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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 8:53 am 
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Who is the best Formula 1-driver throughout history? That is one of the never ending discussions among Formula 1-fans. An large number of What-if's influence the answer to that question, and it is impossible to give an answer that can't be debatted.

Personally I tend to rate Fangio as number one, considering that he started in Formula 1 very late in his carrier, and still managed both to win WDC five times and to set an impressing win/race-ratio. But what does the numbers say?

To satisfy my own need for an answer I made a historical ranking based on statistics. This ranking includes all drivers finishing first, second or third since 1950, and it award points for podiums during each season.

The biggest challenge was to find a way to compare drivers with very different number of races. The formula I set up for comparing drivers across results and number of races can be discussed, challenged and maybe improved. But I believe it creates a useful tool to compare results across the decades.

For the statistically interested, the formula I used looks like this:
(number of wins+number of second/3+number of third/6)/number of races * (1-1/log(number of races))

Using this formula on the Formula 1 results since 1950 brings up this historical ranking:

1. Michael Schumacher 0,211
2. Juan-Manuel Fangio 0,210
3. Alain Prost 0,185
4. Ayrton Senna 0,173
5. Jim Clark 0,169
6. Jackie Stewart 0,158
7. Sebastian Vettel 0,155
8. Alberto Ascari 0,147
9. Lewis Hamilton 0,131
10. Fernando Alonso 0,127

11. Stirling Moss 0,120
12. Damon Hill 0,119
13. Nigel Mansell 0,113
14. Niki Lauda 0,106
15. Kimi Räikkönen 0,098
16. Mika Hakkinen 0,091
17. Nelson Piquet 0,089
18. Nino Farina 0,085
19. Jack Brabham 0,077
20. Jody Scheckter 0,073

21. Carlos Reutemann 0,073
22. Emerson Fittipaldi 0,071
23. James Hunt 0,070
24. Juan Pablo Montoya 0,069
25. Alan Jones 0,067
26. Graham Hill 0,063
27. Denny Hulme 0,062
28. Ronnie Peterson 0,061
29. David Coulthard 0,059
30. Mike Hawthorn 0,059

31. Jenson Button 0,058
32. Tony Brooks 0,058
33. Jochen Rindt 0,055
34. Mario Andretti 0,055
35. Rene Arnoux 0,055
36. Filippe Massa 0,054
37. Gilles Villeneuve 0,053
38. Jackie Ickx 0,053
39. Gerhard Berger 0,052
40. Jose Froilan Gonzalez 0,050

41. Phil Hill 0,050
42. John Surtees 0,049
43. Bruce McLaren 0,048
44. Rubens Barrichello 0,047
45. Jacques Villeneuve 0,046
46. Mark Webber 0,043
47. Clay Regazzoni 0,042
48. Francois Cevert 0,040
49. Peter Collins 0,036
50. Richie Ginther 0,035

51. Keke Rosberg 0,034
52. Wolfgang von Trips 0,033
53. Didier Pironi 0,033
54. Riccardo Patrese 0,032
55. John Watson 0,031
56. Eddie Irvine 0,031
57. Michele Alboreto 0,025
58. Piero Taruffi 0,024
59. Luigi Musso 0,021
60. Heinz-Harald Frentzen 0,021

61. Elio de Angelis 0,016
62. Eugenio Castellotti 0,008
63. Luigi Fagioli -0,071


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:33 am 
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Interesting stats and thanks for sharing. Obviously you have not factored in that in various different cars/teams it is easier or harder to score podiums but what surprised me is that the top 6 you have calculated would actually be my top 6 (although in a different order) In my opinion is that you could make a case for - Schumacher, Senna, Clark, Fangio and maybe Prost. I think for me Schumacher just edges it.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:54 am 
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Looking forward to this thread blowing up.

Anywho, my opinion on the matter - Alain Prost.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:10 am 
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While other drivers had maybe more talent and outright speed, I'd say Schumacher and then Prost. They managed to get and stay in the top spots for so long that it was no fluke. They were always there, extremely clever and fast, taking the points and wins. That's how you win. You could bet on either of them being in the top spots and you'd be correct more often than not.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:19 am 
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mcdo wrote:
Looking forward to this thread blowing up.

