Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Spa-Francorchamps, 2011

2011 F1 statistics part two: Vettel’s domination

2011 F1 season reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Spa-Francorchamps, 2011
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Spa-Francorchamps, 2011

Sebastian Vettel ended the season with more points than any driver has ever scored in an F1 season.

But how can we compare his achievement with other F1 champions?

Read on to discover the trends at work in F1 which helped engineer Vettel’s dominance.

Vettel’s dominant season

Vettel ended the year just shy of 400 world championship points – far in excess of the previous record. Does this automatically make him the greatest world champion ever?

Of course not – with changes in the points systems and the number of races per year steadily climbing, there’s no way we can take it for granted. And that’s before we take differences in cars, reliability and so on into account.

But we can adjust for the differences in season length and points very easily. In the table below all the points have been calculated using the 2011 system. We then work out what percentage of the total available points each driver scored.

It reveals Vettel scored a higher percentage than every other world champion with only two exceptions:

Year Driver Points* % available points
2002 Michael Schumacher 380 89.41
1963 Jim Clark 212 84.8
2011 Sebastian Vettel 392 82.53
2004 Michael Schumacher 367 81.56
1954 Juan Manuel Fangio 177 78.67
2001 Michael Schumacher 327 76.94
1952 Alberto Ascari 150 75
2006 Fernando Alonso 321 71.33
1962 Graham Hill 158 70.22
1992 Nigel Mansell 279 69.75

*Adjusted to 2011 scoring

Reliability

It’s clear Vettel could not have achieved such an impressive season without having a very competitive car and extracting the maximum out of it. He was also aided – as other champions have been – by the astonishing levels of reliability in modern Formula 1.

Car failures have been trending downwards over the last two decades. Last year they crept up slightly – an inevitable consequence of three new teams arriving in the sport at once – but they improved once more this year.

Vettel had just one race-ending car failure all season. Thinking back to the table above, recall that Michael Schumacher finished every race in 2002 without a single breakdown.

This table shows what percentage of starts ended in a classified finish, a mechanical retirement, or some other retirement such as a crash:

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/stats.csv

1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Classified finishers 44.89 52.91 46.17 50.24 50.29 56.88 57.95 52.56 58.56 60.7 57.97 66.88 72.5 74.2 69.19 75.13 77.72 82.06 76.97 81.36
Mechanical failures 27.14 24.03 25.9 31.1 24.27 24.6 26.42 29.55 25.13 27.01 29.12 24.38 16.94 11.44 18.18 13.64 8.7 9.12 13.15 10.75
Other DNFs 27.97 23.06 27.93 18.66 25.44 18.52 15.63 17.9 16.31 12.3 12.91 8.75 10.56 14.36 12.63 11.23 13.59 8.82 9.88 7.89

Season data

With the RB7 at his disposal, Vettel broke Nigel Mansell’s 1992 record of starting 14 races from pole position. Since then it’s become unusual to see one driver take ten or more pole positions in a season.

In the era of ‘race-fuel qualifying’ – 2003-2009 – we became used to seeing the driver with the least fuel on board starting from pole position, rather than the driver that was quicker over a single lap. F1 is surely better off without artificial variety like this – pole position is now a meaningful achievement, even if it did get rather tedious seeing Vettel up front all the time.

This year also saw the highest total number of race starters since 1997. In all, 28 different drivers competed in races in 2011

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/stats.csv

1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Number of races 16 16 16 17 16 17 16 16 17 17 17 16 18 19 18 17 18 17 19 19
Different drivers 37 35 46 35 24 28 23 24 23 26 23 24 25 27 27 26 22 25 27 28
Different winners 5 4 4 5 4 6 4 6 4 5 4 8 5 5 5 4 7 6 5 5
Most wins by individual 9 7 8 9 8 7 8 5 9 9 11 6 13 7 7 6 6 6 5 11
Different pole sitters 3 3 7 4 3 6 4 4 4 5 3 6 7 9 6 4 6 8 5 3
Most pole positions by individual 14 13 6 7 9 10 9 11 6 11 7 5 8 6 6 6 7 4 10 15

Vettel’s place among the champions

The final table brings us back where we came in – comparing Vettel with the other world champions.

