Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2022

Analysis: Did any F1 driver have worse luck than Alonso last season?

2022 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by

It is often suggested that while misfortune such as a car failure or a shunt may ruin one race for a driver, over a season of more than 20 rounds that tends to even out. In reality this is seldom the case, and some drivers end up suffering more bad luck than their rivals during a championship.

In typical style, Fernando Alonso openly lamented his misfortune as his second season at Alpine drew to a close late last year. “It’s just amazing that only one or two cars retire at every race and it’s always car 14,” he remarked following one retirement.

As far as his own team goes, Alonso appears to have had a point: Esteban Ocon did not encounter as many problems on the other side of the garage. But what about the rest of the 20-car field? Was anyone else as ill-served by fortune but less vocal about it?

To look back over the 2022 season and find the unluckiest drivers on the grid, it’s important to go beyond just what happens on race day. Problems that arise in practice can have a major knock-on effect for a driver’s weekend, while something going wrong in qualifying could ruin a driver’s chances before the race has even begun.

So to assess how unlucky the field is, RaceFans looked back over all 22 race weekends to see how many times each driver experienced a significant problem in any session that affected them negatively that could reasonably be considered as out of their control. That includes any car problems that limited running, slowed them down or led to retirement.

Furthermore, the tally counted any damage sustained in collisions where the other driver involved was deemed responsible or where they were an innocent third party (racing incidents between two drivers where no further action was taken are not included). Any rounds in which the driver served a power unit penalty of some kind and significantly long pit stops were also included.

Anything where a driver has a reasonable degree of control over what happened, such as hitting the wall or suffering damage as a result of a collision where the driver shared a level of responsibility, is not counted. Further, any situation where a driver lost out due a Safety Car or a poor strategy decision will be considered as just part of the sport.

Our analysis indicates five drivers had the most conspicuously poor fortune during 2022, and at least one can consider himself about as unlucky as Alonso was.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Kevin Magnussen

Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Interlagos, 2022

Car problems in practice: 4
Car problems in qualifying: 1
Rounds with PU grid penalty: 3
Minor car problems in a race/sprint: 2
Significantly slow pit stops: 0
Retirements from contact: 1
Retirements from car failure: 2
Retirement rate: 22.7%

Kevin Magnussen’s return to Formula 1 was by no means straightforward. He made an impressive return to the sport by scoring multiple points with Haas over the opening rounds, but his luck soon turned.

Among the technical troubles Magnussen encountered with his VF-22 were a series of power unit problems. As ever, these proved a double whammy, compromising both the events in which they struck and subsequent rounds where he had to take grid penalties: France, Italy and Mexico.

Then there is the matter of the highly unusual trio of black-and-orange flags Magnussen encountered over the season, each forcing him into the pits for repairs and badly compromising his races. Should these be considered examples of misfortune?

Arguably not, as each was provoked by contact with another driver which caused the initial damage. But as Haas pointed out other drivers in similar situations were not always called into the pits by the race director, notably Fernando Alonso in Austin.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Yuki Tsunoda

Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri, Circuit Zandvoort, 2022

Car problems in practice: 2
Car problems in qualifying: 1
Rounds with PU grid penalty: 5
Minor car problems in a race/sprint: 1
Significantly slow pit stops: 1
Retirements from contact: 2
Retirements from car failure: 2
Retirement rate: 23.8%

Yuki Tsunoda is no stranger to having his race weekends involving some kind of misfortune or regrettable incident, as he experienced at least one instance of bad luck in over half the rounds in 2022.

Some were his fault, such as his collision with team mate Pierre Gasly at Silverstone, and so have not been counted here. But on other occasions he was simply unfortunate, as in Baku where his DRS failed while he was on course for a good result. He also received grid penalties at five rounds during the year – almost a quarter of the season.

Pierre Gasly

Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri, Singapore, 2022

Car problems in practice: 1
Car problems in qualifying: 2
Rounds with PU grid penalty: 3
Minor car problems in a race/sprint: 1
Significantly slow pit stops: 0
Retirements from contact: 2
Retirements from car failure: 1
Retirement rate: 13.6%

Statistically, Pierre Gasly’s season may not have looked all too challenging. However, the second AlphaTauri driver suffered some unique misfortunes over the course of the year.

