Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler: BlackJack’sBriefs
A few conclusions…
“In space, nobody can hear you scream – when surf-boarding nobody can see you cry…”
First I have to express my gratitude to ‘TJ13’ for agreeing to publish this series, and encouraging me to write it, and then offer a Big Thank You to those who offered their opinions – and hope that those who were unable to comment still gained a little pleasure from my words…
I conceived this idea with perhaps less understanding on what I was embarking than Vasco de Gama had when he set off to circumnavigate the globe. At least I knew where I could stop for fresh water – or a G&T…
I reiterate that this is not a personal view of twenty drivers who I think were ‘better’ than all those who didn’t figure here – if it were, there are a couple of drivers I would not have omitted, and there were one or two names here whose absence I might not have missed if they had failed to follow de Gama, and dropped off the edge…
To re-cap… I took the 820 drivers in the Wiki list, removed the Champions, plus those drivers who failed to score even one win, and then (because a little ruthlessness was inevitable) all drivers who had not lasted more than three seasons were also deleted… leaving me with 63 names.
In order to compare the performances of each driver I was obliged to ignore their existing Championship Points simply because the scoring system has changed several times since 1950, and I didn’t have the time to adjust everything to a common format. Additionally I do NOT, anyway, consider any points system to have ever been a finite measure of comparative talent. For the record I similarly do not consider the awarding of ‘Oscars’ and ‘Globes’ as being a measure of filmic talent – although ‘Bears’, ‘Lions’ and ‘Palmes d’Or’ are something else.
So, I invented my own system.
We all know of instances when a driver has dominated a race weekend, only to run out of fuel a couple of laps from the end, or be punted off by another wayward driver, and so the number of wins, and/or podiums cannot be taken as ‘gospel’. There are also the times when a faster, maybe even better (on the day) driver is obliged to relinquish his position… I am not against team-orders but they can interfere with the compilation of lists such as this.
There seems to be only one time when all drivers are ‘equal’ even if, occasionally, ‘some are more equal than others’. During qualifying there are no holds barred, unless a team deliberately ‘adjusts’ a car so that it cannot beat the No.1 driver… and that way, I’m afraid, madness lies.
I thus created a scoring system where the recording of pole position is awarded more points than a race victory.
Secondly it seems to me that the posting of the fastest lap in a race deserves much more than a mention in despatches. Again, all else being equal, this is one time when a driver is able to show his true worth. In the past the FIA used to give one point for this achievement, but it was dropped – on safety grounds…! It was common practice that a driver who had problems, and had fallen several laps behind, was put on a low fuel level, with fresh tyres, and sent out to claim that single point, to aid his Championship chances… and this practice was deemed dangerous… and was effectively banned. I would much rather see double-points awarded for fastest laps, than the last race or two – or seventeen… which is what we’ll end up with. NASCAR scores…!
Personally I feel that many drivers, like Villeneuve for example, showed more natural, raw talent in claiming a fastest lap than other less exciting drivers who perhaps played safe, and nursed their car home to 3rd, and a podium place.
So… after an initial over-cautiousness I gave twice as many points for a pole than a fastest lap, and twice as many for a fastest lap than a podium, and, so as not to disregard the ultimate need for drivers to actually win, I slotted the number of points for a win between those for pole and fastest lap (in the ratio: 4:2:1:3 respectively). The actual figures can be adjusted, and can bias the points to one or another of these four categories. Each driver’s points total was divided by their number of race-starts which, I think was the reason why some readers felt my ranking was occasionally odd.
Specifically, Carlo asked why I had placed Massa (10th) so much higher than Barrichello (14th), who had 57 additional podiums (2nd & 3rd) to Massa’s 25. First, I wasn’t scoring these podiums highly. Secondly, although both drivers had similar numbers of poles, fastest laps, and wins, Massa scored his results from 191 races whereas Barrichello had taken 322 races…
In fact I could have made a better claim for Brooks and Arnoux to have been placed above Massa, which would have moved Massa down to 12th, closer to Barrichello. Perhaps next time. Oh, for a second chance…!
