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. Jon Sandor (@jonsan) said on 4th April 2013, 19:35

    Cars in the Olden Days were more unreliable than modern cars, but there was also a bigger performance gap between the best, the middle of the pack, and the worst cars. So while e.g. Jim Clark suffered a high rate of DNF’s by modern standards, of the races he did finish he finished in first place an exceptionally high proportion of the time.

    In 73 races he had 23 DNF’s … but in the 50 races he did finish he took 25 wins and 32 podiums. Modern cars are more reliable, but no modern driver can ever lap the entire field in the course of winning a race.

  2. Azwing (@azwing) said on 4th April 2013, 21:42

    Really highlights just how good Schumacher was prior to returing from retirement. His stats are still amazing, despite three years of poor results.

  3. Palle (@palle) said on 4th April 2013, 22:20

    Good work Keith.
    Just the other day I made a little statistic work:
    Senna got on the podium in 49,4% of his races, and he had pole position in 40,1%. He won the WDC in 27.27% of the seasons he raced.
    Schumacher won the WDC in 38,9% of the seasons he raced and he got on the podium in 50,3% of the races and he took pole pos in 22% of the races. I don’t think it makes sense to compare F1 drivers of all ages, because the sport has changed so much over the years. I’m certain that if You could revive Fangio at his peak, even with training in the art of modern F1, he wouldn’t be able to qualify to be allowed to start a race. He is from an age, where nobody had +10.000 hours in a cart or race car before the age of 20 years, which is a must today. Bruno Senna is an example of a wasted talent, due to Ayrtons death he was prevented from racing for to many years. If he had done his racing in all his youth, I’m sure he would have become a top driver.

  4. molecole1 said on 5th April 2013, 6:22

    Great table! Perhaps you, or someone else, would like to do every championship, under every different points system? And with all results counted (unlike the split-seasons). I’d love to see some of the recent championships under the 10-6-4-3-2-1 system and so on!

  5. It’s kind of impossible to actually compare between different eras with just numbers.
    Rules changes, number of races, better and safer tracks, reliability of cars, better training, modernization in terms of team co-ordination. These are just a few changes that am listing. There’s just so much more that has changed. These all changes gives today’s drivers a definite advantage over the previous era drivers, when you consider numbers for deciding who is better.

  6. Dafffid (@dafffid) said on 5th April 2013, 17:46

    Very interesting. But because reliability is so much better these days, I’d be more interested in how many points modern drivers would have if fewer places scored points. i.e. using the points system from that existed from 1962-1990. If Clark (for one example) wasn’t in the top five he normally didn’t finish at all, whereas modern drivers frequently salvage a few points lower down. Does that chart exist anywhere? I think it would give a quite different impression.

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