Anywho, my opinion on the matter - Alain Prost.


+1

Especially including drivers still racing. Will be interesting!

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:22 am 
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Help!!!! I get the first part of your forumla:

((x+y/3)+(z/6))/r

x = number of wins
y = number of second
z = number of third
r = number of races

But the '* (1-1/log(number of races))' confused me. What is 'log' and why have you bothered with '1-1/' as the answer will always be 0 making every result multiplied by 0=0?

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:23 am 
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Can't compare drivers of different eras.

If I had to name one: MS! :smug:

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:28 am 
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I don't think you can compare the 50s,60s and 70s to the 80s, 90s and 00s. I'm not even sure you can really compare the 90s to the 00s.

The type of racing, rules, cars, fitness and (imo) skill levels of those involved was so different it's just so muddled up you will never reach a definitive answer.

Best of my time watching F1 was Schumi. I missed Senna, Prost, Piquet, Mansell (I wasn't born or was too young for most of their glory years). While his tactics were sometimes underhanded, and he had a huge team with huge funding focused on him, he was still something else.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:33 am 
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minchy wrote:
Help!!!! I get the first part of your forumla:

((x+y/3)+(z/6))/r

x = number of wins
y = number of second
z = number of third
r = number of races

But the '* (1-1/log(number of races))' confused me. What is 'log' and why have you bothered with '1-1/' as the answer will always be 0 making every result multiplied by 0=0?


Obviously he or she means that you have 1 minus the reciprocal of the log of the number of races.

When people say log it is usually assumed that they mean the natural log. I.e. log to the base e. But it is possible that they meant log to the base 10, I don't know.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 11:04 am 
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Lies, damned lies and statistics and all that...

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 11:16 am 
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Well they asked F1 drivers once to make a list. Senna came out as winner and I can find myself in that. Prost and Fangio would complete my top 3.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 11:33 am 
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Damon Hill is too high up on that list to make it credible imo. As is Felipe Massa, above Gilles Villeneuve?!

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 11:45 am 
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Everyone would just have to agree to disagree. This is pretty much a good list standing from the statistics point of view, but it never ends at that, does it? Why don't we all just lay praise for our heroes and refrain detracting from other people's heroes.

Personally Schumi is my hero, edges Prost a bit, but the Prost-Senna era is simply epic for me even if I hadn't had the chance to watch them. Sad that Ayrton died 2 days before I was born. :(


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 12:47 pm 
Beleriand_K wrote:
Who is the best Formula 1-driver throughout history?

1. Michael Schumacher 0,211
2. Juan-Manuel Fangio 0,210
3. Alain Prost 0,185
4. Ayrton Senna 0,173
5. Jim Clark 0,169
6. Jackie Stewart 0,158




:nod: :smug: :D


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:07 pm 
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In reality, Lauda is certainly better than 14th. He is top 10 all time for sure.

Also, Mansell, Reutemann, Fittipaldi, Jones, Gilles Villeneuve and Jacques Villeneuve could be/should be a bit higher, but I understand that the rules are the same for every driver. So, the list is still somewhat revealing and therefore precious.

Than Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton didn't compete in time when it wasn't so sure that you will end the race due to mechanical problems. So they already have unfair advantage for a table like this. But even so, Vettel is much higher than the other two, which is quite telling.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:27 pm 
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Most times I casually dismiss any attempt to rank drivers with distain, but Beleriand_K, this is an interesting piece of work. My single recommendation is to calculate for each season, and throw out the worst half, since some drivers suffered spending a few years in poorly ranked teams. I can think of certain drivers who spent a high percentage of their career in top teams, while others spent many years in teams that definitely were not competitive.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 1:41 pm 
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To be fair the ranking above is just a ranking of the most successful drivers of all time, not necessarily the best.