I whittled the Top-29 down to twenty by a small subjective adjustment: drivers who had been fortunate enough to spend their better years in better cars I dropped a place or two in the list… and conversely, if a driver had reached the Top-29 while fighting in middle-rank cars, or against an ‘Ace’ team-leader, I moved him up a bit – but I did not change anybody’s position because I was a ‘fan’.
For the record, three drivers just failed to make the cut: Jean-Pierre Jabouille, Peter Revson, and Wolfgang von Trips. And Jabouille especially perhaps deserved to have been tweaked into a higher position.
My main reason for not making this List a personal view is because one can argue back and forth until the cows come home, or until the Fat Hippo’s dining table overtakes you in a wind-tunnel, but as few people actually listen to other polarized viewpoints I feel it’s largely a waste of time – especially when people become short-tempered and personally intolerant… I was grateful that didn’t happen here, although we did have the gloriously sublime moment of The Judge shilly-shallying over the relative merits of Weary Webber and Better Berger, which he amusingly did all on his own, without anybody having to debate him. Talk about, ‘Judge’s Summation’ – “Well, I thought at first you murdered your wife,.. but, on the other hand…” 🙂
I had several surprises myself from this list. I had so quickly forgotten Montoyer’s sojourn in F1 that I had also forgotten his successes. I had also forgotten that Jean Alesi, who I had long admired, scored just one win and two poles in 201 races. Also, inadvertently, and quite unintentionally, there are no German or Italian drivers here, despite many who came close: Luigi Musso, Lorenzo Bandini, Riccardo Patrese, and Michele Alboreto… von Trips, and Ralf Schumacher.
Jacques Laffitte and Bruce McLaren also appeared in the Top-29, but there was then a big natural separation before the likes of Patrick Depailler, John Watson, Patrick Tambay, and Carlos Pace. I know some of you were hoping to see Bruce’s name appear but it seems he is remembered more today for the team he founded, and because of his premature demise. Perhaps he might have done better, as a driver, if he hadn’t had the worries of creating his own team. Much the same might be said of Gurney, Fittipaldi, and Surtees – although Gurney proved his various talents in so many ways.
Most drivers who have formed their own teams tended to drive for just one or two more years before concentrating on running the team… Perhaps my mentor was the only one who continued driving his own cars, for a further eight years, with continual success as a driver and a constructor. It must take a special kind of guy to do both, which is no aspersion on the others.
I cannot finish without thanking my regular respondents for wise, amusing, erudite and complimentary comments. Mr Bruznic excelled, averaging more than two posts per article, including a ‘Black Sabbath’ (I think) video which was apparently supposed to contain mysterious lyrics that, if listened to backwards, preordained who was to be No. 1 – although I might have been the only one who couldn’t even hear the lyrics, let alone interpret them. I haven’t heard lyrics on pop songs since Gilbert & Sullivan. Nevertheless he is forgiven, if only because he is an Ickx fan… which fact he took great pleasure in forcing upon me at all times. 🙂
Carlo kept me on the straight and narrow re: all things Senna/Ferrari oriented, without whom I might have inadvertently become a Prost-lover. 🙂 – and Scuderia McLaren (who, judging by his contradictory moniker, is one seriously mixed up individual…) had me laughing every week. Colin was more complimentary than I could have ever imagined, and Iestyn Davies (who I suspect hails from either Wales or Patagonia) made numerous salient points that made me think. And then there was the, initially, rather brusque ‘CTP’, who never uses three words when one will do, who provided my favourite comment. Following a complaint from someone else that Part 10- Webber wasn’t opening properly, CTP enquired: “Were the pages stuck together after the judge read it?”
I thank you all . . .
