2008 F1 season in statistics p1/2

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Nick Heidfeld came within five laps of completing every race in 2008

The first in a two-part breakdown of all the statistics of the 2008 F1 season starts with a look at how the championship battles were won.

Plus, who was the best qualifier, who crashed the most, and who led the most laps. And, why Lewis Hamilton would have missed the championship in 2002.

2008 World Drivers’ Championship – final standings

2008 World Drivers Championship - final standings (click to enlarge)

Of the 22 drivers in F1 this year, 18 scored points – all bar the Force India and Super Aguri pilots.

2008 World Drivers’ Championship – battle for the title

2008 World Drivers' Championship - battle for the title (click to enlarge)

For the second year in a row the title was won by a single points. The closest championship conclusion remains Niki Lauda’s half-point win over Alain Prost in 1984. Until Lewis Hamilton passed Timo Glock on the final lap of the Brazilian Grand Prix, F1 was heading for its first ever points tie at the end of a season, which would have given the title to Massa by dint of his six wins to Hamilton’s five.

2008 World Drivers’ Championship – different points systems

2008 World Drivers' Championship - different points systems (click to enlarge)

The current championship scoring system (10 points for first, then 8-6-5-4-3-2-1) was introduced in 2003. Under the two preceding systems, Massa would have been champion. This is the first time the current system has produced a champion different to what the previous system would have since it was introduced.

2008 World Constructors’ Championship – final standings

2008 World Constructors' Championship - final standings (click to enlarge)

Ferrari’s 21-point advantage over McLaren at the end of the season was greater than their lead over any of their rivals at any other point in 2008.

2008 World Constructors’ Championship – battle for the title

2008 World Constructors' Championship - battle for the title (click to enlarge)

Remnault snatched fourth place from Toyota with their run of form late in the season.

Average starting positions in 2008

Average starting positions in 2008 (click to enlarge)

Felipe Massa had the best average starting position (after penalties), ahead of Lewis Hamilton, with Kimi Raikkonen and Heikki Kovalainen tied.

Drivers in top three qualifying positions in 2008

Drivers in top three qualifying positions in 2008 (click to enlarge)

However Hamilton had the most pole positions, one more than Massa. The only drivers from outside the ‘Big Three’ teams to qualifying inside the top three were Fernando Alonso, Jarno Trulli, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.

Average position change in 2008

Average position change in 2008 (click to enlarge)

Massa has the worst average position change this year but that’s mainly because he was the best qualifier and because he was classified 17th at Hungary after his late engine failure. Given his strong qualifying performances, Alonso’s average position improvement of 1.28 is impressive.

Average points scored per race in 2008

Average points scored per race in 2008 (click to enlarge)

Hamilton and Massa’s statistics here tell the story of the championship. Massa had the best hit-rate of points per race of the races he finished. But Hamilton’s fractionally better points per race tally reveals how he edged Massa to the title.

A wide gap between ‘points per race’ and ‘points per finish’ indicates a driver whose points-scoring ability was inhibited by failing to finish races. Nelson Piquet Jnr is an obvious candidate here, but Sebastian Vettel’s tallies remind us how bad his finishing rate earlier in the season was.

DNFs in 2008

DNFs in 2008 (click to enlarge)

This chart also reflects poorly on Piquet – seven non-mechanical DNFs, two more than any other driver, though not all of which his fault. Hamilton had exactly the same finishing record as in 2007: no mechanical DNFs, just one driver error DNF. And, also as in 2007, it was a memorable one..

Laps led in 2008

Massa led the most laps but what caught my eye here is that Kubica, Alonso and Vettel all led more than Kovalainen.

There were 15 different lap leaders in 2008. This ties the all-time record also set in 1954, 1956, 1957, 1960 and 1975.