At the Red Bull Ring, he was denied the opportunity to participate in Q3 in unusual circumstances, due to Sergio Perez being allowed through into the final phase of qualifying despite having set an illegal last time. By the time the stewards deleted Perez’s lap, qualifying was over. Then, in Hungary, Gasly had his own lap time deleted for exceeding track limits, despite it appearing that he had kept within the margins.

Gasly also had the misfortune of hitting an advertising board that was dislodged by Carlos Sainz Jnr at a soaking wet Suzuka circuit. That led to the pit stop and delay which caused his frightening near-miss with a crane the following lap.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Circuit de Catalunya, 2022

Car problems in practice: 1
Car problems in qualifying: 1
Rounds with PU grid penalty: 3
Minor car problems in a race/sprint: 3
Significantly slow pit stops: 1
Retirements from contact: 0
Retirements from car failure: 5
Retirement rate: 27.3%

Officially, Alonso only retired from four grands prix due to car-related failures in 2022. But that under-reads the scale of the misfortune he suffered. He also pulled his Alpine off the circuit in Mexico after a power unit failure but was classified as a finisher as he’d completed more than 90% of the race distance.

At Imola he dropped out with damaged caused when Mick Schumacher hit him. Then there were the occasions when he was compromised by car problems which did not end his race, as in Canada.

His bad luck wasn’t confined to Sundays, either. In Austria Alonso was unable to even start the sprint race due to an electronic control unit failure. Add to that his poorly-timed hydraulics failure in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, while he was threatening to claim a place on the front row, and it’s easy to understand why the two-times world champion was so frustrated with his season.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Valtteri Bottas

Car problems in practice: 6
Car problems in qualifying: 1
Rounds with PU grid penalty: 3
Minor car problems in a race/sprint: 1
Significantly slow pit stops: 1
Retirements from contact: 1
Retirements from car failure: 4
Retirement rate: 27.3%

With Friday practice lengths having been reduced from 90 minutes to 60 in recent seasons, drivers now enjoy only three hours of track time on standard race weekends to set up their cars for qualifying and the race. But Valtteri Bottas had less track time than everyone in 2022 but to just how frequently he was forced to sit out entire sessions due to car problems.

Although Bottas would likely take poor reliability on Fridays in exchange for his car not letting him down on Sundays, that happened on a few occasions during the year too.

Fortunately for him, as the season went on Alfa Romeo began to improve on their poor reliability. Unfortunately, as they did, the team found themselves caught by their midfield rivals. But in the end, Bottas’s early season success allowed them to cling onto sixth in the constructors’ championship on count-back.

Become a RaceFans Supporter

RaceFans is run thanks in part to the generous support of its readers. By contributing £1 per month or £12 per year (or the same in whichever currency you use) you can help cover the costs of creating, hosting and developing RaceFans today and in the future.

Become a RaceFans Supporter today and browse the site ad-free. Sign up or find out more via the links below:

2022 F1 season

Browse all 2022 F1 season articles

Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

33 comments on “Analysis: Did any F1 driver have worse luck than Alonso last season?”

  1. Alonso probably lost out on the most points through Mechanical issues – somewhere close to 60.
    Bottas faced the most mechanical issues, but didn’t lose out on more than a handful of points (10 to 15 max)
    Leclerc lost the most points through both strategy and mechanical issues throughout the year – Over 60 points for sure.

    Just goes to show how it can skew teammate performance –
    Alonso should have finished 50 points ahead of Ocon, and the best of the rest in the midfield – 7th place. He should have had atleast a dozen points in hand over Norris, who had 122 points. Instead he finishes in 9th place … around 11 points behind Ocon.
    Bottas should have absolutely smashed Zhou in the points total – Somewhere close to 10X the amount of points
    Leclerc should have finished nearly a 120 points clear of his teammate. That’s similar to the gap Max had on Perez. Can’t believe people are still convinced Sainz is a match for Leclerc.

    1. Do not forget to add the lost points of other drivers, too. It does not work like “Leclerc lost 60 points so add 60 points to his points tally and do not change anything else”.