1st – Stirling Moss (‘Rafi’)
2nd – José Froilán González
3rd – Jacky Ickx
4th – Carlos Reutemann
5th – Ronnie Peterson
6th – Gerhard Berger
7th – Juan Pablo Montoya
8th – Gilles Villeneuve
9th – David Coulthard
10th – Felipe Massa
11th – Mark Webber
12th – Tony Brooks
13th – René Arnoux
14th – Rubens Barrichello
15th – Dan Gurney
16th – Clay Regazzoni
17th – Didier Pironi
18th – Richie Ginther
19th – Francois Cevert
20th – Peter Collins
Ahhhh, now it makes sense…. 😉
Seriously though, a brilliant series which I know has been enjoyed by everybody even in controversial moments and a wonderful closing epilogue.
Well done Sir.
Curious methodology. Very interesting read! I appreciate that after initial subjective judgments on the methodology, the rest of the process was mostly quantitative. All metrics are noisy, and the craft is to pick those most informative. (I’m wondering though if a multivariate approach could be attempted here, using most of these stats as controls.)
To finish, I think it’s interesting to compare the TJ13 list of top-20 with Autosport’s list of top-25 ( http://plus.autosport.com/premium/feature/5817/top-25-drivers-who-never-won-the-f1-title/ ):
1. STIRLING MOSS
2. GILLES VILLENEUVE
3. ROBERT KUBICA
4. DAN GURNEY
5. RONNIE PETERSON
6. JACKY ICKX
7. JOSE FROILAN GONZALEZ
8. TONY BROOKS
9. DIDIER PIRONI
10. FELIPE MASSA
11. JUAN PABLO MONTOYA
12. CHRIS AMON
13. JEAN BEHRA
14. FRANCOIS CEVERT
15. CARLOS REUTEMANN
16. CLAY REGAZZONI
17. JOHN WATSON
18. WOLFGANG VON TRIPS
19. RENE ARNOUX
20. DAVID COULTHARD
21. GERHARD BERGER
22. RUBENS BARRICHELLO
23. MICHELE ALBORETO
24. CARLOS PACE
25. JACQUES LAFFITE
By rating the likes of Kubica so highly, I suspect that Autosport put more weight on potential than on actual past achievements. Interestingly Autosport didn’t include Webber in their rating. Overall it looks to me as if their analysis was far more qualitative than quantitative.
But, both lists converge to the same answer: Stirling Moss on top.
There was a list in Motorsport magazine recently of the 20 greatest Ferrari drivers.
The last four entries were 4th – Schumacher, 3rd – Ascari, 2nd – Lauda and 1st Villeneuve. As ever romanticism seems to take precedence.
And we as a collective wonder why professional journalists are becoming less respected as time goes on.
In terms of ‘great’, does their transcendence out of the car come into play? An example of this would be the recent Senna doodle on Google. Other words could signify ‘just in the car’, ‘best’ perhaps. It’s all semantics.. the list is either just the driving or a total package.
Moss really should be a multiple champion, so his not being is almost like a statistical error. Clark also lost a championship on the last lap.. but for leading another 30 or so laps he’d be in the Vettel club of 4 straight titles.
Coulthard always has something interesting to say on how he could beat Mika or Michael on the odd occasion, but not consistently, i.e. separating good from great.
RE: Kubica.. I certainly hope Hulkenberg doesn’t join the list of sole F1 winners that never got the chance to show their talents in a top car, adding to the list with Alesi etc. in the years to follow.
Hahaha. I’m sorry 😆
What am I going to look forward to reading during my lunch break from work on Sunday’s now? I have so enjoyed this series and learned so many new things and so loved the sense of humor…
Thanks so much for the huge effort this must have taken to write!! I want to buy the book when it’s out…
An excellent read BJF – there is now a hole in my life!
Another factor that could have been taken into account is the drivers prowess in other categories, e.g. Dan Gurney in NASCAR, LeMans.
I loved seeing some “forgotten” drivers high up the list, such as Gonzalez and Brooks.
Isn’t there a typo in the list or in the photo? Mark Webber is listed 11th, but in the collective photo I see him in 12th place.
There’s a children’s toy in the uk called Action Man , a ‘Barbie’ type male soldier figurine . His USP was a button that moved his eyes a feature known as Eagle eyes.
