How many points have drivers lost in 2012?

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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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71 comments on How many points have drivers lost in 2012?

  1. 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.

    @keithcollantine have you published in any article how was the way the teams distributed the money last year? (How much each got?) Is it based on a percentage of the total points available? or it’s a fixed percentage every year, according the team’s place at the end of the WCC? If it’s for the points, I guess Marusia, Catherham and HRT got nothing

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st August 2012, 17:00

      @omarr-pepper The exact breakdown of what each team earns from FOM each year is not published. But there are a few details about it in the public sphere. Teams’ earnings are based on how well they’ve done in the championship (in terms of ranking, not points) and how long they’ve been in F1 without a change of identity. The last is significant in the current Concorde Agreement negotiations – Mercedes believe their F1 heritage is undervalued as although they’re only in their third consecutive season as a full constructors they’ve been an engine supplier since 1995 and were a factory team in the fifties as well.

  2. Sebastian Vettel has lost a fair chunk of points, must notably in Malaysia (after NK crashed into him), Valencia (alternator) and in Germany (which in fairness can only really be blamed on him). By my reckoning he could have lost a maximum of 48 points, and combined with the fact Alonso would’ve lost 7 in Valencia Vettel would be leading the championship by over 10 points.

  3. BasCB (@bascb) said on 21st August 2012, 18:26

    Interesting to rethink what could the driver have achieved Keith, thanks for the suggestion Guillermo!

    It probably is best left to use carefully to help understand how well a driver did compared to what was possible in rating their season. But it does offer nice insights.

  4. Mike the bike Schumacher (@mike-the-bike-schumacher) said on 21st August 2012, 18:52

    This kind of shows Maldonado has pace but at the same time it is pointless. He HAS only scored twice this year. I think it’s fair he only has, what he has, because HE has made mistakes. I always used to think of what if, when it comes to F1, particularly being an Irvine and Jordan fan, what if eddie hadn’t had that strange weekend in japan, he might have won the title. If Damon had been on form in 99 Jordan could have easily won the Constuctors, but it’s pointless.
    Like Murray walker once said ‘If’ is a very long word in F1, infact ‘If’ is F1 spelled backwards.

  5. andae23 (@andae23) said on 21st August 2012, 20:52

    I’m a bit frustated by this: sure Maldonado has lost a lot of points, but so did Hamilton, Vettel, and.. well, I guess everyone has lost some points. that’s simply part of F1 I think. There are a lot of drivers who challenge for victory during one event, but just one of them gets the 25 points and the others have basically wasted their opportunities that weekend: how about them?

    As true F1 fans, I think we should look forward to the next few races and stop moaning about what could or should have been. The situation is that Alonso is leading, and if the Red Bulls and McLarens start maximizing their performances every weekend, they can still beat the this guy.

  6. Jake (@jleigh) said on 21st August 2012, 21:05

    There’s a lot of people complaining about the pointlessness etc. of this kind of thing, but i suspect most people took this sort of thing into account when they were doing their mid-season rankings.

  7. schooner (@schooner) said on 21st August 2012, 23:40

    History is history, and chock full of what ifs. F1 is no exception, and it’s only natural that us fans will speculate on what might have been. A crazy and convoluted game for sure!

  8. mda (@mda72) said on 22nd August 2012, 1:39

    To be fair, only incidents which are without any shadow of a doubt out of a driver’s control should be considered in “calculating” (if you can use such a word of such a hypothetical exercise) how many points they’ve “lost”. Eg, alternator failure to Seb Vettel in Valencia (25 points). I regard Pastor Maldonado ramming into Lewis Hamilton as out of Hamilton’s control, but well within Maldonado’s, so Id ‘regard that incident as having unfairly cost Hamilton points, but not Maldonado.

    A question to put out there: how should we treat something like the technical issues that plagued Mark Webber’s qualifying in Valencia, consigning him to 19th? He finished 4th in the end, largely thanks to unfortunate incidents eliminating drivers ahead of him. How should we calculate how he “would have” qualified in the absence of techincal problems out of his control? Should we assign him a time in line with his average performance in qualifying against Vettel this season, bump him up the grid accordingly in our thought-experiment, and then go lap-by-lap to see how he would have worked his way through the field? The problem I have with this is that he (and Schumacher) tried a different tyre strategy that day that gave them far superior grip in the last 6 laps or so, which enabled them both to slice their way through the remaining field. I believe they only used that different strategy because they were forced, by their lowly grid positions, to play a “back-end” tyre strategy.

    • sumedh said on 22nd August 2012, 5:14

      Very fair points!

      Regarding Webber at Valencia, without the retirements, he would have finished 8th. Without the qualifying problems, he would have qualified somewhere near the front (5th or 6th), he would have gained a few places thanks to the retirements but he would have still remained vulnerable to Schumacher at the end of the race. All-in-all, I think he was destined to finish 4th :)

      I loved the analysis that Keith had done in 2010. That was very objective. Then again, F1 was simpler in 2010. There was hardly any strategy involved and overtaking was also very less.

      • katederby (@katederby) said on 22nd August 2012, 13:51

        Not sure how we can estimate Webber’s potential qualifying position if the car was running problem free. In FP1 he was on Vettel’s pace and during the race he set the 2nd fastest time on lap 40, so potentially he could have been P1… or not! Which underlines how difficult it is to reassign lost points. But it’s something to do to pass the time.

  9. davidnotcoulthard said on 22nd August 2012, 6:31

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

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

  10. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 22nd August 2012, 13:53

    I think you’ve probably analysed it in the best way possible @keithcollantine The only way I would do it is to assume that the driver drove at a speed exactly relative to everyone else in the race. That makes it as fair as possible.

    The way I see it, you don’t ever ‘lose’ points. Qualifying badly or losing it at the last corner still means you end up theoretically with the same result. Nothing is a given until you cross the finish line…and even then that’s not always true.

    If you looked at it long enough you would be able to find an excuse for HRT heading up both championships.

  11. tmekt (@tmekt) said on 22nd August 2012, 14:23

    This is ridiculous

  12. mnmracer (@mnmracer) said on 23rd August 2012, 0:15

    I posted an article on the forum which covers the entire spectrum of this question: Alternative history mid-season: the 2012 championship without misfortune.

    Not just looking at one driver, but at all the drivers, and how it would have affected them.

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