2011 F1 statistics part two: Vettel’s domination

2011 F1 season review

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


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:


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


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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23 comments on 2011 F1 statistics part two: Vettel’s domination

  1. vjanik said on 30th December 2011, 13:52

    wow. 46 drivers competed in 1994.

    18 of those were employed by only 3 teams, Simtek, Lotus and Larrousse each with 6 drivers in that season.

  2. Sean N (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk) said on 30th December 2011, 14:01

    I always rated Jim Clark as the best driver ever. To seem him rated so highly in terms of domination in one season is no surprise to me. If he had lived he could have been world champion many many times.

    • katederby (@katederby) said on 30th December 2011, 18:55

      And when you look at his (and Jackie Stewart’s for that matter) high % of car failures his record is even more impressive. Hamilton’s % of car failures however is incredibly low.

      • frood said on 4th January 2012, 13:01

        look at rindt’s – 55%!
        i think it’s slightly skewed by the fact that, back in the day, car failure could be attributed to how the driver drove the race eg. if a driver was more rough with the car, it was more likely to fail. however, this cannot be quantified in any simple way.
        reputation-wise, clark and stewart were very smooth, so the high failure rate is maybe unrelated to their styles.

  3. Toro Stevo (@toro-stevo) said on 30th December 2011, 14:33

    I’m not surprised that the numbers of DNFs due to mechanical issues is dropping. It was becoming clear at Valencia when everyone finished, and where the mechanical DNFs for the top 3 teams over 19 races can be counted using just fingers. Just one example, Red Bull have had just two DNFs due to mechanical reasons in two years.

    I’m happy the number of potentially injury-causing accidents due to mechanical error is dropping. However the ability for some of the smaller teams to get a taste of success and TV time is diminishing. None of the smaller teams get that rare race meeting where enough mechanical issues occur to give them a chance.

    In the last 17 races only 5 drivers have finished on the podium, and only 6 drivers have finished in the top 4 in that time (Schumacher’s 4th in Canada being the only time the VET, HAM, BUT, WEB and ALO stranglehold was broken). By the end of the season, I was just hoping that anybody, even Massa, would drag themselves onto the podium, just so the post-race press conference would have somebody different.

    It probably has a lot to do with minimal car and engine development that is allowed. It’s encouraging more conservative car design.

    • BLOCKWALL2 said on 31st December 2011, 3:22

      Yes, you are right, but we have been close to some different faces on the podium. Well Hiedfeld and Petrov got one apeice at the beginning of the season (I know that is the last 19 races not 17, but still). Rosberg almost had a few, such as China (which he might have won, had it not been for a lack of petrol). Schumi and Massa both came close in Canada.

      I am confident that by the end of 2013, we should have a new Grand Prix winner, maybe 2012 (even though that’s pushing it). The only real possibility in 2012 would be Rosberg, and that is only if Mercedes come out with a cracking car (which is possible w/ their staff). Others that could win by 2013 could be: Grosjean, Perez (depending on who replaces massa) , ricciardo/vergne (depending on who replaces webber). It has been to predictable as to who will finish on the podium lately, as you have said.

  4. Hey, @keithcollantine. I notice in the last table it says Vettel has had 15 poles, which excludes years previous to this one. Just a tiny little error there.

  5. OmarR-Pepper (@omarr-pepper) said on 30th December 2011, 16:55

    Montoya had his 15 minutes but then strangely decided to go away, then Alonso appeared, a lot of people tought at him as the guy who will break all the records; Hamilton came in and he did break some records (especially the winnin ratio was incredible) and now is Vettel who brings those opinions into him… well the point is that every year younger and fresh faces join into F1 to surprise people, even more we can wish “small or medium” teams (as RedBull was some years ago) can suddenly spark and amaze everyone (I still think Force India can do it soon) and so the general – established order is disrupted for good (the last example of it before the bulls was that Brawn GP who was created, got victory and then vanished under Mercedes cape who struggles now). It’s good to see F1 with a new order (I’m sorry Ferrari fans but that’s real) and even when people can claim F1 is oring because of Red Bull, I think all the contrary. F1 is exciting because they are the new model to follow, Mc Laren is still (as always) competitive but they have that aim now, to beat RBs, not to beat Ferrari (now that is like a normal task to achieve for McLaren). I wish next year Lotus enters to the fight with a better car, why not to hope Williams can at least re-enter into the midfield with a podium or two, to see one of the rookies (or “2-year-old rookies”) can boast off themselves with results (sorry DiResta you have a mouth bigger than necessary sometimes) and so that’s what makes a good, enterteining championship, even if we see Red Bull champion again, if they deserve it it’s Ok. I please make funs happy and use DRS only in some races, or as I read commented before in here, in challenging unusual places to make it still hard to overtake.

