KERS-less all year long. And though Fisichella’s position improvement can partly be explained by him usually having a poor grid position, Rosberg was the sixth-best qualifier of the year on average.

The best individual start of the year was made by Heikki Kovalainen, who picked up seven places from 18th on the grid at Spain, largely thanks to a multi-car crash which happened in front of him.

Kovalainen’s team mate Lewis Hamilton made the worst start of year (aside from drivers who retired on lap one) when he lost 15 places at the Nurburgring after puncturing his tyre on the first lap.

As the second-best qualifier of the year it would be unreasonable to expect Rubens Barrichello to gain many places on the first lap, but his poor starts at several races means he made a net loss of 14 places on the first lap of Grands Prix in 2009.

Drivers average position change in races and total participations
Drivers average position change in races and total participations

Looking at entire races, which drivers did the best job of finishing higher than where they started? Again this is partly influenced by how good their qualifying position was in the first place (worse qualifiers have more places to gain) and how many races they did.

The driver who stands out here is Timo Glock, who gained an average of 3.7 positions per race (fifth best) while having an average qualifying position that would place him in the middle of the grid.

Only three drivers finished lower on average than they started during 2009: Kazuki Nakajima, Kimi Raikkonen an Romain Grosjean.

Finishing and not finishing

Percentage of race starts completed and total participations
Percentage of race starts completed and total participations

The old adage “to finish first, first you must finish” rings true here. Both Brawn drivers finished all but one race, while their Red Bull rivals had inferior finishing records.

Drivers DNFs
Drivers DNFs

The incident-prone drivers stick out in this graph, including Adrian Sutil and Jarno Trulli who ended the year in a war of words following their first-lap collisions at Spain and Brazil. Nakajima and Kovalainen were the other two drivers who had three accident-related retirements in 2009 (though by no means were they necessarily to blame for them).

The least reliable car was the Toro Rosso, with Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastien Buemi and Sebastien Bourdais suffering seven car-related DNFs between them.

Robert Kubica was the only other driver to suffer three mechanical DNFs, and no driver finished every single race.

Starting and scoring

Drivers' average starting positions
Drivers' average starting positions

This chart shows best average starting positions after penalties, which Sebastian Vettel leads despite his ten-place grid penalty at Malaysia. He and Jenson Button had the same number of pole positions, with four each.

Points per race and points per finish
Points per race and points per finish

This chart shows how badly Vettel’s difficulty in finishing races (for both mechanical and driver-related reasons) affected his season. He actually scored a greater number of points per finish than Button – but because Button finished more races, he out-scored Vettel. Button’s 11-point margin meant had there been another round of the season to go he would still have been guaranteed the title.

2009 Drivers’ championship

2009 World Drivers' Championship - battle for the title
2009 World Drivers' Championship - battle for the title

Two drivers regularly scored points without their team mates ever getting in the top eight. They were Rosberg, with 34.5, and Fernando Alonso, with 26. Kazuki Nakajima was the only driver to start every race without scoring.

2009 World Drivers' Championship - final scores
2009 World Drivers' Championship - final scores

2009 Constructors’ championship

2009 World Constructors' Championship - battle for the title
2009 World Constructors' Championship - battle for the title

Taking the season as a whole, Red Bull went through two distinct phases of whittling away Brawn’s championship lead: between Turkey and Hungary, and again over the final three races of the season. They clearly ended the year as the team to beat.

As ever in Formula 1 it’s easy to pick out the winners but working out which of the drivers in less competitive cars has done well is much trickier.

Share your thoughts on which drivers impressed you in the comments, join in the debate in the forum, and stay tuned for the 2009 F1 driver rankings this week on F1 Fanatic.

2009 World Constructors' Championship - final scores
2009 World Constructors' Championship - final scores