Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

The drivers to look out for (literally) - A useful and unique hazard rating for the accident-prone class of 2012

Published by Paul Alston

Amongst other things, like a triple world champion, a return to the good old USA, and the final departure of some bloke named Schumacher, the 2012 F1 season will be remember for the lively debate on how some drivers seemed to be magnetically attracted to others. In simple terms some drivers got a heck of a lot of stick this season for crashing, a lot.

Early in the season with the hazardous driving debate in mind I starting to think about whether it was possible to statistically prove that one driver was more hazardous than another. I set about creating a simple spreadsheet upon which I could record incidents that fell within a scientifically selected criteria, namely:

  • Only include incidents that happen in the race
  • Ignore first corner incidents (unless an incident obviously meets the final part of the final criteria) Only count collisions where at least one car retires, is significantly damaged (rubbing is racing) or where a driver does something notably dangerous
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Having identified an incident I then donned my impartiality hat and decided if the incident was the fault of a particular driver, in which case he gets one point, or if it is a 50/50 incident, in which case both drivers get half a point. Simple.

Now, I think most people will agree that the first two drivers, namely Pastor Maldonado (1st) and Romain Grosjean (2nd) are no surprise, but I had thought that Bruno Senna (3rd) had a fairly quiet season.

Most surprising for me is Sebastian Vettel (4th), not only did he get a full point for colliding with Karthikeyan in the Malaysian rain, and another for side-swiping Alonso off the track in Italy, but he also managed to finish half a point ahead of Schumacher. Michael finished with the same number of points as Kobayashi and Webber, who himself managed to go from zero points to two in the Abu Dhabi race alone.

As for the team scores, it pains me to say that Williams got most points (7), and again it surprises me that Red Bull were next up (4.5) ahead of Mercedes, with Mr Schumacher twice deciding that overtaking meant actually going over the car, and Sauber with, well, enough said.

Now to the better end of the tables, and it is definitely worth starting with the teams because one team, and one team alone managed to score zero points. Marussia, although it is difficult to crash if you aren’t near other cars. Next up though are Caterham for similar reasons, and most notably McLaren and Ferrari. As for the drivers? I think that the notable drivers with zero points are Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Kimi Räikkönen who, with seven wins between them have proved that it is possible to race at the front of the field without getting physical with your peers.

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Even though I only produced this for a bit of fun I think it is important to ask what are the reasons behind these results? Some will say that certain drivers should be banned, others will say that the cars are too difficult to drive, and others still will argue that sometimes drivers just have a bad spell.

My personal opinion is that I agree a little, and only a little with all three, but think that mainly the drivers are trying really hard to get the best from their equipment, and that sometimes when you’ve got F1 cars travelling at speeds that would make most of us feel ill, you’re going to get incidents.

Ultimately the equipment is thus because it’s Formula 1, the challenge for the drivers is thus because it’s Formula 1, and if the drivers aren’t up to the job, why are they there? That is very definitely another debate for another day.