Putting Button’s 1,000 points tally in perspective

F1 Statistics

Jenson Button, McLaren, Melbourne, 2013Jenson Button became the fourth driver in F1 history to pass 1,000 career points in the Australian Grand Prix.

It’s a nice round number but as most F1 Fanatic readers will know its usefulness as a statistic is rather limited.

This is because the F1 points system has changed many times since the world championship began in 1950.

Eight points were awarded for a race win in the inaugural year of the world championship – the value of a sixth-place finish today. Since Button’s career began in 2000 three different systems have been used and the value of a win increased from 10 to 25 points.

Button ranks fourth among the top ten points scorers of all time. But if today’s points system had been used since the dawn of the world championship 63 years ago, would he still stand as tall?

The table below shows how many points each world championship would have scored under the current points system, plus the top 25 points scorers who never won a world championship.

Under the current points system Button would be the ninth greatest points scorer of all time. And if we take an average of that score based on the number of races each driver started, he falls to 27th, dragged down by those wasted years at BAR and Honda.

The data raises some other interesting points. The widely-held view that Stirling Moss was the best driver never to win the world championship is supported by him having the highest average points haul per start among the non-champions, followed by Juan Pablo Montoya and Carlos Reutemann.

Three drivers on the grid today rank among the top ten average points scorers: Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. While it’s true they have the benefit of superior reliability and less punishing tracks compared to their predecessors, it supports the view that today’s talent is among the best the sport has seen.

Here’s the data in full, share your views and findings in the comments.

Name Starts Points Points per start Modern points* Modern points per start
Michael Schumacher 306 1566 5.12 3890 12.71
Fernando Alonso 198 1382 6.98 2225 11.24
Sebastian Vettel 103 1094 10.62 1284 12.47
Jenson Button 230 1001 4.35 1625 7.07
Lewis Hamilton 112 938 8.38 1316 11.75
Mark Webber 198 874.5 4.42 1189 6.01
Kimi Raikkonen 177 817 4.62 1736 9.81
Alain Prost 199 798.5 4.01 2483 12.48
Felipe Massa 174 726 4.17 1260 7.24
Rubens Barrichello 323 658 2.04 1897 5.87
Ayrton Senna 161 614 3.81 1881 11.68
David Coulthard 246 535 2.17 1726 7.02
Nelson Piquet 204 485.5 2.38 1688 8.27
Nigel Mansell 187 482 2.58 1509 8.07
Niki Lauda 171 420.5 2.46 1343 7.85
Mika Hakkinen 161 420 2.61 1382 8.58
Nico Rosberg 130 411.5 3.17 556 4.28
Gerhard Berger 210 385 1.83 1417 6.75
Jackie Stewart 99 360 3.64 1109 11.2
Damon Hill 115 360 3.13 1091 9.49
Ralf Schumacher 180 329 1.83 1096 6.09
Carlos Reutemann 146 310 2.12 1131 7.75
Juan Pablo Montoya 94 307 3.27 825 8.78
Graham Hill 175 289 1.65 1053 6.02
Emerson Fittipaldi 144 281 1.95 994 6.9
Riccardo Patrese 256 281 1.1 1111 4.34
Juan Manuel Fangio 51 277.64 5.44 873 17.12
Giancarlo Fisichella 229 275 1.2 940 4.1
Jim Clark 72 274 3.81 839 11.65
Robert Kubica 76 273 3.59 488 6.42
Jack Brabham 123 261 2.12 939 7.63
Nick Heidfeld 183 259 1.42 727 3.97
Jody Scheckter 112 255 2.28 896 8
Denny Hulme 112 248 2.21 940 8.39
Jarno Trulli 252 246.5 0.98 810 3.21
Jean Alesi 201 241 1.2 1033 5.14
Jacques Villeneuve 163 235 1.44 853 5.23
Jacques Laffite 176 228 1.3 921 5.23
Clay Regazzoni 132 212 1.61 820 6.21
Alan Jones 116 206 1.78 707 6.09
Ronnie Peterson 123 203 1.65 731 5.94
Bruce McLaren 98 196.5 2.01 745 7.6
Eddie Irvine 146 191 1.31 789 5.4
Stirling Moss 66 186.64 2.83 616 9.33
Michele Alboreto 194 186.5 0.96 767 3.95
Jacky Ickx 114 181 1.59 680 5.96
Rene Arnoux 149 181 1.21 699 4.69
John Surtees 111 180 1.62 656 5.91
Mario Andretti 128 180 1.41 671 5.24
James Hunt 92 179 1.95 629 6.84
Heinz-Harald Frentzen 156 174 1.12 780 5
Keke Rosberg 114 159.5 1.4 595 5.22
Alberto Ascari 32 140.14 4.38 446 13.94
Mike Hawthorn 45 127.64 2.84 468 10.4
Giuseppe Farina 33 127.33 3.86 447 13.55
Jochen Rindt 60 109 1.82 358 5.97
Phil Hill 47 98 2.09 365 7.77