Good lord, I thought it was all fabricated… 😉
Neatly spotted – my mistake. The list is correct – a new photo-compilation is on it’s way to the Judge.
Bows head to take gavel… 🙂
That’s a pretty robust methodology and the list makes perfect sense now. I pretty much agreed instinctively with most of it anyway, and now I know why, as I guess I value the things you placed additional value to, like fastest lap and pole pos. Based on that, it’s clear why someone like JPM is high up, as he was damn quick. Berger makes perfect sense too now that I think about it, being up against Senna and all.
I thought I’d use your scoring system with Kimi and Alonso just to try to quantitate the difference between them:) If I’ve done it correctly Kimi got 1.44 and Alonso 1.48 so according to statistics they are very similar…I was actually surprised how close they were…
Thanks for that – it seems to confirm I have a glitch in my ‘latest’ spreadsheet (No, I don’t have to do it all again… 😉 ) because I have them both on 1.34 (along with Massa…).
It also reminds me, someone previously suggested I do this, to compare the Champions, and I forgot… I’ve been a bit bogged down producing something new for your Sunday lunches.
I can’t wait to see what it is!
My quick calculation could be wrong too…I just wanted to test out your method on two drivers I was interested in comparing…
No, it was my error:) In the light of day and after a good nights sleep i saw that I forgot to subtract the wins off the podiums! I did it again and got Kimi on 1.34 (rounded up from 1.335) and Alonso on 1.33. However, I only got Massa as 0.75…
Can you see I love statistics:) I also repeated it discounting the DNF’s like mentioned elsewhere – Kimi had a huge number of mechanical failures with McLaren and without his DNF’s he goes up to 1.73 whereas Alonso only goes up to 1.56 without his DNF’s.
The other current champions on the grid are Vettel on 3.0, Hamilton on 1.94 and Button on 0.52…
Moss was 2.39 which was very similar to Schumacher on 2.48…
So interesting…this could keep me amused all day:)
Love it. Jennie, would you mind terribly doing Mika Hakkinen?
Mika is 1.52:)
LOL, brilliant conclusion to a brilliant set of articles.
Thank you, Sir.
Just want to say I enjoyed reading them all. I also appreciate the time and energy you spent developing your methodology, very impressive and enlightening. Can’t wait to see what you have planned for us next 😉
FWIW a point for pole and a point for fast lap might be ideas the FIA should revisit in this age of run away winners.
Jabouille is an interesting one, as I know he won French F3 and then seemed to be developing the Renault turbo into a title contender over many years (the fruits of which were then used mainly by Prost and Arnoux). Revson could have achieved more if not stopped early, and Von Trips also fell at the final hurdle.
Laffite and McLaren also came close and had long careers, which may have counted against them. But indeed, Bruce’s legacy is helped by his team going on to such successes. Strange how his career almost matches Sir Jack for length and time spent in ‘the doldrums’ building up a new team.
PS. I know there is a big welsh settlement in Patagonia.. welsh-speaking as well. But I hail from right next to the former, Wales 🙂
Looking forward to the next series BJF!
I hope you didn’t mind me mentioning it but I only discovered a few weeks ago that there is a huge, Welsh-speaking ‘nation’ in South America. There is also a tribe of Native Americans near Chesapeake Bay (I think) that speaks Welsh… I love things that ‘not many people know’… 😉
I do find it very interesting myself. I guess they went to escape persecution of the language that was happening here back then. The Native Americans speaking Welsh… now that’s something!
I just found this tidbit of info: “17/5/94: Jordan reject a move from Williams to hire Rubens Barrichello to replace Senna.” On the 23rd there are then rumours about Mansell, before Coulthard for the races Mansell can’t make. But Rubens getting the 94-95 Williams could have changed his career in quite a huge way.
indeed I remember those rumours about Barrichello being contacted to fill into that vacant seat, it didn’t made it, at least it was the talk here in Brazil, cause Philip Morris denied, and also had some issue with his personal sponsor
Firsty a big congratulations and well done to BJF, I thoroughly enjoyed the series, and I also learned about a few drivers who I’d either never heard of (Gonzalez), or that I’d vastly underrated (Gurney, Collins). Your series inspired me to look at the list and further examine the statistical “greatness” of these drivers, combined with a few that didn’t make the list, just to see how the order would change, if at all.
