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F1 Analytics (Part 3) - Retirement statistics - How many times, and for what reasons, drivers didn't see the chequered flag

Published by Christine

As part of our ongoing series looking at the numbers behind the 2008 Formula 1 season, we're moving on to retirement statistics. A table, and a couple of pretty pie charts, lead us to some startling conclusions about how the teams performed throughout the year.

Percentage of retirements in 2008

The table is available to view here, and I've decided not to include it in the blog post itself as it lends itself better to the spreadsheet environment.

Percentage of retirements by team

The initial observation from the pie chart on the right is that Force India make up an enormous part of the total retirements from 2008. In fact, they retired exactly half the cars they started with, which is up from 41% in the Spyker days of 2007. No wonder Mallya wants to shake things up a bit. The stats do seem to hold true with the idea that the lower down the grid you are, the more likely you are to get involved in an accident, as ten of Force India's 18 retirements were crash related.

The other visible team, for precisely the opposite reason, is BMW who had just two retirements for the entire year. That's just over 5% of their starts. Amazing consistency and reliability, which is exactly what we all thought anyway. Their nearest rivals in retirement stakes are McLaren and Ferrari, which goes to show that reliability really can win you championships. However, contrary to that conclusion, Williams have the same percentage as the 2008 title holders. I find that quite surprising, but they've had a pretty quiet and unassuming season. So long as Nakajima keeps his nose clean, they have the potential to move up the grid.

The final team I wanted to talk about is Renault, as their retirement rate is pretty high. A third of their starts ended in DNFs, which must be something Briatore will want to conquer. They had the same number of accidents as Force India, and whether this was down to Piquet's inexperience or Alonso's frustrations, I will leave up to you to decide.

Percentage of retirements by type

This information has come from the official Formula 1 website, and I've used whatever reason they classified for each driver's retirement. It doesn't seem to be particularly standardised but you do get a good sense of what causes the most problems. Accidents are clearly the biggest issue, with spins possibly coming under the same category. A tangle between two cars caused over 50% of the retirements in 2008, and you could argue most of them were David Coulthard.

There weren't as many engine retirements as I had expected, but I feel like the times the engines did explode were when it really mattered. Massa in Hungary, Kovalainen in Japan, you get the idea. It's also notable that there weren't too many gearbox related issues, which means that Red Bull definitely fixed their problem from last year. With long-life components becoming longer and more prominent, it certainly seems like the teams won't struggle in the future.

Overall the number and percentage of retirements compared to starts went down this year, marginally. From 24% in 2007 to 21.5% this season, it's definitely an improvement. I can't help but wonder if this is down to the absence of Super Aguri. They only started 8 races and retired from 3, which is more than BMW did the entire season. Either way, it looks like reliability is on the up, and retirements depend more and more on driver ability. The way it should be, really.