F1 2009: The year in stats (Part 1)

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Sebastian Vettel was the best qualifier of 2009

Next week’s installment of the F1 Fanatic post-season review will include the driver rankings, which I’m writing at the moment (and keeping a close eye on your suggestions in the forum).

To help me work out who’s done the best job this year I’ve compiled some statistics on the drivers’ performances in 2009. Who was the best qualifier? Who made the best starts and overtook the most people during races? Find out below.

Making up places

Drivers total position changes on lap one (excluding retirements)

One of the regular features of races in 2009 was how the KERS-equipped cars were able to make terrific progress at the start of races.

So it’s something of a surprise that the best starters of 2009 were not necessarily those who had KERS cars all year: Giancarlo Fisichella only had one for six races and Nico Rosberg was KERS-less all year long. And though Fisichella’s position improvement can partly be explained by him usually having a poor grid position, Rosberg was the sixth-best qualifier of the year on average.

The best individual start of the year was made by Heikki Kovalainen, who picked up seven places from 18th on the grid at Spain, largely thanks to a multi-car crash which happened in front of him.

Kovalainen’s team mate Lewis Hamilton made the worst start of year (aside from drivers who retired on lap one) when he lost 15 places at the Nurburgring after puncturing his tyre on the first lap.

As the second-best qualifier of the year it would be unreasonable to expect Rubens Barrichello to gain many places on the first lap, but his poor starts at several races means he made a net loss of 14 places on the first lap of Grands Prix in 2009.

Drivers average position change in races and total participations

Looking at entire races, which drivers did the best job of finishing higher than where they started? Again this is partly influenced by how good their qualifying position was in the first place (worse qualifiers have more places to gain) and how many races they did.

The driver who stands out here is Timo Glock, who gained an average of 3.7 positions per race (fifth best) while having an average qualifying position that would place him in the middle of the grid.

Only three drivers finished lower on average than they started during 2009: Kazuki Nakajima, Kimi Raikkonen an Romain Grosjean.

Finishing and not finishing

Percentage of race starts completed and total participations

The old adage “to finish first, first you must finish” rings true here. Both Brawn drivers finished all but one race, while their Red Bull rivals had inferior finishing records.

Drivers DNFs

The incident-prone drivers stick out in this graph, including Adrian Sutil and Jarno Trulli who ended the year in a war of words following their first-lap collisions at Spain and Brazil. Nakajima and Kovalainen were the other two drivers who had three accident-related retirements in 2009 (though by no means were they necessarily to blame for them).

The least reliable car was the Toro Rosso, with Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastien Buemi and Sebastien Bourdais suffering seven car-related DNFs between them.

Robert Kubica was the only other driver to suffer three mechanical DNFs, and no driver finished every single race.

Starting and scoring

Drivers' average starting positions

This chart shows best average starting positions after penalties, which Sebastian Vettel leads despite his ten-place grid penalty at Malaysia. He and Jenson Button had the same number of pole positions, with four each.

Points per race and points per finish

This chart shows how badly Vettel’s difficulty in finishing races (for both mechanical and driver-related reasons) affected his season. He actually scored a greater number of points per finish than Button – but because Button finished more races, he out-scored Vettel. Button’s 11-point margin meant had there been another round of the season to go he would still have been guaranteed the title.

2009 Drivers’ championship

2009 World Drivers' Championship - battle for the title

Two drivers regularly scored points without their team mates ever getting in the top eight. They were Rosberg, with 34.5, and Fernando Alonso, with 26. Kazuki Nakajima was the only driver to start every race without scoring.

2009 World Drivers' Championship - final scores

2009 Constructors’ championship

2009 World Constructors' Championship - battle for the title

Taking the season as a whole, Red Bull went through two distinct phases of whittling away Brawn’s championship lead: between Turkey and Hungary, and again over the final three races of the season. They clearly ended the year as the team to beat.

As ever in Formula 1 it’s easy to pick out the winners but working out which of the drivers in less competitive cars has done well is much trickier.

Share your thoughts on which drivers impressed you in the comments, join in the debate in the forum, and stay tuned for the 2009 F1 driver rankings this week on F1 Fanatic.

2009 World Constructors' Championship - final scores

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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25 comments on “F1 2009: The year in stats (Part 1)”

  1. great stats there keith. one problem i noticed, the graph regarding the no. of retirements and the reason doesn’t seem to include webber’s first lap monza incident, just the singapore brake failure.

    i still find it hard to believe that nakajima didn’t score at all…

    for driver of the year, i’d still have to go with button. i still can’t think of more than 1 or 2 mistakes all season. probably the most consistent driver and certainly provided some great overtaking. despite my lack of fondness for lewis, i have to say he certainly would be up there too. he never gave up at the start of the season in such a poor car and his drives in singapore and hungary were faultless.

    1. I noticed about Mark Webber’s DNFs too.

      But other than that, good stats Keith. As you say though, the lap one position changes and the average position changes can’t be taken as just the stats alone as qualifying heavily influences that too.

    2. Can see the WDC was a real shot for Webber there at one point. Shame Red Bull had a mini self destruct mid season.
      Had Webber not gotten 2 or so bad pit strategies and pit errors he would have scared the crap of Button.
      He went from Valencia to japan with no points.

      Lets say he only collected 3 each round he would have beaten Vettel.
      At Spa he was in for good points, he should have finished in front of button at Valencia except for pit strategy call, Japan was really his own fault…could have been on podium for sure, Monza? who knows maybe a single point?
      Add that up and look how he and mainly RBR missed their best shot at winning this year.

