F1 has least-experienced driver line-up since 2004

2013 F1 season preview

F1 drivers, Melbourne, 2004The most highly experienced field F1 has ever seen at the start of a new season lined up on the grid at Melbourne in 2011.

Two years on the loss of some of the sport’s longest-serving drivers means the combined experience of the F1 field is at a nine-year low.

The last two seasons have seen the departures of Rubens Barrichello (F1′s most experienced driver ever with 322 starts), Jarno Trulli (252 starts) and Michael Schumacher (306 starts).

Meanwhile five new drivers will make their first Grand Prix starts next weekend: Valtteri Bottas, Esteban Gutierrez, Giedo van der Garde, Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton.

The level of experience in the F1 field is trending upwards but there are periodic drops, of which this appears to be one. The greatest occured in the mid-nineties when several highly experienced drivers’ careers ended (mostly out of choice with one sad exception in the case of Ayrton Senna).

However this year’s grid has started more races on average than every other season prior to 2004 (pictured).

Drivers’ experience in round one

This chart shows how many drivers were on the grid for the first race of each season, and the average number of starts they had made in previous world championship races.

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

1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Drivers 21 20 17 17 22 15 16 10 16 22 16 20 15 16 20 16 18 23 18 23 25 21 19 25 23 22 22 24 24 24 24 26 26 26 25 25 21 26 26 26 26 26 26 26 26 19 22 22 22 22 22 22 20 20 20 22 22 22 20 24 22 22 22
Average starts 2.85 3.6 7.53 11.35 12 11.2 15.81 27.2 19.75 15.45 21.94 16.6 26.47 31.5 23.6 34.75 32 31.3 37.39 36.57 30.72 24.86 28.05 31.84 35.39 36.68 44.05 50.92 52.29 54 42.83 47.85 45.96 43.04 56.56 61.12 55.1 58.58 63.35 62.58 64.8 61.65 66.85 45.62 37.15 47.68 51.68 50.09 60.5 67.09 65.95 64.23 73.15 68.65 80.55 87.54 79.5 79.95 88.35 75.5 96.95 81.32 74.86

Of course what this doesn’t show us is how much testing mileage the drivers have covered, which is especially important for rookies. In the era of unrestricted testing it was not uncommon for new drivers to arrive in the sport having completed over 10,000km of running. Each of this year’s new drivers has less than that.

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79 comments on F1 has least-experienced driver line-up since 2004

  1. xivizmath (@xivizmath) said on 7th March 2013, 23:34

    F1 has least-experienced driver line-up since 2004

    Ah-ha! So that explains why I feel 2013 feels different from every other season I was ever about to watch.

  2. Sheo said on 8th March 2013, 1:28

    I really want to know what Rubens and Michael are chinwagging about.

    And, is it just me, or hasn’t Webber aged a day since that photo was taken?

  3. Shimks (@shimks) said on 8th March 2013, 5:33

    Oh, God: Ralf Schumacher. Please don’t remind me.

  4. FunkyDevil (@funkydevil) said on 8th March 2013, 11:11

    well hope this least experienced lineup gives us great season to watch

  5. The Limit said on 8th March 2013, 14:30

    Personally I like the idea of having new drivers in the sport, despite the fact that some may feel they are not deserving of the opportunity. Its easy to become nostalgic. Many were excited by the prospect of Michael Schumacher’s return three years ago for all the obvious reasons, or Rubens Barrichello becoming the sports most experienced driver. These were all good headline grabbers, but the eternal issue is that there have only ever been so many seats at the table.
    Sadly in days gone by, drivers rarely lived long enough to be classed a ‘veteran’. I remember Jackie Stewart saying that if only ‘four drivers were killed in a season it was classed a good year’, such was the lack in safety. The knock on effect ofcourse was that the sport had a higher turnover in drivers than it does now, although the sport was more akin to the Battle of Britain than a racing series. Atleast, judging by Stewart’s accounts.
    Thankfully, these days are long gone along with the hay bales and other obsticles such as trees, ditches, and the occasional telegraph pole that used to line our racing circuits unprotected limits. But with that, has come longevity.
    Drivers now, allowing for talent ofcourse, have a lot better odds of staying in the sport as long as Rubens Barrichello did. That would have been unthinkable years ago, but it is a fact now. This only makes it all the more difficult for young drivers trying to break into Formula One, and almost impossible if they don’t have the financial backing. This problem is as old as the sport itself but is a problem that still persists.
    I can remember when Fernando Alonso was paying for his drive at Minardi back in 2001, and look how that turned out. Even Aryton Senna had to cough up some dough to drive the Toleman back in 1984, so it goes to show just how difficult a journey becoming an F1 driver really is. Many extremely talented drivers have missed out on F1, but I will not turn my back or pass judgement on the ones that do. Especially when I have yet seen them turn a wheel!

  6. coefficient (@coefficient) said on 8th March 2013, 14:46

    Question. If Chilton stacks up well against Bianchi or even beats him what does that say about the 2 rookies? Discuss.

  7. sato113 (@sato113) said on 8th March 2013, 15:28

    so which rookies have the most 2013 pre season mileage? (excluding young driver tests etc.)

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