2014 model-based driver rankings

Fantastic metrics, brilliant analysis, fine detail. Overall, a great read!

f1metrics

2014 was a year completely dominated by the Mercedes team, with the barest sniff of the title for Ricciardo. But who would have won the title if all cars had been equal? Were the Mercedes drivers the year’s best performers, or would other drivers have looked even better behind the wheel of a Mercedes? That’s a question you could debate for hours. Alternatively, we can pose the question to a mathematical model, such as the one I previously used to estimate all-time driver rankings.

In a nutshell, my model ignores races for each driver where they had non-driver failures (e.g., mechanical DNFs), then uses points per race in each of the remaining races as a performance metric for each season. While this is not a perfect metric (e.g., it doesn’t assign blame for crashes), it does capture one of the most important aspects of driver performance, and it can…

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A tribute to the unsung heroes of motorsport.

Caution: Some images in this article might be disturbing.
 

Mark Robinson (38) was a highly knowledgeable F1 fan who had been visiting the Canadian GP since the early 80s.
Image Courtesy: Facebook

Motor racing is a risky sport, no one needs to be told about that. Its dangerous not just for those who participate in it, but also for the hundreds of officials and staff on support duties at such events. Last Sunday, at the 2013 Canadian GP, we were faced with a rude and brutal reminder of this very fact.

Mark Robinson (38), who volunteered as a marshal for Sunday’s race, slipped under the wheel of a crane as it was carrying Esteban Gutierrez’s Sauber from the track, which had crashed in the final laps of the race.

Image Courtesy: globalnews.ca

Robinson, reportedly, dropped his radio while walking with the crane and reached down to pick it up. The crane/tractor operator could not see him and as a result, ran over him. Robinson was airlifted to Sacre-Coeur Hospital by helicopter after being stabilized by race-track trauma nurses. He was declared dead in hospital. An absolute tragedy that could only be described as a freak accident.

The previously posted image of the incident has now been removed as it was seen as an insensitive gesture towards the incident. It was included in the article solely for purposes of bringing attention to the dangers of marshaling but many people didn’t see it that way. I respect those opinions and have taken the image down.

Marshals volunteer for this work out of their love and passion for motorsport. Their work is absolutely critical for the running of any motorsport event. They routinely put their lives at risk to ensure smooth and safe running of racing events. They’ve saved numerous lives over the years and many have lost their own lives in the process.

F1 went through a major overhaul of safety regulations in the 90s after the horrendous weekend at Imola ’94. Everybody knows what happened there. As a result, deaths have been rare in F1. The last time a marshal was killed was in 2001 and this is only the third fatality since 2000. An absurd, but very unfortunate, incident. According to his friends and colleagues, Robinson was a highly knowledgeable F1 fan who absolutely adored and almost worshipped the sport. He’d been attending the Canadian GP since the early 80s. As expected, almost all the teams and drivers have expressed their grief and shock over the incident.

An official enquiry is underway:

The Commission de la sante et de la securite de travail (CSST) said Monday that six months—give or take—would be needed to complete the report. “Our inspectors were on the site last night and looked at the overall situation and what they will try to figure out over the next couple of days is what exactly occurred,” CSST spokesperson Jacques Nadeau said on Monday, adding that interviews with fellow volunteers would be forthcoming. “They probably know exactly how he went under the tractor that was carrying the car,” Nadeau said. “But we need to let them cool off and let them find their senses. Our main concern is that the workers are in good health.”

FIA president Jean Todt issued a personal statement on behalf of the governing body:

“I would like to share my profound sadness, and that of the whole FIA community, following the tragic death of the circuit worker, who was working as a volunteer marshal at the Canadian Grand Prix,” Todt wrote. “My thoughts, and those of the FIA members, are with the worker’s family and friends and we all wish to extend our sincerest condolences, as well as our support, in these most tragic of circumstances. This tragedy has affected us deeply, and the whole of motor sport is profoundly touched by it.“In volunteering to be a marshal, he had made the choice to give his time, his knowledge and passion in the service of motor sport. All over the world, it is men and women like him who make possible the organisation of motor sport events. Without these thousands of volunteers who give their all selflessly, motor sport would simply not get off the starting line. I and the FIA want to share with each and every one of the pain resulting from this death, a hurt that unites us all today.”

Silverstone marshals have planned to pay tributes to Robinson when the F1 fraternity reconvenes at Silverstone later this month.

In the event of this tragedy, all I can say is – marshals deserve a lot more credit and recognition for the work they do for free. Putting your life at risk for something that you love is not something all of us could do. My thoughts and condolences remain with Mark’s family, friends and colleagues.