*Split points scores due to shared drives or reduced race distances have been counted as full points scores.

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95 comments on Putting Button’s 1,000 points tally in perspective

  1. malross (@malross) said on 4th April 2013, 13:01

    Brilliant article. I’ve been hoping someone would produce this sort of thing for AGES. Can you also make the data available as a download, please? CSV format would do. Thanks!

  2. Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 4th April 2013, 13:01

    I was not at all expecting Vettel to have a higher modern points per start than Jim Clark and Ayrton Senna: I know he has superior reliability and a great car, but I was fully expecting the closeness of the grid to offset that!

    • matt90 (@matt90) said on 4th April 2013, 13:09

      Clark drove in significantly shorter seasons though. Vettel does still beat them on average points, but there isn’t a great difference. And as you say, reliability has improved dramatically (despite Vettel having among the poorest reliability of the top drivers over the last few years).

      • Nick.UK (@) said on 4th April 2013, 14:14

        @matt90 Don’t make me laugh! He’s had a few alternators go. Boo-hoo. Maybe he can go cry about it to Lewis…

        • Nick.UK (@) said on 4th April 2013, 14:26

          Just like to point out that I do remember his trouble at the start of 2010 as well, but generally he has had relatively acceptable reliability. His 2011 car was bulletproof and the bulk of his poor results in 2010 were his own doing in my opinion. Certainly a 50/50 spread.

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 4th April 2013, 15:37

          Maybe he can go cry about it to Lewis…

          @nick-uk The guy who’s first mechanical retirement was in the final round of his third season?

        • matt90 (@matt90) said on 4th April 2013, 17:58

          @nick-uk Yes, and Vettel and Hamilton have both lost a few victories due to reliability. Among the front runners reliability has generally been very good, but Hamilton and Vettel have suffered the more high profile blows. What on Earth did I say that was so wrong?

          • Nick.UK (@) said on 4th April 2013, 18:01

            @matt90 Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend. I was just overcome by my Hamilton ‘fanboyism’ haha. I was also, in the heat of my reply, confusing team errors with reliability. Hamilton has greater bad luck in my opinion, again in the last few years that is. If his car in 2012 didn’t break down, he got crashing into or his pit screw affected the race fundamentally.

          • Anonymouse said on 4th April 2013, 18:29

            @nick-uk So everything boils down to bad luck. Interesting

          • matt90 (@matt90) said on 4th April 2013, 18:44

            No problem. I agree that particularly last year Hamilton was the victim of awful luck, although, as you say, half of it wasn’t actually due to reliability.

          • q85 said on 4th April 2013, 19:29

            frustrating as it was for lewis in 2012 his 2010 title failure was due to his couple of crashes. You could argue he should be a 3x world champion by new. Tho you good also argue alonso could be 5x champ!

            in reality mclaren were to blame for one title loss and he himself was for the other. Worryingly(and surprisingly) he hasnt finished in the top 3 since 2008 and thats simply not good enough whatever way you look at it.