1. Felipe Massa 363
2. Lewis Hamilton 294
3. Kimi Raikkonen 178
4. Robert Kubica 68
5. Fernando Alonso 62
6. Sebastian Vettel 49
7. Heikki Kovalainen 31
8. Nick Heidfeld 21
9. Nelson Piquet Jnr 13
10. Jarno Trulli 13
11. Nico Rosberg 11
12. Rubens Barrichello 7
13. Timo Glock 3
14. Sebastien Bourdais 3
15. David Coulthard 1

Laps completed in 2008

Nick Heidfeld completed all but five laps this year. He finished four laps behind at Monaco and one down at Brazil.

1. Nick Heidfeld 1,112
2. Robert Kubica 1,084
3. Nico Rosberg 1,068
4. Lewis Hamilton 1,065
5. Felipe Massa 1,057
6. Kimi Raikkonen 1,042
7. Kazuki Nakajima 1,024
8. Heikki Kovalainen 1,011
9. Jarno Trulli 1,010
10. Fernando Alonso 1,000
11. Mark Webber 998
12. Rubens Barrichello 987
13. Timo Glock 950
14. Jenson Button 936
15. S??bastien Bourdais 887
16. David Coulthard 812
17. Sebastian Vettel 810
18. Giancarlo Fisichella 810
19. Nelson Piquet Jnr 776
20. Adrian Sutil 687
21. Takuma Sato 207
22. Anthony Davidson 119

Contribute to the F1 Fanatic 2008 F1 season review: Nominate your best and worst moments of the year, share your thoughts on the drivers and pick your favourite quotes of the year in the F1 Fanatic Forum

Author information

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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20 comments on “2008 F1 season in statistics p1/2”

  1. yorricksfriend
    15th November 2008, 8:12

    Very interesting statistics, thank you Keith. Especially interesting that Massa would’ve won under the previous point systems.

  2. How did Massa have only 2 DNFs last year? Malaysia, Australia and Hungary; isn’t it?

    Why was Felipe classified 17th in a race he didn’t even finish? unfair; isn’t it?

    And then; shouldn’t he have gotten a penalty for Valencia? since he changed the engine although he “officially” finished the earlier race ? ?

  3. Why was Felipe classified 17th in a race he didn’t even finish? unfair; isn’t it?

    If you complete 90% of the race distance, you are classified in the race result.

  4. Interesting that under the 2 previous ponits systems Massa would have Won the Drivers title ????

  5. Alianora La Canta
    15th November 2008, 11:21

    Sumedh, under the new-for-2008 get-out-of-jail-free-card rule, everyone was allowed one out-of-sync engine change without penalty. Massa chose to take his at Valencia, hence his lack of penalty.

  6. Piquet really looks bad here… It’s still a bit of a surprise for me that they are keeping him.
    But it might just be to play second fiddle to Alonso.

  7. Alianora;
    He took his joker at Monza; even though the earlier engine was brand new

  8. Amazing work Keith. Big Thanks.

    One small thing, Kimi’s “incident” in Canada, how have you consider it? An incident?

    Thanks again. Hard work here!!!!!

  9. Good work – v interesting. Hadn’t realised that Heidfeld finished every race!
    The other thing is that it’s true that Massa may have won on the old points system, but probably wouldn’t have without Lewis’s penalty at Spa. I think we were quite lucky that the final outcome did not revolve just around that one controversial decision. F1 would not have looked v good at all.

  10. michael counsell
    15th November 2008, 13:31

    1980 to 1990 wasn’t quite that simple as the points system changed almost every year allowing different amounts of races to count either from the full season or from the two halves of the season.. Due to the high reliability of the cars the top drivers would all lose points if the they had to drop their worst results.

  11. After reading the laps led data I had a crazy idea for a new points system (as discussed on the website recently). How about awarding a point for each lap led? I know this would create anomalies during pit stops, but it would also give a real motivation to overtake, not play things so tactically… just a thought!

  12. Keith….amazingly good stuff. This has certainly become my first choice in F1 sites, although it seems I always show up for the dance just as the lights are being turned out.

    The graph for WDC certainly shows Kimi’s “flat-spot” after Hungary. Four races without a point.

    Question: Does driving from the rear of the grid automatically put you in harms way (Force India retirements from incidents)? Perhaps you get crazy constantly seeing everything from the back end?

