Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor landroni
Arguments rage over whether Sauber’s worst ever season in F1—with no points scored, which incidentally mirror Ferrrari’s worst season in over twenty years, with no wins scored—was caused by the catastrophic and overweight Swiss chassis or by the anaemic reddish Power Unit imported from Italy. Responsibility can probably be partly shared here. And in all likelihood Sauber must publicly absolve Ferrari since they’re walking a financial tightrope, and with all the bloodletting at Maranello this year, better keep happy the powers that be. This said, one element that has been forgotten in this debate is the drivers.
The kind people at F1Metrics have developed a mathematical model that, while it comes with certain limitations, attempts to disentangle car performance from driver performance, and tries to rank drivers by doing pairwise teammate comparisons so as to identify relative driver performances.
For the nitty-gritty methodological details, see the peer-reviewed paper. Many may sneer at a scientific approach to quantify driver performance, wildly preferring their own subjective bias confirmation exercises, but the model predictions do come up with several results that would seem to conform to (one would say) mainstream beliefs.
For example, given equal machinery (e.g. better cars than he has been saddled with for the past 7 years or so), Fred would have easily matched one Michael Schumacher in number of WDCs won. Or that Finger Boy would have been no more, as without the über-dominating Newey toys (e.g. in equal cars) Seb wouldn’t have won a single WDC yet, sparing onlookers from his fingery habits.
Unsurprisingly, the model lays Sauber’s predicament this year squarely at its (pay) drivers’ feet. If you think that Magnussen, Perez, Maldonado and Ericsson have been getting a lot of slack these years for their performances in an F1 car, think again. Sauber’s duo, Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutiérrez, have been gloriously ranked dead last among the 2014 crop of drivers, 19th and 20th, respectively, behind the aforementioned drivers.
Sutil also holds the dubious record of crashing out of races more often than any other current driver, with 1 crash every 5 starts. Gutiérrez is not far behind on that record, being 3rd last, only just in front of Grosjean. (Still remember Grosjean’s crashy-crashy form from early in his career?)
And if you thought that was bad, the duo are still behind our beloved Crashtor, aka Pastor Maldonado, who comes in 5th last. If you put Sutil’s crashing performance in a historical perspective, he comes in neck and neck with the crash-prone Andrea de Cesaris, affectionately nicknamed “de Crasheris”.
Damningly, though, if you assume identically skilled drivers (e.g. equal driver performances), then Sauber’s paltry 2014 performance with 0 points and behind Lotus and Marussia suddenly transforms, according to the model, into a 34 points tally and in front of the Lotus. Put differently, stick Grosjean and Maldonado into a 2014 Sauber, and all of a sudden the Swiss heavyweight chassis would out-perform the Enstone prodigy with fridge-like aerodynamic characteristics.
In this light, it makes you wonder what Sergio Marchionne and Maurizio Arrivabene were smoking… ahem… thinking when they decided to enrol Esteban into Ferrari’s car development programme…