Best for me? Senna.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 2:04 pm 
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minchy wrote:
Help!!!! I get the first part of your forumla:

((x+y/3)+(z/6))/r

x = number of wins
y = number of second
z = number of third
r = number of races

But the '* (1-1/log(number of races))' confused me. What is 'log' and why have you bothered with '1-1/' as the answer will always be 0 making every result multiplied by 0=0?

Ok when I went to school, math had only numbers in it and letters were reserved for english class :lol:


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 2:08 pm 
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Lt. Drebin wrote:
In reality, Lauda is certainly better than 14th. He is top 10 all time for sure.

Also, Mansell, Reutemann, Fittipaldi, Jones, Gilles Villeneuve and Jacques Villeneuve could be/should be a bit higher, but I understand that the rules are the same for every driver. So, the list is still somewhat revealing and therefore precious.

Than Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton didn't compete in time when it wasn't so sure that you will end the race due to mechanical problems. So they already have unfair advantage for a table like this. But even so, Vettel is much higher than the other two, which is quite telling.


Possibly but it also means that less drivers are retiring around them so the competition for podiums is tougher.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 2:10 pm 
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For all the talk of comparing drivers across time, the balance of skills needed to be 'the best' changes constantly, not just over era's. It's so tight at the top that the temperature of the track can swing the balance toward a certain style and therefore dictate who the best is (let alone the ever-changing tyres, cars, rules etc). We have to accept it's impossible to say who the best was because the variables affecting their performance are endless.

But it's a good subject to talk about and there's no harm in it. Though one dividing line has to be acknowledged IMO: the time at which drivers started racing at 100% all the time. As Moss, Stewart and co always say, the difference now is that you can go flat out all the time (at least before the chocolate tyres), you don't have to worry about pushing all the way to the line because, if you cross it, you'll likely be ok nowadays. Old school racers always seem to say that was the key difference, finding a way to be fast whilst holding something back. It strikes me that's a completely different skillset, not just something that needs adapting to. And Jim Clark was the best.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 2:15 pm 
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It's all opinion. There is no fact for the best F1 driver ever. Never will be.

My opinion? Schumacher. Is that right or wrong? Neither.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 2:17 pm 
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I think its Senna, but as said it is all subjective.

There is a argument for Schumi and Prost that is just as reasonable I am sure as my argument for Senna.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 2:20 pm 
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I think Fangio or Schumacher, because they were able to build whole teams around them and win. There were many talented drivers, but they made wrong choices during career or weren't able to convince F1 team bosses to trust them and never got a chance to win. Schumacher made right choices and as a result he was able to win more titles than anyone. His hard work and skills also helped him to convince people like Todt to build team around him. Senna on the other hand had to race Prost and then wait before finally joining Williams which was the best team that time.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 2:35 pm 
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And Jean Alesi isn't even on this list?

And how about Lee Wallard, the greatest Formula One driver of them all with a score of 0.5?


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 2:43 pm 
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Interesting attempt. But like already mentioned, there is 1 thing you perhaps cannot calculate, and those are mechanical failures.
Your numbers are based on results, but many of those greats have lost many good race results cause of some failure. That certainly counts for earlier generations when the failure rate was much higher than it is now.

For me? Senna

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 3:10 pm 
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Senna for me, although Juan Manuel Fangio, Sir Stirling Moss, Jim Clark etc were masters of a completely different formula. I'd say the introduction of aerodynamics changed the sport to the extent that it was no longer the F1 it was when Fangio et al drove, so I'll pick Fangio as my 'other' best driver.

Who was better of the two of them? Nobody can say. They raced with different priorities. Senna was breaking barriers in terms of speed and lap times, Fangio was trying not to make a mistake as the chances of it being lethal were much higher back then.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 3:42 pm 
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Intresting formula. One of the issues with best driver is that everyone judges a best driver in different ways:

Some view it as most number of wins or championships
Others as in their perceived speed i.e ablity to produce out and out fast laps
Ability to help mould the team and bring in the right people to produce the best car
Consistency in reducing incidents and getting the maxmimum points for each race

For this reason you will never get any kind of agreement as everyone will be using different criteria, for the more intresting question would be what criteria should be used to judge who is the best


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 3:57 pm 
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Adaemus wrote:
To be fair the ranking above is just a ranking of the most successful drivers of all time, not necessarily the best.