          • matt90 (@matt90) said on 4th April 2013, 22:38

            2010 was a a little less simple than that. One crash was purely his fault, and the other was debatable. At most I would say he a bit optimistic in Singapore, but Webber could equally be accused of defending too aggressively- an unfortunate racing incident. And from what I recall he did have some mechanical misfortune too (only Spain springs to mind immediately though). Overall it was a very solid season, one of his best along with 2007 and 2012. I think his two collisions coming at once and in the latter part of the championship marred some people’s opinions of how well he drove that year in a car that I believe was 3rd fastest on average over the season.

        • Jon Sandor (@jonsan) said on 4th April 2013, 18:45

          Hamilton has had six mechanical DNF’s in his career, to eleven for Vettel.

          Three of Hamiltons (and two of vettels) occurred in 2012.

          • Nick.UK (@) said on 4th April 2013, 20:09

            @jonsan Not denying it, but out of curiosity could you list those 11 please?

          • Jon Sandor (@jonsan) said on 4th April 2013, 21:04

            2007 – Belgium, Bahrain
            2008 – Malaysia, Hungary
            2009 – Hungary, Valencia
            2010 – Australia, Korea
            2011 – Abu Dhabi
            2012 – Valencia, Monza

            Abu Dhabi 2011 was that mysterious tyre blow-out – I’m not counting most tyre problems but that one belongs here under “mechanical failures”.

          • Jon Sandor (@jonsan) said on 4th April 2013, 21:26

            And Hamilton’s six –
            2009 – Abu Dhabi
            2010 – Hungary
            2011- Brazil
            2012 – Germany, Singapore, Abu Dhabi

          • Bobby (@f1bobby) said on 4th April 2013, 22:37

            Hamilton also had wheel rim failure at Spain ’10 which is missing off your list. He was running second at the time with 1 lap to go. It was agonising watching that. :(

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 5th April 2013, 0:23

            @jonsan – You listed “2007 – Bahrain”, but Vettel’s debut came later in that season.

          • Jon Sandor (@jonsan) said on 5th April 2013, 15:50

            That should have been 2007 – Belgium, Brazil.

            I did not forget Spain 2010, where Hamilton suffered a rim failure. I did my best to find out whether that was due to a defective part (a mechanical failure) or due to Hamilton running over a curb or clipping a barrier, but the incident remains a question mark.

      • Michel S. (@hircus) said on 5th April 2013, 5:27

        Clark drove in significantly shorter seasons though

        That shouldn’t matter much when comparing points per start, unless the idea is that a longer season is correlated with better reliability as the team break in their cars.

    • kcrossle (@kcrossle) said on 4th April 2013, 13:16

      I was wondering how it would look if it were Points per Finish.

      • xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 4th April 2013, 13:23

        If it were, then Clark, Schumi, Vettel and Fangio would probably have the highest points per finish.

      • Kelsier (@kelsier) said on 4th April 2013, 14:07

        Yeah, points per finish would be interesting to see. And not that hard to do either (wink wink, nudge nudge).

      • bananarama (@bananarama) said on 4th April 2013, 14:12

        Taking a quick look at stats this is what I found (might not be perfectly accurate and only looked at drivers I found interesting, also I didn’t care for the reason of retirement):
        1. Fangio 21,3points/race (19,6% retired)
        2. Ascari 20,3 (31,3%)
        3. Stewart 17,6 (36,4%)
        4. Farina 17,2 (21,2%)
        5. Clark 17,1 (31,9%)
        6. Prost 17 (26,6%)
        7. Senna 16,7 (30,4%)
        8. Schumacher 15,9 (20,2%)
        9. Moss 15,8 (40,9%)
        10. Vettel 14,9 (16,5%)
        11. Hamilton 13,6 (13,4%)
        12. Alonso 13,5 (16,7%)
        13. Raikkonen 12,9 (23,7%)

        Maybe Keith will add a column to the table to have more precise data :)

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th April 2013, 14:28

      @kcrossle @xjr15jaaag @kelsier @bananarama

      There’s a table of points per finish for the world champions correct up to the end of last season here:

      2012 in statistics part one: The year in context

  3. Modern points per stats: What a Top 10!

  4. Tango (@tango) said on 4th April 2013, 13:25

    Great stuff, and beautiful way to highlight your new site updates. What was the criteria used to determine wether a driver would be in or out of the ranking ?