    My biggest disappointment for the year?
    Sutil’s Monaco incident.

  13. Terrific stats there. However, I find a mistake in DNFs section. Massa had engine failures in both Australia and Hungary which makes 2 Mechanical DNFs but I guess since he was classified in Hungary you have not counted it. I think it would be perfect if you could add that too.

  14. IDR – Thanks and yes, that’s an ‘incident’.

    Gabriel – Agreed.

    MW – No that would be way too complicated. Doesn’t NASCAR’s points system include points per lap led, or points for the most laps led?

    Roswelite – Thankyou! I think you’re probably more likely to be in harm’s way if you start anywhere from about row four and back.

    Sudarsan – No, because Massa was a classified finisher (see the text under ‘Average position change’). Another example is Heikki Kovalainen, whose car failed on the final lap at Spa, but was a classified finisher.

  15. Great charts, Keith. I’ve taken some of your numbers and run with them. My charts are up on mediafire, which I have never used before, but hopefully the links below should work.

    First I looked at the difference in average starting position between teammates. It shows that Piquet has real problems at Renault, but there’s also an interesting pattern that drivers at the front or back of the grid are much closer together, which is easily explained. There are also no real anomalies in midfield qualifying apart from Piquet.

    This also made me think about starting position and number of DNF incidents as theRoswellite mentions. Basically, the further back you qualify, the greater the risk of an incident, but again there are anomalies. Every 5 or 6 places further back on the grid doubles the chance of an incident.

    Because Nelson Piquet has had the worst qualifying relative to his team mate than any other driver, as well as being accident prone, I took a closer look at Renault’s qualifying to see if there is any glimmer that perhaps he has gradually improved over the course of the season. There isn’t.

  16. @John Spencer

    I made a similar comparison between Alonso and Piquet, but I did it on the difference of their Q1 or Q2 qualifiying times (depending on the highest session which Piquet reached).

    Obviously this isn’t entirely fair since often Alonso did just one run in Q1 where Piquet was struggling to get out of Q1 (and failed) while Alonso would improve in Q2. There is no real drive to set the fastest time possible in Q1 or Q2. Trouble is that Q3 is hindered by differing fuel loads so that really makes it impossible to be used. Besides Piquet only reached Q3 in 3 instances.

    Anyway here is my chart:

    To me it looks like the gap was mostly around 3 tenths all season. With some obvious exceptions, but still, the mass of it is rather solid around that line.

  17. yoricksfriend, interesting yes, but without the unfair, unjust, inconsistant and undeniably biased against Hamilton and pro Massa penalties, Lewis would have won under any points system.

  18. Remember the old Murray Walker aphorism ‘to finish first, first you must finish’? It was almost annoying as ‘IF is Formula 1 backwards’. Don’t worry if you have no idea what I’m going on about. But I plotted points scored against total laps completed from Keith’s table above.

    In 2008, between team mates the driver who completed more laps always scored more points, as you might expect. The only exceptions to this were Kubica and Vettel.

    @Patrickl – it’s surprising that the time gap between Alonso and Piquet was so small (most of the time) given the large difference in qualifying position. The nature of the qualifying system make this comparison difficult, as you say, and in 2008 0.3 seconds was a helluva long time in qualifying, but perhaps Piquet isn’t quite as slow as he seems …?

  19. @John Spencer

    Like you said 0.3s IS a lot of time these days.

    I’d also say that Piquet’s biggest problem is that he finished only half the races.

  20. @ John Spencer, RE: DNFs & Starting Position

    Interesting comparison. Two issues raised from this in my mind, 1) does a poor qualifying performance increase you chance of a DNF due to the traffic in front of you, or 2) do those who tend to qualify towards the back tend to get more DNFs due to (relatively) poor driver skills and (relatively) worse racing kit?

    1) seems a logical extension. More cars to pass, more chance of a prang.

    2) seems to explain both the persistence of DNFs and of poor qualifying performance.

    In reality I’m sure it’s a combination of the two, but food for thought none the less. It would be interesting, but highly time consuming, to isolate DNFs caused by car collisions and those from general mechanicals.

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