I agree, your definition is a better fit to the formula used by the OP to elaborate his list. But it is an interesting exercise nonetheless.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 4:06 pm 
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morgana wrote:
Adaemus wrote:
To be fair the ranking above is just a ranking of the most successful drivers of all time, not necessarily the best.

I agree, your definition is a better fit to the formula used by the OP to elaborate his list. But it is an interesting exercise nonetheless.


I don't think that the formula is about success either. How can Coulthard (not a WDC winner) more successful than Button, a WDC winner?

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 4:42 pm 
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SchumieRules wrote:
morgana wrote:
Adaemus wrote:
To be fair the ranking above is just a ranking of the most successful drivers of all time, not necessarily the best.

I agree, your definition is a better fit to the formula used by the OP to elaborate his list. But it is an interesting exercise nonetheless.


I don't think that the formula is about success either. How can Coulthard (not a WDC winner) more successful than Button, a WDC winner?

It seems a decent way to judge how much of any given career was spent in competitive cars. DC had a top car for most of his career, JB only in recent seasons (and 2004 I guess). Damon at 12th stands out to me too, similar reason I think.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 5:00 pm 
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Unfortunately far too many drivers who had the potential to be considered greats of the sport were taken before they had the opportunity to show just how brilliant they were. A few problems with the list you have is that:


1- It's much too soon to consider Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso in the top-10 of all time.
2- Damon Hill, by virtue of his reliable and quick cars earlier in his career, is rated in 12th whilst his father - who was able to challenge Jim Clark - sits in 26th.
3 -David Coulthard is rated higher than Jenson Button.

To put in my own opinion, my top four would be (in no order that I am willing to give):

a) Juan Manuel Fangio
b) Jim Clark
c) Ayrton Senna
d) Michael Schumacher

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 5:10 pm 
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Laura23 wrote:
It's all opinion. There is no fact for the best F1 driver ever. Never will be.

My opinion? Schumacher. Is that right or wrong? Neither.

:thumbup:

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 5:15 pm 
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Balibari wrote:
SchumieRules wrote:
morgana wrote:
Adaemus wrote:
To be fair the ranking above is just a ranking of the most successful drivers of all time, not necessarily the best.

I agree, your definition is a better fit to the formula used by the OP to elaborate his list. But it is an interesting exercise nonetheless.


I don't think that the formula is about success either. How can Coulthard (not a WDC winner) more successful than Button, a WDC winner?

It seems a decent way to judge how much of any given career was spent in competitive cars. DC had a top car for most of his career, JB only in recent seasons (and 2004 I guess). Damon at 12th stands out to me too, similar reason I think.


Yes, but being in a competitive car doesn't make you successful. What did DC do in that competitive car? Or Rubens? Not that much

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 5:29 pm 
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Toby. wrote:

1- It's much too soon to consider Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso in the top-10 of all time.

I agree on Vettel and Lewis, but I think it is okay with Alonso.

He has been around now over 10 years, and almost 10 years in a top team. He has competed against the best of the current generation and the best of last generation.

The best maybe yet to come, but he has been tested enough and succeeded in his circumstances enough to be considered top 10.

I personally would even entertain a argument about who was better out of him and Schumi. I personally think he has surpassed Mansell and maybe Miki who are seen by some as being top 10.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 5:40 pm 
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A good exercise by the OP, and interesting to read.

Any formula based on results will have Damon Hill high up. Imo: he does not belong in a list of top 30 or even more, and DC is far better than Damon ever was.

Results-based comparisons, as several posters point out, do not take into account the competitiveness of the cars that were involved.

Rating drivers is not straightforward, due to the fact that what we are talking about is not pure driver, but driver-and-car, ie package , performances and results.


This thread should go on for some time!

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 6:19 pm 
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Canadian Stig wrote:
minchy wrote:
Help!!!! I get the first part of your forumla:

((x+y/3)+(z/6))/r

x = number of wins
y = number of second
z = number of third
r = number of races

But the '* (1-1/log(number of races))' confused me. What is 'log' and why have you bothered with '1-1/' as the answer will always be 0 making every result multiplied by 0=0?

