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 Post subject: F1 Top 290: How I did it
PostPosted: Sat Feb 14, 2015 11:46 pm 
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Joined: Sun Dec 11, 2011 11:32 am
Posts: 2304
I know this is a divisive subject, but I enjoy looking at and making “best ever” lists. In the absence of a time machine and depending on the criteria for the list, they can be a helpful tool for grouping drivers from different eras in my opinion. Some are based, from the older generations, on the drivers they have been fortunate to see racing. Others by looking at results and applying their own formula or criteria. I was born in the late Eighties, so my list falls into the latter category.

My list is another of the “averages” lists that tries to account for the factor of the car. Of course, it can't be foolproof as it's impossible to be absolutely sure about the difference between car and driver. The list broadly brings out the differences in driver performances in the same team over a season, aggregated for each driver to give a picture of their average form over their career. This is a key reason why some drivers will appear differently on list compared to others that rank drivers only on their peak form. It's also why I have not named competing drivers or those who may return to F1 in the near future, as their ranking after they retire could be very different.

How I did it

I always thought that points should have extended beyond the top 6, so I was happy when the top 8 rule was brought in for 2003. I have tried to include every point scorer from F1 or drivers who would have fitted in had the top 8 rule been introduced a few years earlier. I haven't done this for the earliest eras because of smaller grid sizes. In what may be seen as a touch of personal bias, I omitted the 2005 USGP because of the exceptional circumstances and the distortion it would have on the “scoring” of the Minardi and Jordan drivers.

I should draw attention to my omission of drivers who only appear on historic F1 points totals because of Indy 500 wins. I understand whether to count the Indy 500 divides fans. I've decided to omit because of its very limited time as an F1 event and that the grids often didn't reflect other F1 events. A single point from just one other F1 event however, is enough to make this list.

Drivers points are all counted evenly. From 1950-2014, the points are totalled according to 2003 rules. This may favour the drivers from earlier decades with the smaller grids and/or lesser reliability. In addition to the points, wins, poles, fastest laps and titles are all included.

If one divides wins, poles, fastest laps, by Grand Prix entered of course the same number comes up for each if it is 10 wins, 10 poles and 10 fastest laps, as if they were worth the same. I disagree, so after the averages are worked out, I weight them so that a win is worth 1.5 times as much as a pole, and a pole is worth twice as much as a fastest lap. Title average is worked out by the % races counted in a driver's career, applied to the number of full seasons, eg if 60% of a driver's races are counted, their title count is divided by 60% of the seasons competed. I added all of these averages to points/per race to get a total which I used to rank the drivers.

Counting the races

Using a season of 11 teams or more as the original model, it works out like this. Drivers in the championship winning team have all their races counted. Then 10% of their races are discounted for each position lower their team is. So, if a driver's team finishes in 6th place, 50% of their races are counted. Anybody in teams finishing 11th or lower do not have their races counted, given the meagre opportunities to score points. For seasons with less teams that complete most or a full season, I change the scale proportionally so that each position goes down by 15%, 20%, 25%, etc

There are weaknesses to this. Sometimes a driver is exceptionally unlucky, such as Gerhard Berger in 1989, who retired from 12 of the 15 races entered but would have 90% of his races counted against a meagre points total despite several very good performances until the car let him down.

It also doesn't account for exceptionally dominant versus tight seasons between teams, such as 1996 vs 2012. Sometimes the midfield spread could be separated only by a few points rather than double digits.

So it's not completely scientific but this was the closest formula I could think of as accounting for car and driver without subjectivity overruling results. The counter to the weaknesses is that looking at things race by race, it would be much more open to subjectivity and guessing on my part, which undermines the whole point of the exercise and is ultimately futile for anybody who can't remember seeing every single race.

Why the heck is that driver so high or so low?

This list may raise some eyebrows because of the higher and lower rankings of some drivers than is usually the case. This might be down to the fact that a lot of lists are top 100 and 150s, and also lean towards the famous names and don't include the 150 or more other drivers who scored points.

I have included all points scorers to account for drivers that may have been unfairly overlooked by a lot of these kinds of lists. Some race winners are outside the top 200, which might seem silly until we remember that there have been around 100 GP race winners so far. There were many others who were good enough to win a race but weren't in the right car. Similarly, after 65 seasons of F1, some championship contenders are in the lower parts of the top 100, below some drivers who didn't win a title, because there were many good enough to win a title, sometimes multiple titles, that didn't succeed.

This list works best looking at driver's careers overall. We can probably find individual seasons between most driver pairings where each gets the better of the other, but as we know, driver form goes up and down. Some cars and regulation eras suit one driver more than another. Exceptional seasons where they beat or dominate a team mate will be to their benefit, and seasons where they struggle will be reflected in that way. Drivers who were killed or retired prematurely or too late account for most of the anomalies. One could probably move driver rankings around by about 5 positions in the top 50 and by around 10 positions from 100 downwards, as the spread becomes much closer after the top 50 or so.

Some drivers will also benefit from having been exceptional in a small number of races but giving only a small sample. If a driver's score looked very odd compared to the others, I looked at team mate records to try and get a rough estimate and occasionally the comments of F1 colleagues of the time. Sometimes I had to account for different chassis/engine combinations, especially before the Eighties.

Drivers that I had to move around on the rankings because of serious anomalies, I have listed with an * next to their name.

**means these drivers only competed in a single race.

"Jean Alesi is using the Maginot Line policy-You shall not pass!"-Murray Walker

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