      1. Sainz didn’t lose out.. He actually gained points through strategy. The only mechanical dnf he had was in Austria.. The rest were when he crashed out due to incompetence.

        Ocon lost around 10 points max through his mechanical dnfs.

        Doesn’t change the picture much does it?

        1. Absolutely true, though it must be included ofc when you do this work, should make some mechanical-dnf corrected standings for everyone.

        2. You mean the strategy calls Sainz made over the team while Leclerc followed orders to oblivion. I mean that sort of thing counts for nothing clearly. I’ll wager now that Leclerc will not score 100 points more than Sainz next year, lets see how confident you are in the chosen one.

        3. Agreed. Hard to argue as well as they hired Sainz to be the supporting driver for Charles.

  2. Josh Hetherton
    4th January 2023, 8:41

    Two words – Charles LeClerc :/

  3. Three words – Charles Le Clerc

    1. Two Words.
      Charles Leclerc.
      No Space between Le and Clerc

      1. It’s not even close, Alonso was by far the unluckiest. His number of reliability issues was in par with the McLaren Honda years. That’s insane

  4. Four words – Char Les Le Clerc

  5. Jeffrey Powell
    4th January 2023, 11:20

    Yes he was unlucky by modern F1 standards so as a fan of F1 during the last 7 decades I thought I would look back at reliability when I first went to grand prix in the 1960s . I suppose the years and a modicum of red wine had dulled my memory but looking back I found it hard to believe how bad things were. My great hero Jochen Rindt retired from more than 60% of the races he took part in . 1969 a pretty good year using the Lotus 49 with a total of 11 races he finished in just 4 races. On pace he should have easily beaten Stewart for the championship that year , but then was then and now is now, leaving aside and obviously one can’t, the awful human cost of that era , one’s hero running out of fuel , having a wheel fall of or just suffering one of a plethora of mechanical failures, certainly added to the mental anguish at each race.

  6. I think it cannot be ignored that drivers surely play a role in their own reliability. Fernando Alonso has had a lot of mechanical unreliability since he left Ferrari, and I’m not sure that it’s just bad luck. In his career, Alain Prost retired from 56 races, while his teammates during the time had a total of 99 retirements. That does not happen by accident, he was clearly better at nursing his car to the end, and although Ayrton Senna was considerably faster than him during their time as teammates between 1988 and 1989, it again was not a coincidence that Prost outscored Senna in both seasons. He didn’t just get involved in fewer accident, he was also kinder on the car. On the other hand, Jean-Pierre Jabouille had a terrible retirement rate compared to his teammates, and that too is surely as a result of him pushing too hard and the car not being able to handle it. In earlier days, it was perhaps more prevalent but Tazio Nuvolari and Stirling Moss were both sometimes accused of pushing too hard and breaking their cars. Jim Clark, on the other hand, was famously smooth and allegedly was able to make his tyres, brake pads and gearboxes last three times longer than anybody else, although it didn’t seem to help his reliability. I wonder if Fernando Alonso is guilty of pushing a bit too hard now he is in uncompetitive cars, and that sometimes affecting his reliability, although it was still an exceptionally unlucky season for him.

    I would say that Charles Leclerc was the unluckiest driver in 2022. He may have had a similar mechanical retirement rate to Carlos Sainz, but his always came in more key moments, retiring from the lead in both Spain and Baku which also caused more engine penalties, while he also lost wins in Monaco and Silverstone, and a podium in Hungary, to strategical errors. This also hampered him in Brazil where he was further taken out by Lando Norris in the race.

    1. The biggest thing I’ve noted is Alonso has a seeming unwillingness to avoid trouble at times. While Spa last year was Hamilton’s fault, Alonso could have conceded the corner before the apex and let him go but didn’t. Ultimately it was silly of him as he ended up out of contention and his pace was never going to be strong enough to keep Hamilton at bay. That will go down as unlucky but in real terms he could have avoided that incident and there have been others like that in the last 7 years.

      You can make your own luck in the sport and Alonso for me often balances the scale too much on risk to get the rewards. It’s meant he’s had some impressive high points but he is often at risk of stuff going wrong imo. I would suggest Hamilton was an example of someone who had gone too far on the risk averse side in recent memory and is now having to adjust to his new challenge.