Ok when I went to school, math had only numbers in it and letters were reserved for english class :lol:


It's known as algebra!


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 6:22 pm 
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My vote for the best F1 driver ever: FangioAscariMossSurteesClarkStewartLaudaGVillenuevePiquetProstSennaSchumacherRaikkonenAlonso.

I could not separate them and consider them all to be about equal in competitiveness. All have varying levels of skills in different areas. But as all-round, effective racers I don't think there is much difference.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 6:33 pm 
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Blinky McSquinty wrote:
Most times I casually dismiss any attempt to rank drivers with distain, but Beleriand_K, this is an interesting piece of work. My single recommendation is to calculate for each season, and throw out the worst half, since some drivers suffered spending a few years in poorly ranked teams. I can think of certain drivers who spent a high percentage of their career in top teams, while others spent many years in teams that definitely were not competitive.

While I understand that and agree to a certain degree, something must also be said for a driver jumping from a proven winning team to one that is not fairing quite so well and then turning that team into a real contender. Schumacher did just this and we all know how they worked through their struggles and eventually got everything worked out to perfection. Prost also left McLaren and went to a Ferrari team that while not terrible, was nowhere near the top and instantly they were winning races. In my book that elevates both their stocks considerably as neither was afraid of a challenge and both rose to the occasion and worked their buts off to inspire the teams they joined to work even harder and better as a unit. I actually like seeing current drivers in the list as it shows how they are faring in comparison to all-time greats.

There's much too much involved in assessing every great driver in history to compile a list that is 100% correct and/or accurate but this one isn't too shabby. Excellent effort OP!

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 6:44 pm 
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Volantary wrote:
Damon Hill is too high up on that list to make it credible imo. As is Felipe Massa, above Gilles Villeneuve?!


Well Hill and Massa did achieve more. Hill went very close to one title and won another. Massa went pretty close to one title and very close to another. They also won more races. Gilles didn't really hang around for long enough to say he should definitely be ranked above those guys.

Adaemus wrote:
To be fair the ranking above is just a ranking of the most successful drivers of all time, not necessarily the best.

Best for me? Senna.


Exactly.

SchumieRules wrote:
morgana wrote:
Adaemus wrote:
To be fair the ranking above is just a ranking of the most successful drivers of all time, not necessarily the best.

I agree, your definition is a better fit to the formula used by the OP to elaborate his list. But it is an interesting exercise nonetheless.


I don't think that the formula is about success either. How can Coulthard (not a WDC winner) more successful than Button, a WDC winner?


Well he is only 2 places higher.

Barrichello like Button languished in uncompetitive cars for much of his career. He was better than Button on many occasions and went closer to a WDC than Coulthard. The list gets a lot of things right, it just puts Hill and Coulthard a little too high.

Button and Rubens a little too low.

It should be interesting to watch Vettel crawl up this list. Assuming of course he does.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 7:06 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jun 02, 2011 4:09 pm
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Rubens did endure a good few seasons in uncompetitive or difficult cars but he was also in some great Ferraris and were it not for his Teammate, he'd likely have at least 2, if not more titles. In my view, whilst Schumi was the superior and lead driver, in those Ferrari years, there have been very few #2 drivers that were better than Rubens. In that stretch Rubens was driving with his hands tied and was rarely allowed to push to the limit which is sad for him. In 2009 it took him some time to come to terms with the Brawn but once he did he looked quite strong. Massa is another excellent driver who has suffered in that his teammates have all been top dogs at Ferrari but I feel he showed he is better than both Rubens and Button.

DC is ranked perhaps a bit too highly. He had some really solid McLarens at his disposal and he lacked the consistency which is in the end what cost him the most. On the rare occasion he was in the zone he was impressive but 13 wins from 267 races is not very good. He was good at developing cars to a point but never really got me excited. Button as well is a bit difficult to include on the list. shined brightly in the first half of 2009 and has certainly looked brilliant in McLaren at times but lacks consistency.

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