Does the Australian Grand Prix predict the world champion?

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I’ve heard it said that the winner of the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne is very often the man who becomes world champion – which would be good news for Lewis Hamilton.

It seemed an easy theory to test out so I totted up the numbers and found it is a very good indicator of who will win the championship: but two other races are just as good.

The Australian Grand Prix moved to Melbourne and its season-opening slot in 1996. Since then it has accurately predicted the champion on eight occasions including the last two years – a 66% strike rate. The winners were:

  • 1996: Damon Hill
  • 1998: Mika Hakkinen
  • 2000: Michael Schumacher
  • 2001: Michael Schumacher
  • 2002: Michael Schumacher
  • 2004: Michael Schumacher
  • 2006: Fernando Alonso
  • 2007: Kimi Raikkonen

No race that has been on the calendar since then has been won by the eventual champion of a given year as many times. But two other races tie with the Australian round: the Spanish and Japanese Grands Prix.

Of course not all the tracks currently on the calendar have been there since 1996. So of the new additions, which is performing best? The Bahrain Grand Prix, which has accurately predicted the champion on three of four occasions.

Contrarily, which races are the worst indicators of eventual champions? Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s two of F1’s oldest and most diametrically different venues: Monza and Monte-Carlo.

Monte-Carlo, the slowest and tightest track on the calendar, has only been won by the eventual champion three times in the last 12 years: Hakkinen in 1998, Schumacher in 2001 and Alonso in 2006.

And ultra-fast Monza has only been won by the eventual champion twice in the same time: Schumacher in 2000 ans 2003.

What can we make of this? Not much, but it might be of interest to gamblers…

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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12 comments on “Does the Australian Grand Prix predict the world champion?”

  1. To look at this year’s race for a moment, the McLaren car obviously looked strong and reliable as ever out there. On the same hand, I was shocked to see both Ferraris out of the running- although I thought Raikkonen drove very well at times. Do any of you think this is an indicator of how the cars will fare on different tracks and at races deeper in, or will things turn around in Maranello in the next few races?

  2. Hamilton wont make the same mistakes as last time!

    Maybe he will be champion this year…

    Expect rain for the next race… This wil be a true test because of no TC thus, I think who ever wins the first race in the rain will be our champ of 2008.

  3. Considering that for some of the period Schumacher practically walked to the titles it would be better statistically to remove his dominating years since he was most likely to win the race because they were so far ahead of the opposition.

  4. What may skew your theoretical OZ GP predictor is the fact that Schumi claimed it 5 of the 8 times while on a historically unprecedented roll?

    Just wondering.

  5. To quote Murray, "anything can happen in Formula One, and occasionally it does".

    There are no set rules, I of course see Ferrari’s worst result in Melbourne for a while a minor set back, but as a top team they will not give up -and that’s the fiery instinct that earn some fans…their history will never die so easily.

    Bear in mind last year Raikonnen won the first GP but could’ve slipped out of contention the way he was going – and eventually won the WDC (by whatever means people interpret it).

    Hamilton could easily slip all the way down in the classifications from this point on and still win the WDC in Brazil.  So nothing’s a given.  There’s a lot of progression by various teams, and conversely a lot of falling behind a bit, in F1 during the season – so the rate of development is more the key race (especially given more restrictive rules nowadays).

    However, unless Ferrari get their act together, driver-wise and reliability wise, it could be plain sailing for Hamilton.  I didn’t expect much from Kimi in Australia, but I didn’t expect him to fall asleep the couple of times he was made to look like a fool.  I just hope he’s not trying to readjust to whatever factor’s causing him problems, but at the same time he’s got the experience that he knows he can’t give up.

    The one point he "earned" in Melbourne could prove vital to the championship, it’s the difference he won it by last year from both drivers of the main rival team.

    I’ve still got my money on Kimi.

  6. Interesting. I’ve tried to look at the raw pace of McLaren vs Ferrari here:

    It’s difficult to peer through the fug but it seems that McLaren may have a slight edge in raw pace, which has to be worrying for Ferrari, especially given how Kimi cantered to victory at Albert Park last year.

    Sepang will provide a lot of answers — and no doubt many questions.

  7. Be under no illusion, Ferrari still has the fastest car by far.

  8. Didnt it used to be that it was almost impossible to tell the quickest car until the teams were back in Europe?

    Ferrari had a brock weekend, both drivers were awful, they may well have cost the team a championship.

    I loved seeing Ron Dennis punch the air when Kov overtook Alonso, pity we didnt see Flavio’s reaction when the reverse happened……funny moment of the race!


  9. You’re right to say one cannot draw any conclusions from this – the sample size is far, far too small for any "patterns" picked up to not be due to random "sampling variability".

  10. The ONLY reason Hamilton won in Australia was because Ferrari had engine problems. They’ll have the engines sorted out for Malaysia, and Kimi will start winning again; within the next 5 or 6 races he’ll be leading the championship and Australia will have been forgotten.

  11. I truly believed the preseason Ferrari hype, and with the car set up for Kimi’s driving style I expected a huge win by him. I predicted Hamilton, but expected a Kimi win.

    Last year’s fall off by Kimi was due to the team’s inability to set up the car to his style in the early part of the season (at least that’s what’s been written).

    I hope we have a seesaw battle between several teams, it’s what’s been missing from the sport for many a year. (Thanks Schumy!)

  12. Hamilton also won at Monte-Carlo in ’08 of course.

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