    2. @f1frog I believe this is barely a factor at all in today’s era. There are sensors all over the car and if the engineers see temperature too high somewhere or vibrations too severe somewhere else, they instruct the driver to drive accordingly – staying in clean air, keeping away from kerbs etc. Most of Alonso’s failures this year were power unit related and came with no apparent warning from the engineers, suggesting they didn’t see anything amiss on the data. Alonso was wringing the neck of his Ferraris every weekend for 5 years and had solid reliability, but has had horrible reliability at McLaren and Alpine. His driving style hasn’t changed, but his team has.

      The theory of it being the driver’s fault has come up several times in the last couple of decades, but there never seems to be a consistent trend. Hamilton had reliability problems in 2016 and there were many complaints about how all the issues affected his car but not Rosberg’s, and yet over the course of their time as teammates the reliability issues were relatively even. It’s just variance.

  7. Five words – Char Les Le Cl Erc

  8. Don’t think I would consider leclerc’s season the most unlucky of any driver, I would go with alonso, he had lots of mechanical DNF, leclerc lost plenty of points through bad strategy as well, is that bad luck? I would call it incompetence of the pit wall, it’s out of his control but not bad luck imo. Take the brazil qualifying, sending out the fastest driver in quali with intermediates on a dry track, the only one of the field? That basically guarantees that unless there’s torrential rain the drivers on slicks will achieve a better time than a driver on intermediates can, have a hard time saying this is bad luck!

    1. @esploratore1 For the driver, bad strategy is probably just as much about luck as a breaking car. Both are up to the team more than the driver, but both can also be influenced by the driver.

  9. Hope to see this text recycled here in one year.

    1. It will be every year, Alonso is always the most hard done by person on the grid.

  10. Six words – Ch ar Les Le Cl Erc



    1. petebaldwin (@)
      4th January 2023, 20:37

      Only one game per thread. That’s the rule. You’re supposed to split “Charles Leclerc” into 7 words.

  13. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    4th January 2023, 21:46

    If it is down to overall bad luck and not specifically related to one thing causing the bad luck, then I would probably say that the most unlucky driver was bottas.

    I think this page should also include the testing the drivers did at the start of the season. That was another area where Bottas missed a huge amount compared to any other driver on this page. The only driver who missed more testing i believe was ricciardo who was unwell.

  14. As many others did so, I would have considered Leclerc here too. Some car failures from hefty scoring positions, and I have not liked his team’s approach towards his driver’s championsip campaign either.
    As some news at some other sites say Ferrari is at about satisfied/even hopeful with/about their car for the next season. So I think Binotto’s departure is more related to being less succesful at managing the campaign and the drivers, than to the improvement rate of the car, because the car is/was not really worse than it was in the last decade. But the approach towards their rare real shot at a championship have not satisfied me. They have not had many shots at it in the last 15 years. They just simply should not have allowed Sainz to take points away from Leclerc after Sainz’s season start was much weaker, and RB emerged to become a hard contender. Personally I would recommend my drivers to support the one who has the better race, if the team is not in contention for a strong placement in the constructors championship or the driver’s championship. Otherwise, it is sill better to tell the 2nd driver not to bargain for alternate strats on a regular basis, than handling someone as a 2nd driver in an under the table manner (like botching his strategy a tiny bit occasinally, providing him the car parts which were deemed to be passable but slightly weaker by quality control, etc.)

    In an analyisis like this maybe I would have included the count of the ill timed safety cars from the driver’s point of view, or the count of the strategic decisions which were apparently bad, or ended up really well for the driver. Although it is not easy to judge.

    1. …..or ended up really badly for the driver.

    2. Although if we count bad luck, maybe we should count good luck too. I think to make a mathematical function from all of these to provide a numerical output would be a quite challenging task. Maybe a nice task for an AI to come up with weights for all of the factors, and then reality-check the results, and then try again :)

    3. How is it fair to weight a drivers performance in the first 3 races more than another 3 races in the year where they may not perform as well as the second driver? A driver could easily have a great start then slump mid season and if you have then taken points off the other driver you’ve shot yourself in the foot. If you don’t have a clear number one status, which Ferrari don’t then its ridiculous to say you have to back one driver who stole a march.

