As Mark Twain once said, “there are lies, damned lies, and statistics”, an argument that Donald Trump seems to agree with, given his huffing and puffing over the turnout at his recent inauguration. What Twain was saying is that numbers can be very persuasive, if you have a weak argument. It’s true that numbers can be misleading, if taken on their own.
There have, for example, been 972 World Championip Grands Prix since the very first took place at Silverstone on May 13 1950, with King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth (later to be known as the Queen Mother) turning up to watch.
The number of Grands Prix per year has steadily increased and, it seems, will continue to increase and it is interesting to note that there were nearly twice as many races in the 1990s as there were in the 1950s.
The actual breakdown is as follows: 82 races in the 1950s, 100 in the 1960s, 144 in the 1970s, 156 in the 1980s, 162 in the 1990s and 192 in the 2000s. Thus far there have been 136 in the 2010s and with a few additional races each year for the next three years, we may reach 200 in this decade.
This means that the record for drivers taking part in races will probably go up. At the moment that record is held by Rubens Barrichello with 326 starts between 1993 and 2011. Of the active drivers in 2017, Fernando Alonso is the closest (now Jenson Button has retired) with 274 starts, which means he needs at least three more seasons to catch and pass Rubens. By the end of 2017, both Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa should get over 270 starts as well.
Off track, there are people in the F1 paddock who reckon they have attended 750 Grands Prix. This means they must have started in the mid-1960s – and not missed a single race. There are quite a number in the paddock, the author included, who have attended 500 races or more. That’s easier than it used to be because if one was at the first race in 1950 it would have taken until midway through 1990 ( just over 40 years) to reach 500 Grands Prix.
In comparison, someone who started at the first race in 1980 would have completed 500 Grands Prix midway through 2009, after “just” 29 years full time in the business.
If you started appearing at races at the beginning of 1990, you won’t have got to 500 yet, but you’ll get there at the British Grand Prix in July, after 26 and a half years.
Ferrari, incidentally, is reckoned to have started 929 Grands Prix of the 972, beginning at the second World Championship race at Monaco in 1950, eight days after Silverstone. This means the team has missed only 43 races in the history of the series, a pretty impressive record. McLaren has 801 starts and Williams 657, while Sauber is the only other active team in the big league, with 421 starts.
Ferrari has a decent win record as well, with a 24.1 percent starts/wins, but that’s not in the big league when compared to Brawn GP’s 47.1 percent, while Mercedes is closing in with a 43.2 percent win rate.
Do they compare? Ah well, statistics…
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