    Small tip : maybe a small triangle or icon on the columns would help understand that those columns actually are sortable.

  5. GeeMac (@geemac) said on 4th April 2013, 14:01

    How did Mike Hawthorn end up with 127.64 points? Same goes for Fangio, Moss, Ascari and Farina.

  6. timtoo (@timtoo) said on 4th April 2013, 14:05

    what about if you could convert between different point systems? I would be interested to see the difference in that

    • Kelsier (@kelsier) said on 4th April 2013, 16:09

      What would be interesting is how the championship results of past years would have changed with modern pointssystem.

      • andae23 (@andae23) said on 4th April 2013, 16:16

        @kelsier If you mean which championships would have a different champion: I actually looked it up a few months ago:

        1951: Ascari instead of Fangio
        1964: G. Hill instead of Surtees
        1983: Prost instead of Piquet (actually this one was a tie, but Prost had more 1st places)
        1984: Prost instead of Lauda
        1988: Prost instead of Senna
        1994: D. Hill instead of Schumacher (ha!)
        1999: Irvine instead of Häkkinen

        If Schumacher would not have been disqualified from the championship in 1997, then he would have won the title instead of Villeneuve.

        So this would mean that Prost has actually won more championships than Schumacher!

        • Kelsier (@kelsier) said on 4th April 2013, 16:25

          Thanks, interesting stuff. Prost 7 times champion with shumi on 6. Damon 2 times (which I always think anyways) but still one less than his father… But Irvine insteed of Häkkinen ouch that hurts.

          • q85 said on 4th April 2013, 19:36

            Prost is most interesting one. The fact he lost a title despite scoring alot more points than everyone always troubles me.

            in fact he only ever gave away 1.5 points to team mates in his whole career. That is amazing, esp when you see the quality of his team mates compared to some of the other champs.

          • Palle (@palle) said on 4th April 2013, 22:05

            The film about Senna didn’t leave me with the best impression of Prost and another French F1 guy. Not that I believe Senna was a saint;-) And who says that the modern point system is the “right” one. The difference between the points is to big in my opinion. And to compare drivers over history only on points could very well be supplemented by looking at the time spread of the field, at least on an average over the seasons. I don’t know if these data are available.

          • nickfrog (@nickfrog) said on 4th April 2013, 23:25

            Yes. If there was any doubt that Prost was the best, his reputation only being tainted by Senna’s one-lap speed and political clout but also ruthlessness/carelessness.

            Taking cover…

          • Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 5th April 2013, 0:12

            @palle

            The difference between the points is to big in my opinion

            Well actually, you say that but the longest standing points score for first (9, from 1961-1990) coincided with second being worth 6 points, so a 50% increase in points scored from second to first. If we compare that to now, the 7 point step from the 18 for 2nd to the 25 for 1st is only a meagre 39% increase, 11% less than before.

            If anything, I actually think wins should be more valuable: outright speed I think should prevail over consistency, as speed is something which can only be achieved by the most talented of drivers. This is only my opinion though, and I respect yours may differ.

  7. The modern points per start statistic is telling – Fangio is way out in front of everyone.
    And this for a driver who didn’t start racing in F1 until he was past the retirement age of most of those on the list.

    • Cranberry said on 4th April 2013, 14:31

      Not to downplay Fangio here, but that’s a bit over-romanticising the statistics. The stats dont tell you how his teammate had to give Fangio his car in case Fangio retired due to technical issues.
      Fangio was from a completely different era in F1, even math can’t help us there…

      The table is a fantastic read and I’ve been waiting for something like this since I can’t be bothered to make it myself, Thanks Keith!