When the year began Vettel had ten races victories to his name. He now has 21 – more than twice as many – in an F1 career that’s spanned just 81 races.

That gives him the sixth-highest win rate among the world champions of 25.93%. With Red Bull consistently producing race-winners and Mercedes failing to do so, it’s very likely Vettel could surpass Schumacher’s win rate next year. For example, he could do so by winning the next eight races, assuming Schumacher starts them all.

This table compares the results of all the world champions. To rank them, all their points have been converted into the current system, and their average points per finish has been calculated. All mechanical retirements have been excluded from that calculation.

Vettel ranks ninth in this table. He was 12th before the season began.

Name Wins (%) Poles (%) Fastest laps (%) Car failures (%) Points/finish
Juan Manuel Fangio 24 (47.06%) 29 (56.86%) 23 (45.10%) 17.65 20.79
Alberto Ascari 13 (40.63%) 14 (43.75%) 12 (37.50%) 18.75 17.15
Jackie Stewart 27 (27.27%) 17 (17.17%) 15 (15.15%) 32.32 16.55
Jim Clark 25 (34.72%) 33 (45.83%) 28 (38.89%) 29.17 16.45
Giuseppe Farina 5 (15.15%) 5 (15.15%) 5 (15.15%) 15.15 15.96
Alain Prost 51 (25.63%) 33 (16.58%) 41 (20.60%) 16.58 14.96
Ayrton Senna 41 (25.47%) 65 (40.37%) 19 (11.80%) 20.50 14.70
Michael Schumacher 91 (31.82%) 68 (23.78%) 76 (26.57%) 8.39 14.66
Sebastian Vettel 21 (25.93%) 30 (37.04%) 9 (11.11%) 11.11 13.38
Mike Hawthorn 3 (6.67%) 4 (8.89%) 6 (13.33%) 22.22 13.37
Jochen Rindt 6 (10.00%) 10 (16.67%) 3 (5.00%) 55.00 13.26
Lewis Hamilton 17 (18.89%) 19 (21.11%) 11 (12.22%) 3.33 12.66
Fernando Alonso 27 (15.34%) 20 (11.36%) 19 (10.80%) 9.66 12.13
Niki Lauda 25 (14.62%) 24 (14.04%) 24 (14.04%) 34.50 11.99
Nigel Mansell 31 (16.58%) 32 (17.11%) 30 (16.04%) 32.62 11.98
Kimi Raikkonen 18 (11.54%) 16 (10.26%) 35 (22.44%) 19.23 11.89
Jack Brabham 14 (11.38%) 13 (10.57%) 12 (9.76%) 34.96 11.74
Mika Hakkinen 20 (12.42%) 26 (16.15%) 25 (15.53%) 24.22 11.33
Denny Hulme 8 (7.14%) 1 (0.89%) 9 (8.04%) 25.89 11.33
Damon Hill 22 (19.13%) 20 (17.39%) 19 (16.52%) 14.78 11.13
Nelson Piquet 23 (11.27%) 24 (11.76%) 23 (11.27%) 24.51 10.96
Phil Hill 3 (6.38%) 6 (12.77%) 6 (12.77%) 27.66 10.74
John Surtees 6 (5.41%) 8 (7.21%) 11 (9.91%) 44.14 10.58
Jody Scheckter 10 (8.93%) 3 (2.68%) 5 (4.46%) 18.75 9.85
James Hunt 10 (10.87%) 14 (15.22%) 8 (8.70%) 29.35 9.68
Emerson Fittipaldi 14 (9.72%) 6 (4.17%) 6 (4.17%) 25.69 9.29
Graham Hill 14 (8.00%) 13 (7.43%) 10 (5.71%) 33.14 9.00
Mario Andretti 12 (9.38%) 18 (14.06%) 10 (7.81%) 39.84 8.71
Alan Jones 12 (10.34%) 6 (5.17%) 13 (11.21%) 28.45 8.52
Keke Rosberg 5 (4.39%) 5 (4.39%) 3 (2.63%) 38.60 8.50
Jenson Button 12 (5.77%) 7 (3.37%) 6 (2.88%) 13.46 7.89
Jacques Villeneuve 11 (6.75%) 13 (7.98%) 9 (5.52%) 22.70 6.77

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