Driver turnover in F1: Last two years, and the situation now


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    Iestyn Davies

    F1 goes through periods of being quite settled for drivers and at other times quite hectic. Usually those who drive at any time fall into 3 categories, situated in the top, midfield and slower teams:

    Champions/Top 3 in the WDC calibre
    Established, trying to push on towards the front
    Rookies scrapping it out to stay in F1 long term.

    Looking back two years ago, to the race we are now coming up to – the 2011 Hungarian GP, I wondered how many drivers have been replaced, and who now is in either category.

    Red Bull – Vettel, Webber
    McLaren – Button, Hamilton
    Ferrari – Alonso, Massa
    Mercedes – Rosberg, Schumacher
    Renault – Heidfeld, Petrov (Senna also drove that year)
    Force India – Sutil, di Resta
    Sauber – Kobayashi, Perez (de la Rosa)
    Toro Rosso – Alguersuari, Buemi
    Williams – Barrichello, Maldonado
    Lotus – Kovalainen, Trulli (Chandhok)
    Virgin – Glock, d’Ambrosio
    HRT – Liuzzi, Ricciardo (Karthikeyan)

    Drivers still in F1 drives – Vettel, Webber; Alonso, Massa; Hamilton, Rosberg; Button, Perez; Sutil, di Resta; Maldonado, Ricciardo. This makes 12 from the 28 2011 drivers, or just half of the current grid of 24 that have been in F1 drives for two years, or at least 40 GP’s experience.

    Champion calibre (10 years, made it to 30s) – Webber, Raikkonen, Button, Massa, Alonso
    Established (5 years, 29-25) – Sutil, Hamilton, Maldonado, Rosberg, Di Resta, Grosjean, Vettel, Hulkenberg
    Scrapping it out for survival (1-2 years so far, 25-21) – Van der Garde*, Ricciardo, Bianchi, Bottas, Perez, Pic, Vergne, Chilton, Gutierrez (*VDG is 27)

    So, does this mean that in say three years, that half the grid could be replaced by new youngsters to scrap it out? I can easily see Webber, Massa, Sutil, VDG, Pic, Chilton, Gutierrez going but significant backing may keep most of them still in F1 (not that it helped Senna, Kobayashi..).

    Who will next make it to 10 years in F1? I can see Hamilton, Vettel, Rosberg easily making it, Hulkenberg if he gets in a top car soon, Di Resta seems to keep going and so we are left with Grosjean and Maldonado, who both started late but have the backing to perhaps last another 5 years yet, despite Grosjean still fluffing the odd chance, while Maldonado should be safe as long as his backing materialises.

    It would be fair to say Perez is established, with his backing landing him a McLaren drive ahead of proven drivers Hulkenberg and di Resta. We can say Vettel, Hamilton and Perez are ahead of where their age puts them, so are in for the long haul (5-10 years), so surely those on the bubble would be: VDG, Sutil, Grosjean, Massa, Pic, Gutierrez, Chilton, Maldonado.. But can any of these be replaced while there is significant backing keeping them in F1? At the moment, it seriously looks like Hulkenberg is on the bubble…


    R.J. O’Connell

    I took this a step further and made a list of every driver that raced from season to season since 1996 that wasn’t on the grid for the first race of the following season. This does include instances where a driver retires from the sport instead of just being forced out, and career-ending injuries (Kubica, Burti technically). Then I listed where they finished in that season’s championship. There may be some errors, if you see any just call them out:

    1996 to 1997: Brundle (11th), Lamy (20th), Badoer (21st), Lavaggi (22nd), Montermini (23rd), Marques (24th)
    1997 to 1998: Berger (5th), Larini (19th), Verstappen (21st), Morbidelli (22nd), Fontana (23rd), Katayama (24th), Marques (25th)
    1998 to 1999: Salo (13th), Magnussen (17th), Nakano (18th), Tuero (19th), Rosset (20th), Verstappen (23rd)
    1999 to 2000: Hill (12th), Panis (16th), Zanardi (19th), Takagi (20th), Badoer (23rd), Sarrazin (24th)
    2000 to 2001: Salo (11th), Zonta (14th), Wurz (15th), De La Rosa (16th), Herbert (17th), Diniz (18th), Gene (19th)
    2001 to 2002: Hakkinen (5th), Alesi (15th), Verstappen (18th), Zonta (19th), Burti (20th), Marques (22nd), Enge (24th), Mazzacane (25th)
    2002 to 2003: Irvine (9th), Massa (13th), Sato (15th), Salo (17th), McNish (19th), Yoong (20th), De La Rosa (21st), Bernoldi (22nd), Davidson (23rd)
    2003 to 2004: Frentzen (11th), Villeneuve (16th), Gene (17th), Firman (19th), Wilson (20th), Pizzonia (21st), Verstappen (22nd), Kiesa (23rd)
    2004 to 2005: Panis (14th), Pizzonia (15th), Da Matta (17th), Glock (19th), Baumgartner (20th), Zonta (22nd), Gene (23rd), Pantano (24th), Bruni (25th)
    2005 to 2006: Wurz (17th), Karthikeyan (18th), De La Rosa (20th), Friesacher (21st), Pizzonia (22nd), Doornbos (25th), Davidson (26th), Zonta (27th)
    2006 to 2007: M Schumacher (2nd), Montoya (8th), De La Rosa (11th), Villeneuve (15th), Klien (18th), Montiero (21st), Doornbos (24th), Ide (25th), Yamamoto (26th), Montagny (27th)
    2007 to 2008: Wurz (11th), R Schumacher (16th), Liuzzi (18th), Speed (21st), Yamamoto (24th), Albers (25th), Winkelhock (26th)
    2008 to 2009: Coulthard (16th), Sato (21st), Davidson (22nd)
    2009 to 2010: Raikkonen (6th), Heidfeld (13th), Fisichella (15th), Bourdais (19th), Nakajima (20th), Piquet (21st), Grosjean (23rd), Badoer (25th)
    2010 to 2011: Kubica (8th), Hulkenberg (14th), De La Rosa (17th), Chandhok (22nd), Senna (23rd), Di Grassi (24th), Yamamoto (26th), Klien (27th)
    2011 to 2012: Sutil (9th), Heidfeld (11th), Alguersuari (14th), Buemi (15th), Barrichello (17th), Trulli (21st), Liuzzi (23rd), D’Ambrosio (24th)
    2012 to 2013: Kobayashi (12th), Schumacher (13th), Senna (16th), Petrov (19th), Glock (20th), Kovalainen (22nd), D’Ambrosio (23rd), Karthikeyan (24th), De La Rosa (25th)

    And now the year-to-year numbers:
    1996-97: 6 drivers, avg result 20.2
    1997-98: 7 drivers, avg result 19.9
    1998-99: 6 drivers, avg result 18.3
    1999-00: 6 drivers, avg result 19.0
    2000-01: 7 drivers, avg result 15.7
    2001-02: 8 drivers, avg result 18.5
    2002-03: 9 drivers, avg result 17.7
    2003-04: 8 drivers, avg result 18.6
    2004-05: 9 drivers, avg result 19.9
    2005-06: 8 drivers, avg result 22.0
    2006-07: 10 drivers, avg result 17.7
    2007-08: 7 drivers, avg result 20.1
    2008-09: 3 drivers, avg result 19.7
    2009-10: 8 drivers, avg result 17.8
    2010-11: 8 drivers, avg result 20.1
    2011-12: 8 drivers, avg result 16.8
    2012-13: 9 drivers, avg result 19.3

    From a pure numbers perspective, the turnover rate in the last 3 years or so has been about the same as it was 10 years ago, actually – 8-9 drivers get shut out for the following season opener. Because the midfield is much more visible and competitive now than it was before, the turnover in that section of the field seems much more volatile than it used to be.



    @R.J. O’Connell

    A top effort mate, that would have taken some time & dedication!

    I started in F1 as a young lad in the 80’s- and it was my life! I now look back on guys like Andre De Cerias and wonder how he drove SO many races without a win- Torro Rosso would have sacked him 6 months in (or 4 if Marko had he say HAHA!).

    An F1 driver these days has few opportunties to prove himself- too many get thrown aside when they will start to perform soon, or find some money :( Hieki, KK & Timo went last year, could have been doing well in 2013 but I have not heard anything too concrete to see any back nexy year??

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