  2. Wo, great stats!! Nice job

  3. Wow! What was that??!!! You are one hard working British citizen, Keith :) This should put formula1.com to shame. Plain awesome.

    Strange as it seems, Hamilton had 4 poles, but is still classified behind Kimi & Rosberg who had none.

    1. It shows how bad Hamiltons’ first half of the season was that despite all his poles his average grid position was only around 9th.

      1. For Sure, he was horrendous in the 1st half.

  4. I do hope that you don’t automatically put Button, Vettel, Barrichello and Webber as the best drivers this year. That would be futile as they clearly had the best cars – Brawn at the start of the season and Red Bull pretty much for the whole season. It should be based on what the drivers got out of the cars they had. Of course, I would put Lewis up there at the top, but I think you should also mark high Kimi (who made good once Massa had to leave in a crummy car), Heidfeld who outscored his highly recommended teammate, and a shout out for Kobayashi, who blazed onto the scene in the last couple of races.

    I predict the predictable though.

    1. It highlight a few things about drivers though, Webber is really world class, despite all the negative comments that normally come from ‘f1 fans’…
      It shows vettel is a true star but still needs time to develop.
      It show Rubins got robbed by his team with strategy calls, and is still a great wheel man, even though the oldest on grid(age isnt a barrier), it also highlights that Button while WDC is not the greatest driver ever to win title.
      Deserving yer..he did end up with most points and wins but he really went belly up when car wasnt perfect, where Rubins could drive the car and be competitive from start to end…
      How many times did he had less than perfect car and still be in the hunt in races…or how he had weird pit calls..???

      I am no LH fan but after he stopped throwing toys out of pram and had a better car he showed true grit, only bettered by Kimi IMHO as the Ferrari stop all development where Mclaren kept it going.

      Sutil is a danger on the road, and Nico is over rated. Heikki was a disappointment and is lucky there is a host of new teams to fall back on.

      1. Hamilton only once showed that he was fed up with the car. I’d hardly classify that as “throwing toys out of pram”

  5. On the drivers championship graph, did anybody notice the huge big horizontal line stretching across Mark Webber’s season? He went 5 races without scoring!

    I bet Red Bull will be kicking themselves over their mid season loss of form, 2009 was their one big chance to win the title and they blew it with their performances at Valencia, Spa and Monza in particular.

    1. Exactly. Mark Webber 2009 F1 champion. Sounds quite cool actually. If only they didn’t have all those problems you mentioned :(

      1. I wondered at the start of the season if Newey would come up with a fast but fragile car as he has sometimes done in the past.

        Also like in previous years its all very well saying if someone had had better reliability they would have been champion but if the team had gone for a reliability first approach they may not have been as quick as they were. It is often a trade off between speed and reliability.

        1. I wondered at the start of the season if Newey would come up with a fast but fragile car as he has sometimes done in the past.

          Newey always does that. Did it on numerous occasions when he was with Williams & McLaren.

          No doubt he is the greatest designer of the modern era. But his aggressive designs have cost Williams & McLaren world titles, most notably in 1991,2004,2005 & now Red Bull.

          1. Mike "the bike" Schumacher
            15th November 2009, 20:22

            They wouldn’t have been in the title hunt if it weren’t for his aggressive designs. 2004 Mclaren were nowhere near the pace of Ferrari or even BAR, and the Renault engine is surely what cost Red Bull the title this season along with newey’s non-agressive decision to not use a double diffuser from the begining also some blunders from Vettel.

            Hey keith, why not have a graph analysis of the predictions championship?

          2. huh?

            RBR retirements weren’t car issues really, apart from a few engine blowups the real problem had nothing to with car one bit…sure they had a performance dip but the car was still capable of points.
            RBR lost the WDC and WCC in the pits and in front of the strategy screen.

            The car itself was quite bullet proof.

  6. NIce stuff – especially the ‘points per’ and the drivers’ championship evolution – one other that would be great to see: driver lap-time consistency for the season. (Come to think of it, that will be much harder to quantify without refuelling next season.)

  7. Interesting analysis as always!

    Just out of curiosity, I’d like to see a graph of which race each driver dropped out of contention for the WDC. Maybe also for the Constructors’.

    For example (if memory serves), Button would be 17, Barrichello 16, Vettel 15, and so on. I’d like to get an idea of if there was a particular race when the frontrunners broke away from the rest, or if drivers just drop out gradually during the season.

  8. How on earth does you get so much time to make stat like that,great job.

  9. Thanks Keith, Nice stats and graph you’ve put together!

  10. Driver of the year for me would have to be Button but Webber would be a close second. With 69.5 points, Webber more than doubled his carrer tally. That to me shows he had a great year.

  11. Can there by any doubt now to how good Massa is? He finished third on the position change mark despite missing so much of the season! It took Heikki a full season in a much improved McLaren to score as many points as Massa had accumulated by Hungary! Were it not for the injury I suspect he would have been deep in the fight with Kimi and Lewis for best of the rest behind the Brawn and RBR guys and certainly had a victory or two. Sure would have shaken up the standings. But here’s to 2010!

  12. Can someone please tell Keith that it is off-season, he can take some rest ;-)

    On a serious note, Red Bull should have decimated Brawn from Turkey onwards. They missed European, Belgian, Italian Grand Prixes. These 3 races really guaranteed Jenson the title.Many things happened during this part.
    1) Renault engine broke down too many times
    2) Force India rose out of nowhere
    3) Mercedez engine showed that it was a class apart
    4) Rubens Barrichello managed 2 wins in a car that was not the fastest.

  13. Of course the only ‘stats’ that matters are the one that tell us which driver and which car came out on top.

  14. WOW, Badoer is great in the first 4 graphs!

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