Finishing Position of the GOATs Part 2

Here we look at the statistics of more of the greatest ever F1 drivers. Every driver who’s ever won multiple world championships or won at least 20GP is included either in part 1 or here. That still leaves plenty of exceptional talents (13 world champions are not included) to be looked at another time. Compared to part 1, the drivers listed below are more likely to have successful periods of their career, as opposed to the sustained success that Prost, Fangio and Hamilton achieved.

The drivers looked at here are: Ascari, Brabham, G.Hill, Fittipaldi, Piquet, Mansell, D.Hill, Häkkinen, Räikkönen and N.Rosberg.

Points finishes are from the time of the race (so a 9th place finish would count today, but wouldn’t for most of F1 history). “Other” includes disqualifications, races where the driver didn’t start or withdrew. For the graphs all classifications count as finishes, but any reference in the text to reaching the chequered flag means that they actually crossed the finish line.

Alberto Ascari (33 entries)

Ascari’s percentage records are similar to that of Fangio’s and Clark’s, with the caveat that he only entered 33 championship races. His record of 9 consecutive victories (not including the Indy 500) has never been bettered, and his 13 victories were all achieved within a span of 16 race starts. Whilst this is sometimes attributed to the dominant Ferrari car of 1952-1953, he was never seriously troubled by any teammate. His run of success was followed by 7 straight retirements (although he did record 2 fastest laps in this period) before an untimely death whilst testing for Ferrari at Monza.

Jack Brabham (128 entries)

Whilst Brabham is rarely thought of in the same bracket as rivals such as Jim Clark or Jackie Stewart in terms of raw talent, his claim to F1 greatness is clear. He was only the 2nd driver to win 3 or more titles, and one of only a handful to win championships with more than 1 team. Arguably his greatest F1 triumph was winning with his own team (Brabham). It took him a full 5 years to win a race with Brabham, which partially explain why his win rate is relatively low for a 1960s driver. His high DNF rate is also due to his last 3 years in the sport: in his last 33 races he finished just 13 times.

Graham Hill (179 entries)

As with Brabham, Hill’s stats are notable for a high DNF rate and a low win rate considering he was a multiple world champion in the 1960s. Hill failed to finish his first 7 F1 championship races, and took a while to get a competitive package. However, along with his 2 championships, Hill was also the championship runner up 3 times, showing that his success was not limited to just a couple of seasons. (He actually outscored champion Surtees in 1964, but lost the title due to not all races counting towards the championship). The very high rate of non-points finishes is largely caused by the end of his career. In his last 3 years he finished 21 races, but only managed a single point. In fairness, most drivers retire when their competitive results (or ability) drops, so such a result is not unusual.

Emerson Fittipaldi (149 entries)

Fittipaldi’s successes in F1 were highly concentrated between 1972 and 1975. During. this period he won 2 world championships and 13 races. In his 7 other years in F1 there was just a single victory and a further 5 podiums. Most of this was self-inflicted, as he left title winners McLaren after 1975 to set up his own racing team, in a similar vein to Brabham before him. The Fittipaldi racing team was the only constructor ever to be based in Brazil, but it achieved little success even with such a high profile driver at the wheel.

Nelson Piquet (207 entries)

Piquet’s Brabham years were littered with unreliability, but still yielded 2 titles. For his final championship with Williams he won only half the races of teammate Mansell, but made up the difference with several more podiums. Piquet’s wins are remarkably spread out over 10 seasons, and he only won 3 races in each of his championship years. He is the only triple world champion not to dominate in at least 1 of his championship years, instead being consistently near the front for an extended period of time.

Nigel Mansell (191 entries)

I previously noted how Prost and Senna’s stats were eerily similar. Mansell and Piquet also had similar stats for most of the 1980s, before a flurry of success in the early 1990s pulled Mansell’s win rate clear. Mansell’s DNF rate is unusually high for a driver with such a long and accomplished career. Unusually this is not caused by a particular year or stint in a poor package. In every season he raced in F1 he retired from at least 25% of the races he competed in, with over half of the seasons featuring retirements in at least 50%. Between the 1987 Japanese GP and the 1991 Sam Marino GP, he reached the chequered flag just 15 times in 49 races, despite being a top driver in 2 of the top 3 teams of the era (Williams and Ferrari).

Damon Hill (122 entries)

Damon Hill is often overlooked in discussions of the greatest ever F1 drivers. Hill spent over half is career at Williams, and during that period the team won the constructors title 3 times. He also faced Prost, Senna and Mansell as teammates during this period, meaning he was directly compared to some of the very best (albeit all had mitigating circumstances as to why they were not at their peak). Hill’s record at Williams is actually pretty exceptional: he won 85% of the races he finished. (For comparison Hamilton at Mercedes is on just 78%.) However. he was involved in more self-inflicted DNFs during that period than one would expect for an absolute top line driver. His post Williams career featured some giant killing performances, but was rather spotty overall.

Mika Häkkinen (165 entries)

Despite spending the vast majority of his career with McLaren, Häkkinen spent several years in the midfield due to the team going through a dry patch. His first 2 victories were also controversial, as teammate Coulthard let him through both times. However, his win rate after his first win was relatively strong (20/66). Only once during that period was he classified outside of the points: the 2001 Spanish Grand Prix. In it he led by well over half a minute before engine issues on the final lap.

Kimi Räikkönen (351* entries)

Whilst Kimi has been anything but an ordinary F1 driver, his career arc is actually pretty typical, with a rise, peak and fall. As he is currently the most experienced F1 driver ever (a title he is likely to lose to Alonso next year) it would be difficult to maintain high percentages of victories and podiums for so long, but he still managed 8 different seasons with a victory and 14 with at least a podium. His recent stint at Alfa Romeo is by far his least successful, resulting in 2/3rds of his non-points finishes.

*Correct as of 2021 Qatar GP

Nico Rosberg (206 entries)

Like Häkkinen, Rosberg took his time winning his first race before landing himself in a competitive car that allowed him to win the championship. His DNF rate is typical for the era in which he raced, but Nico does have the distinction of being the only driver here without a single DSQ, DNS or DNQ in his F1 career. Whether this is down to the driver, the racing era or pure luck is up for debate, but it’s probably a combination of factors.

As discussed in Rosberg’s career review, Nico produced better and better results almost every year in F1. He went 6 full seasons without winning a race (including 2 seasons with Mercedes), before finally winning one in 2012. In the next years he won 2, 5, 6 and finally 9 races in his championship year in 2016.

Conclusions

Most of the general trends previous identified have been continued here. Top drivers in the 1950s and 1960s had shorter careers (often due to fatalities) with fewer wins, but a much better chance of having a higher percentage of victories. This is particularly true when DNFs are factored in, although Graham Hill’s relatively low numbers are a reminder that the car has always been a major factor.

DNFs are significantly lower for modern drivers than is typical in F1 history, but the idea that F1 cars have generally become more reliable over time appears to be an oversimplification: retirement rates for great drivers in the 1950s-1990s are broadly flat, with a significant decline occurring in the early 2000s.

If you haven’t already, please see part 1 here where we look at the stats of Fangio, Clark, Stewart, Lauda, Senna, Prost, Schumacher, Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton.

2 thoughts on “Finishing Position of the GOATs Part 2

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