    • JimG (@jimg) said on 4th April 2013, 14:32

      Agreed – he averaged slightly worse than second place!

  8. What a beautiful example of how statistics can be used anything you like!

    Had the table been laid out ½in order of modern points per finish Button would have been nowhere while the real deal would rank in top with Fangio, Farina, Ascari, Clark, Stweart, Senna, Prost, Schumacher and yes; Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton!

  9. Russell Gould (@russellgould) said on 4th April 2013, 15:55

    This makes for all sorts of terrific pub/coffeeshop banter. What an interesting perspective this makes of the drivers. Good job, Keith!

  10. Paulocreed (@paulocreed) said on 4th April 2013, 16:00

    I wonder, where would Gilles Villeneuve place on this chart?

  11. Russell Gould (@russellgould) said on 4th April 2013, 16:02

    Holy cow! I just realize that Jacques Villeneuve and Laffite are *tied at 5.23!* Wow.

  12. vishy (@vishy) said on 4th April 2013, 16:06

    Great stats!

    However it is hard to compare drivers using these stats, because it depends to a great extent on how long have they spent their time in weak teams.

    For example Nico Rosberg does not appear anywhere properly, Alonso’s points are skewed due to his years at Minardi and Button’s as well are skewed due to years in BAR Honda.

    • katederby (@katederby) said on 4th April 2013, 16:24

      True, if say, you remove the RBR driver’s years before 2009 then in modern points Vettel has a 15.08 average per race, while Webber goes up t 12.15 points.
      But of course you can do the same for all drivers so it doesn’t really mean much.

      Thanks Keith, nothing more enjoyable that some good stats.

  13. Wow I feel really bad for Jean Alesi and Heinz Frentzen, they seem to have a really high old to modern point ratio. One is just below 5 and the other is below 7. Alesi would have been a 1000-er today.

  14. bull mello (@bullmello) said on 4th April 2013, 18:59

    Statistics are fun and they can tell part of the story. I’m more of a observational, gut feeling, whole package kind of a F1 fan. Statistics can often leave out other vital factors and even leave out other statistics that could shed light on the complete story. However, I did say statistics can be fun. They are also a way to make interesting comparisons, even if just a way to look at one piece of the whole puzzle.

    The table above is a fascinating comparison of drivers across the F1 ages which is a difficult comparison to make because of all sorts of different factors. Taking the table above and breaking it down further to the top 20 points per race scoring drivers (according to the comparison of all modern points applied) produces just one more way to look at a piece of the big puzzle. This, of course leaves out many other factors.

    Juan Manuel Fangio 17.12

    Alberto Ascari 13.94

    Giuseppe Farina 13.55

    Michael Schumacher 12.71

    Alain Prost 12.48

    Sebastian Vettel 12.47

    Lewis Hamilton 11.75

    Ayrton Senna 11.68

    Jim Clark 11.65

    Fernando Alonso 11.24

    Jackie Stewart 11.2

    Mike Hawthorn 10.4

    Kimi Raikkonen 9.81

    Damon Hill 9.49

    Stirling Moss 9.33

    Juan Pablo Montoya 8.78

    Mika Hakkinen 8.58

    Denny Hulme 8.39

    Nelson Piquet 8.27

    Nigel Mansell 8.07

  15. Jon Sandor (@jonsan) said on 4th April 2013, 19:10

    Three drivers on the grid today rank among the top ten average points scorers: Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso. While it’s true they have the benefit of superior reliability and less punishing tracks compared to their predecessors, it supports the view that today’s talent is among the best the sport has seen.

    And Kimi Raikkonen is 13th on the list. With the possible exception of the early 1990′s when you had Senna, Prost, and Schumacher lining up, there’s never been as good as grid as we have today.

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