  6. paulgilb (@paulgilb) said on 30th December 2011, 22:41

    The Season Data graph appears to contain one small error – in 2000 M Schumacher had 9 poles, but the graph implies that no-one had more than 6.

    Great stuff, though!

  7. It’s all in the car. Just need a good enough driver. And no, Webber is not a good enough driver.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 31st December 2011, 3:13

      It’s the car for the rest of them too. Webber isn’t (or hasn’t) been good enough to be amongst these 32 names, Vettel is.

      • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 31st December 2011, 10:00

        @david-a Well said. M30, you have to understand that a driver has to have complete confidence and control in his vehicle. Having the confidence is a result of both individual and team success.

        We all know Webber is a good driver. He set the record for the the most fastest laps in 2011. Clearly that is a victory afforded to him as a result of the superb RB7 but what it also means is that Vettel is able to extract that performance when it matters. That’s what makes you a champion.

  8. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 31st December 2011, 10:04

    I don’t often like to look into ‘what-ifs’ but I couldn’t resist on this occasion. Assuming Vettel would have won the two races he had mechanical problems at (puncture in Abu Dhabi resulting in a DNF and a gearbox issue in Brazil where he had to yield to Webber) he would be second in the top list with a score of 89.26%, a mere 0.15% behind Schumacher.

    Schumacher, what a season he had then!

  9. Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 31st December 2011, 14:24

    Even though it’s boring for many viewers, I think it’s kinda cool that we’re seeing such a young driver dominate so much. Obviously it’s not that exciting on track, but my mind can’t help but wonder where Vettel will land in the record books…of course it’s highly possible that Red Bull will fall off the pace and Vettel much like Alonso now won’t see a championship again for years!

  10. sumedh said on 31st December 2011, 18:08

    Cool to look at the percentage of points scored by the winning driver in every season. All but one of the seasons was closely fought – 2006.

    It is amazing to notee that although Alonso scored 71% of the available points, he won the championship only in the last round. Goes to show how perfect Alonso and Michael were that season.

  11. not sure if it’s fair to compare drivers among different era with a ponits per finish ratio exluding car failures.
    assuming drivers in the same era have similar car failure ratios, winning/points scoring drivers actually benefited from high car failure ratios of his competitors. if all of the field had more reliable cars, any driver does not neccesarily win or score more because he win some of the races his car failed but he may also lose some more races when his competitor’s car didnt break.
    i think in a season we can say driver who win more with less reliable car is better than other drivers in the same season, but drivers from the older era’s points per race ratio is probably a better stat to use than points per finish when compared with driver now.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 3rd January 2012, 7:25

      Zeus, You are no doubt right, that its never completely comparable (what is).
      But NOT taking out the car failures would skew the comparison far more, because drivers who had reliable cars would suddenly top the list, if only because they did not have that many failures.

  12. The Limit said on 2nd January 2012, 15:53

    Its early days I think. Sebastien’s strengths this past year though were highlighted not only by the brilliant Red Bull car, but by Vettel’s ability to iron out the mistakes. When you compare Vettel’s 2011 performances overall with previous seasons the difference is striking, and the guy now oozes confidence since winning his maiden title in 2010. At the beginning of the season last year, it was obvious early on that the Red Bull was the car to beat. Vettel had the look of a very composed and calm man on the grid at Melbourne, no doubt in full knowledge that he had a championship worthy car right out of the box at his disposal.
    The true test for Sebastien will be when things do not go his way. When the car is not performing whilst others are, and when the media starts wagging and pointing their fingers and speculating as the why the double champion is no longer winning. Other drivers have experienced that pressure recently, non more so than Lewis Hamilton and it is obviously a place no one wants to be in. But that is what you get when you are the supposed top man in your profession, and those who are quick to heap praise on the young German now will be also quick to pour scorn down the road when things get tough.
    How he deals with the pressure if, for instance, Alonso has a strong 2012 or the McLarens improve is the million dollar question? Then we will see what Sebastien is made of, in terms of his real personality and his ability to handle pressure. As far as his driving is concerned, he obviously is extremely talented, but I would like to see him perform in a sub-par car to really see how he gets on.
    For instance, Fernando Alonso really showed his class in 2011 by getting out good performances from one of the most disappointing Ferraris’ in recent memory. Alonso carried the team and played the role of team leader well, even in the most trying of circumstances. This is the mark of a great driver in my book!

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 3rd January 2012, 7:28

      Ah, you would want to see Vettel tested to The Limit then!

      Cannot say I would not be hoping to see something like that next season to add even more to the great competition in the past couple of years

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