And to every brave marshal out there – you guys are the unsung heroes of motorsport!

Pirelli, Mercedes, FIA, FOM & a whole load of politics.

Let’s talk tyres, yet again.

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This whole Mercedes/Pirelli test controversy from Spain is about political games, not about Mercedes gaining any advantage at all. Its about the FIA and FOM facing off each other to expand and drag on what happened back in 2010 with the Michelin vs Pirelli decision.
Mercedes are the mere scapegoats that other teams want them to be in order to get lucky in some way and garner some points and/or testing mileage.
From my understanding, there is no controversy as such. Mercedes have gained no advantage from the test as according to Pirelli’s information (confirmed by Ross Brawn too), Mercedes had no identity of the tyres being used or the compounds being tested. It was a bit of a blind test in that, as far as Mercedes go, they only provided the car, driver(s) and the support personnel. They did not collect any tyre specific data.
What is going on now is, the FIA want to assert their power over the FOM and might try to use this to penalise Pirelli and (maybe) disallow them from being the supplier next year on grounds of technical breach of regulations.

When Pirelli were announced as the new supplier at the end of 2010, a part of the (somewhat odd) statement from the FIA read:

“..the sole supplier will undertake to strictly respect the sporting and technical regulations implemented by the FIA”

This might be relevant to the current situation as anybody can guess what it could mean.

FIA (or at least Jean Todt) wanted Michelin but the commercial rights holder wanted Pirelli. Bernie won that round. Who has the power over decision on tyre suppliers still remains unclear. The FIA sure wants to have a strong say in it.

Pirelli didn’t want to garner any more negative publicity or storm over tyres and hence kept the test out of media knowledge, but, it seems to have backfired.

We might have some news in Montreal.

Formula 1 & its so-called “pay drivers”.

There has been a lot of drumming recently about pay drivers and how they’re degrading our beloved sport. But I have one question: Who exactly do you call a pay driver and what is this formula that equates a sponsored driver to an incompetent one?

Some are of the opinion that you can buy a F1 race seat these days. I find that statement to be inherently false. Every driver has to go through the lower series and prove themselves with more than decent results to even have a crack at F1 regardless of sizeable sponsorship. No cabbage can just show up with a wad of cash and land a F1 race seat. That’s just not possible. The level of talent though, is another story and its certainly not measurable in terms of sponsorship money. Each individual case is different and I don’t think that a generalisation is correct or fair.

No pay driver can survive in F1 if he can’t prove his worth. They could very well get into F1 with sponsorship money, but staying there is a whole different ballgame. Look at Senna as a good example. Yes, it makes life harder for the experienced drivers who often have to leave due to lack of sponsorship, but then, if a driver has proven himself to be good enough, no team would let go of him. We can argue that the likes of Kobayashi, Glock, Kovalainen or Sutil deserve a seat, but if you look at it from another perspective, none of these drivers could achieve the big results that would guarantee them a competitive race seat. Seems unfair, given most of these drivers hardly ever had a winning car (though some did and still couldn’t bring home the results) but that’s how sport is. You have a very limited time to make your presence felt and early impressions are very important. Make no mistake though, every driver who manages to break into F1 is immensely talented, but there are some that go another step ahead and that’s when they become an Alonso or Hamilton or Vettel. I could count more than those three when it comes to champion material (Hulkenberg comes to mind), but the point is, if you have enough in you, ideally, you wouldn’t need huge sums of sponsorship money to get a team to keep you or hire you (in most cases).

Nico Hulkenberg secures GP2 Title

The thing is, if you have made enough good noises in the lower/feeder categories, a team shouldn’t have to think too hard or look at the size of your sponsorship wallet before signing you up. Of course, every single driver needs some sort of sponsorship or it would just not be possible for them to get through the whole routine that starts at an early age with karting and the eventual progression leading to F1 but that’s not the sponsorship we’re talking about. In today’s motor racing world, it would seem like you either have to have some pretty solid, glowing results on your CV or some decent results and solid sponsorship. But, that’s not always the case & there are always exceptions and unusual situations. So, its not fair to tag someone as a pay driver and automatically infer that he would be no good. People were saying similar things about Checo when he got in with Telmex money, look at him now! People said Maldonado was a useless pay driver until he proved how fast he was and that race win was no fluke. Although he managed to turn it all into an overall negative with his over-aggressive driving and countless crashes, he’s certainly not useless.