Allow me to briefly describe my method. Simply put I used the ratio of poles, fastest laps, wins, podiums, and top 6 finishes versus the number of GP started and applied points to these. However, one key factor which i used in my calculations for the race results was to only examine the positions verses races finished – in other words I ignored all DNF’s in a drivers career.
I felt that logically this was the best way to do it because the reliability difference between some era’s was staggering, to the point that it clearly affected some of these drivers ability to achieve results. Jabouille is a classic example of this, where his finishing record was appalling due to unreliability, compared to the good reliability recorded by drivers like Massa, Barrichello, and Webber for example. Yes, not including DNF’s also means I missed races where the drivers had crashes that were their own fault, but the reality was that with those on the list this was a rare occurrence and did not make a lot of difference to the final results.
My list ended up like this:
1 MOSS, STERLING
2 GONZALES, JOSE
3 MONTOYA, JUAN-PABLO
4 BROOKS, TONY
5 BERGER, GERHARD
6 ICKX. JACKY
7 REUTEMANN. CARLOS
8 PETERSON. RONNIE
9 GURNEY, DAN
10 COULTHARD, DAVID
11 COLLINS, PETER
12 PIRONI, DIDIER
13 VILLENEUVE, GILLES
14 McLAREN, BRUCE
15 VON TRIPS, WOLFGANG
16 REGAZZONI, CLAY
17 ARNOUX, RENE
18 REVSON, PETER
19 LAFFITE, JACQUES
20 CEVERT, FRANCOIS
Massa, Ginther, Webber, and Barichello all find themselves outside the top 20, to me understandable as they’ve all had long careers in which they spent several years not getting good results. New to the top 20 are McLaren, Von Trips, Revson, and Laffite. Tony Brooks and Peter Collins move up many spots and Montoya’s spot in your original top 20 is validated here by his strong results across my chosen criteria. I found it quite interesting that again, Villeneuve doesn’t rate that highly.
This isn’t meant to belittle your wonderful effort, it was just my own interpretation inspired by reading your great articles. I’d love to see another series ranking the world champs too, would be interesting 🙂
This is really fascinating, Bender, though I don’t quite understand the math you have used – could you give a brief example, please. I like the idea of discounting the DNF’s – I didn’t think of that.
So where did Jabouille finish on your list…?
I tried using various actual numbers (before deciding to keep it as simple as possible – 4-2-1-3 – and sensible) but there was very little variation in my results. It is interesting that your quite different (but perfectly valid) system still comes up with the same 25+ names – so we’re doing something right somewhere… 😉
[Now I have three ideas for new series… Maybe now’s a good time to take retirement… 🙂 ]
Thanks for the input.
For poles and fastest laps I used the ratio between them and races entered, so for example a driver who had 5 poles from 10 starts would have a 50% pole ratio, and for this he would get 50 points.
I did the same for the wins, podiums, and top 6 results but these were divided only by races finished, as obviously it’s hard to win a race with your car parked on the track with a blown engine etc.
Using Peterson and Berger as an example, both scored 10 wins, Peterson from 74 finished races, Berger from 124. This gives Peterson a win-to-races finished ratio of 13.5% versus Berger’s 8.1%, so they score 13.5 and 8.1 points respectively.
Doing it this way eliminated drivers who’s total quantity of good results came partially from long careers. Massa has won 11 victories in his career, Jacky Ickx “only” 8, but Ickx took around 100 races LESS to achieve his results.
Using my system, Jabouille ranked 29th overall, but I did include more drivers in my final analysis, so he ended up behind guys you might not have considered, like Depailler, Nilsson, Bandini etc.
Interestingly, if I apply my system but only count poles and fastest laps as you did, Jabouille jumps up to number 14, though his Renault teammate Arnoux jumps up to number 5. I think these statistics become distorted because of the Renault’s brilliant qualifying pace in the late 70’s – early 80’s period.
