Pastor Maldonado, Williams, Hungaroring, 2012

How many points have drivers lost in 2012?

Your Questions AnsweredPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Pastor Maldonado, Williams, Hungaroring, 2012Guillermo Solares wrote in to ask how many points different drivers have lost in incidents:

I’m wondering if you may thought about keep statistics analysis of points dropped or missed by drivers.

For example points dropped due a race penalty (seconds added to final time) like what happened to Pastor Maldonado in Canada; points missed by accidents [when the race is almost finished], like Maldonado in Valencia; and points dropped due to technical review failures, like what happened to Sergio Perez in his first race in 2011.
Guillermo Solares

This isn’t something I produce statistics on regularly (see the F1 statistics section for those). The reason is because it can be difficult to say with certainty how many points a driver would have scored in a given scenario.

Sometimes there is little doubt how many points a driver would have scored, as in the case of Guillermo’s first and third examples involving post-race penalties. There is also a clear knock-on effect: if we move one driver up a position someone else has to move down.

But when we get into the area of drivers having problems during races, such as in Guillermo’s second example, things become more complicated. We can assume Maldonado and Lewis Hamilton would not have retired in Valencia – but which of the two do we assume would have finished ahead?

This is the point at which the analysis becomes subjective. And when you try to perform it for multiple drivers in the same race you quickly find yourself in a mire of intangible questions producing answers of doubtful value.

However when it comes to the battle for the championship it can be useful to look at results this way. We often talk about drivers ‘throwing away points with mistakes’ or ‘losing points due to misfortune’ and attempting to quantify that is worthwhile.

By limiting the analysis to the drivers in contention for the title the whole process becomes much simpler and yields results which, though they should obviously not be considered definitive, can tell us useful things. For this reason I have produced one-off articles along these lines previously.

The most recent example was in the closing stages of the 2010 season when Sebastian Vettel had several car problems, some of which cost him likely victories, and lost further points due to incidents. Note that it pre-dates the Korean Grand Prix where Vettel lost another likely win with a technical failure while he was leading:

Inevitably this sort of analysis involved making assumptions. These should err on the conservative side of realistic. For example:

  • Using a driver’s position relative to other drivers at the point they retired to work out where they’re likely to have finished
  • Not assuming a driver would have overtaken any other drivers
  • Making sensible assumptions about where a driver would have finished had they qualified higher

Case study: Pastor Maldonado

Guillermo made a few references to Maldonado’s season so far so let’s use it as an example. This will highlight some of the difficulties in making this sort of calculation and also reveal the kind of insight we can gain from it:

  • Australia: Eight points lost after crashing while chasing Fernando Alonso
  • Malaysia: One point lost due to engine failure
  • Bahrain: One point lost due to grid penalty for changing gearbox and puncture (was running in front of Schumacher, who finished tenth, before his puncture)
  • Monaco: Six points lost due to grid penalty for hitting Sergio Perez, gearbox change penalty and collision with Pedro de la Rosa (assuming he would have started ninth without penalties and gained positions from Romain Grosjean and Michael Schumacher’s retirements)
  • Canada: Zero points lost due to grid penalty for gearbox change (would have started 17th)
  • Europe: 12 points lost due to collision with Hamilton
  • Britain: Six points lost due to collision with Perez (assuming he would have remained behind Perez but ahead of Grosjean)
  • Hungary: Zero points lost due to collision with Paul di Resta (assuming he would have finished behind the Force India)

It’s important to stress the conservative assumptions behind this. Maldonado could realistically have scored better in Bahrain, Monaco, Canada and Hungary. But even this puts his total points lost this year at 34 which, had he scored them, would have more than doubled his actual tally of 29.

On top of the points Maldonado would have gained, it is also necessary to factor in the points other drivers would have lost as a result. Having done this we see Maldonado would move up two places in the drivers’ championship, ahead of the Sauber pair and Williams would pass Sauber in the constructors’ – a position potentially worth tens of millions of dollars.

This shows how this kind of analysis is problematic because it involves a degree of subjectivity.

But it’s useful because it helps us see the full picture of why a driver may have underperformed during a season, which is always a potent area of discussion. In this case, while Maldonado’s collisions and penalties have received much attention, this reminds us he’s had some technical problems this year too.

So it’s something I may look at in more detail for the championship contenders later this year. As always, suggestions on how to do it better are welcome so please share your thoughts in the comments.

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