On the other hand, I’ve seen arguments in for, that new/rookie drivers make too many mistakes or don’t perform as well due to the lack of testing in F1 and they’re thrown into an F1 car with almost no experience or practice. There is some substance to that thought and I would not entirely disagree with it. But, most of these drivers get numerous chances (its a long season) to learn and correct their mistakes. Some do and shine, while others remain error/crash-prone or just don’t improve in pace. So again, a generalisation is simply not possible. The testing ban is not going anywhere and I think its a good thing. It keeps the playing field much more level as opposed to unlimited testing where teams with deeper pockets can obviously gain massive advantages. But it affects everybody the same. Every driver has to live with it. The ones who got in before the ban certainly benefited from it but those benefits only stay in play for the initial period of a driver’s stint in F1. So, that’s not really an excuse for not delivering over an entire season, neither is it the reason why someone else is delivering. Besides, this has nothing to do with sponsorship money/pay driver.

Pastor Maldonado

F1 is a pretty ruthless sport and you get chewed and spat out pretty quick if you don’t move fast enough. Mere performance is no guarantee. You have to stand out. You have to surpass expectations. Yes, the machinery plays a very important role in all of this, but then, if you manage to out-deliver your machinery, it won’t go unnoticed. Irrespective of your sponsors’ dough, these are the things that ultimately count. By no means am I saying that the drivers who lost out were not worthy, its just that the ones who got in might be just as worthy and they bring in some much needed funds and are younger. Its all a game of balancing and signing a driver, old or new, is akin to dealing a hand in poker. You win some, you lose some. Disregarding a driver just for the fact that he got sponsorship money along is just as unfair as saying an experienced driver got kicked out because he was no good. In the same vein, every driver who lost a seat did not necessarily lose out because he had no sponsorship to back him up. None of it is black & white, and this whole generalisation needs to stop.

Maldonado wins 2012 Spanish GP.

Let the driver prove himself before you start making judgements. A pay driver is not equal to an incompetent one and an incompetent driver cannot stay in the sport regardless of how much he (or his sponsors) paid. There’s very little margin for mediocre in this sport and that margin certainly does not get any wider with money.

FanVision (formerly Kangaroo TV) quits F1.

Reports suggest that FanVision have ended their ties with Formula 1 following problems in (you guessed it..) contract negotiations with the Formula One group (read Bernie).

As with everything Bernie, it was a money issue. The rather useful handheld device that many fans & team personnel used and loved during a grand prix weekend will no longer be available for Formula 1 services.

Jenson Button with the new FanVision handheld.

The device, while considered by some to be too expensive to buy or hire, was a very reliable and convenient way to keep up with all the action and data during a GP weekend. Although FanVision dropped prices recently, and was also trying to work out deals with promoters to include the units in the ticket price, the consumption among fans was low, albeit improving. But, its now no more. While leagues like NFL and series like NASCAR will continue to enjoy FanVision services, F1 will have to do without it.

FanVision spokeswoman: “As you know we have, for some months, been trying to find the basis of an agreement between FanVision and FOM in order to continue providing the service in F1 in 2013. Unfortunately it is now clear that we are not going to be able to agree terms with FOM and very reluctantly we have to confirm that we won’t be in F1 in 2013. It’s a big blow for us.”

This is the latest addition to a long queue of anti-fan decisions by the F1 group. The 2011 move to paid (dearly) Sky Sports for the British F1 coverage was met with severe criticism and furore from fans and teams alike. Similar moves happened with telecasts in other countries too. That was followed by removal of the free Live Timing app and giving fans only one, paid (dearly again), app. That, unsurprisingly, left even more fans disgruntled. Disappearing European races have already been a major cause for concern.

Where will this end? Well..

Who deserves the 2nd seat at Force India? [Vote]

That second seat. Yes. Its become a mystical place and everybody wants to know WHO? The Silverstone squad is probably enjoying the anxiety and drumming among fans and the paddock as to who’s it going to be.

Here’s a poll to give us an idea who the fans think is the most deserving. Vote your choice by clicking on the driver’s name.

Any reasoning for your choice or if you have another driver that you think is more deserving, please leave a comment. I’ll add the most popular 6th driver (if any) to the final tally.

Update: 

Poll now closed. Thanks for voting!

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1

Kamui Kobayashi

As evident from the graphic, most votes went to Kamui Kobayashi

We hope he makes a strong return in 2014 as his 2013 hopes have, admittedly, been wrapped up.

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2

Heikki Kovalainen

Heikki Kovalainen was voted as the second most deserving.

Another driver whose 2013 hopes are almost none.

F1 can be really cruel!

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Poll: 2nd seat at Force India must go to

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* Multiple votes will neither be registered nor counted.