I’ve just found again the stats site at Silhouet motorsport – by D. Galpin. Many fascinating lists for helping to rank the best drivers.. could help for this as well. I think he uses arithmetic mean and geometric mean, along with a ratio for points/poles/races/wins etc. as well
I always thought Montoya showed the pace to be WDC, and was unlucky to lose out in 2003. For most of their time together, he outshone Ralf Schumacher consistently, and before that RSc was rated highly. Montoya could also have had 1999 and 2000 at Williams, if he didn’t concentrate on Indycar (winning the title and the Indy 500), although the cars were not top contenders in those years.
I also wonder how Button’s career would have turned out without getting his chance at Williams. Maybe the same way? 2000 he could have spent in F3000 or winning the F3 title, before signing for Benetton/Renault in 2001. In 2000 F3000, Junqueira (who he beat for the Williams drive) won ahead of Minassian, with Webber 3rd and Alonso 4th (his only ‘weak’ result I can find, still, not bad in his second single seater season). But the question is, whether Briatore would pick Button over his two proteges, Alonso and Webber, for 2001. He placed them both at Minardi in 2001/2002.
I’m surprised Coulthard is still so high when compared to Barrichello, but it’s fair to say that DC had better equipment than Rubens on average, while Rubens has races near the end of his career that will bring down his scores. It’s nice to see Revson and Von Trips make the list too.
Really brilliant series BJF, enjoyed every single episode of it!!! It might indeed be very interesting to see how your methodology would intercompare the WDCs, especially the ’50 and early ’60 champions when qualifying position was very much secondary to race set-up and the more thinking champions (Prost jumps to mind, maybe also Stewart).
Bring on the next series!
after all, most part of the lust does make sense
though I would put Villeneuve in position 6 and Massa in position 8, thus Berger would be in position 7 and Montoya further back
after all, most part of the list does make sense to me, the only changes I would have done, is moving up Villeneuve into position 6 and Massa into position 8, with Berger in position 7 and Montoya further back
Looking forward to the next series. In fact, when I got the email today, I thought it was going to be a mistake/phantom post, so that was a pleasant surprise. Appreciate your sharing the metrics used.
Much enjoyed this series BJF.
Talking of stats, it seems that, since F1 began, every decade has had 5-7 different drivers take the WDC title. If the 2010s follow the same pattern then we are set to see a really competitive new turbo era!
That’s interesting…hopefully it will hold true and we will see lots of different WDC’s over the next few years!!
Yeah, and if the Australian race this year was any indication, it may not be just the current WDCs on the grid who take all the spoils! Interesting times ahead hopefully…
“May we live in interesting times!”
Just what we’re hoping for…
Remetendo aos seus comentários sobre Fittipaldi (Gurney, and Surtees), pena ele não ter conseguido ser campeão com a própria escuderia.
Valeu, e continua a escrever.
Concordo – eu sempre esperava que Fittipaldi.
Mas ele grandes coisas em Indy.
Muito obrigado pelo seu comentário.
[I agree – I was always hoping that for Fittipaldi.
But he did go on to great things at Indy.
Many thanks for your comment.]
É verdade, em que pese nós, brasileiros, não darmos muita importância para aquele campeonato de monopostos, ele foi um grande vencedor ali.
Mas creio que o seu comentário, muito bem colocado, diga-se de passagem, esta corretíssimo, é muito difícil você dar conta de ser proprietário de escuderia e piloto ao mesmo tempo.
Não será eficaz, nem em um, nem em outro, muita coisa no cérebro!
Parabéns, mais uma vez! continue a escrever.
Indeed – Brabham seemed to ‘take a back seat’ in the years where he was sorting out his team – perhaps 65, 68 and 69 to Gurney, Rindt and Ickx – while thriving in 66, 67 alongside Hulme, and 70 as one last year as lead driver! At 44 – the same age as Schumacher getting pole position at Monaco 🙂