      Should Mclaren have backed Button as number one after the first race in 2010? Would Irvine for example had a better shot at the 1999 title if not for Ferrari backing Schumacher as number 1 until he broke his leg. Backing one driver on short term form is a terrible idea. If Leclerc wants to be number 1 in the team then he needs to fight for that in his contract or shut up whining. On nearly every occasion he’s whined to get let past Sainz he’s never been faster.

      1. “How is it fair to weight a drivers performance in the first 3 races more than another 3 races” ..?
        In some cases the order of events, or items is not important in deed. But in many games and sports, and other types of competitive activity, the opening events are often just as important as the endgame. Even at the opening stages, an overwhelming, demoralising advantage can be built. So in some cases, by some means it is unfair, or even flawed as an idea to take the order, permutation, or combination into account, while in other cases it is maybe not true.

        Additionally, I have not talked about weighing performances, and not about perceived form. And I have not mentioned 3 races anywhere. I considered the points gap, the scoreboard positions only. although when it comes to form, Sainz adapted to the new car a bit less easily, and had a bit more awkward moments, like problems with blocking the wheels, or getting them running again, so he had some awks seeming excursions in the gravel. But I think it happened to others as well, and that is mainly due to the new big and heavier wheels, and the implications of their physical attributes.

        The imaginary mathematical function what I have talked about, mentioning weights, with the input of some parameters, and with the output of a number, was more like a tool what could be used in an analytic article (if nice weights for the parameters are found). Or it could be good for someone who likes statistics, so even for fun, or for personal use.

        But after the fifth race Leclerc had 104 points and Sainz had 53 points, by the sixth race: 104 vs 65. By that time Ferrari had an intel, that Red Bull is a serious contender, and Verstappen picks up wins very often, despite having some significant difficulies early in the season too.
        I think a 40-50 points is enough to make a managerial decision if the competition is so hard. Maybe not in the mannor of making the 2nd driver to lay down races, only by not favouring him, so in a milder way. I would do that in a honest manner, and unless it is an narrow endgame of a championship, in a fairly sophisticated way.

        At Monaco credit to Sainz to spot the alternative pit strategy opportunity. Maybe Leclerc trusts or trusted the pit wall, and the strategy generated by them by using data. I think in many cases processing all those variables are beyond the human perception, and abilities. So I do not blame the drivers who are accepting the teams’ strategies nowadays. Maybe the only exception is when there are quickly changing track conditions, like quick changes in track temperature and dampness. Maybe I wouldlike F1 teams to have multiple trackside spotters, to improve the strategies and safety as well.

        So with the intel what Ferrari had by the 4-5th race maybe, until a good bit after mid season, I would have liked to see Ferrari to obviously favourise Leclerc, because that was the point where the championship seemed to be lost for them with a significant likelihood. Why to give up before that?

        I like Sainz, but I think he not makes himself favours, if he turns away from the good teamplayer image what he built up before the previous season. I do not think that he is a driver with a chance of winning multiple championsips. Currently I rate him a bit below than Button for example, who I think was a smoother operator when it came to driving. Maybe he is a bit slow learner, even if his improvement seems to be quite steady. A top runner team looks for a bit more than that, to treat someone as first driver, no matter if they are are explicitly stating it or not. He seemed to be ok for me, but he was “tossed around” a bit too much between various teams. One could have thought that the current season might even be his last one, before he achieved a nice bit of success during his McLaren seasons. Although these frequent team swhitches can be perceived as something like this too : He was definitely good enough to stay in F1, so teams reached out for him. I think Leclerc will go on beating him as a teammate, and maybe the the driver management was amongst the main reasons of Binotto’s departure.

  15. Seems Alonso pushes his cars just a bit harder then his teammates is more the cause then unluckly.

  16. 14 words.
    C h a r l e s L e C l e r c

  17. If you add the number of times a driver was forced back to the end of the pack during a race, Kevin would propel to the top of the list..

Comments are closed.