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 956 World Championship Grands Prix (Grandes Épreuves, as they are known) 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: 84 races in the 1950s, 100 in the 1960s, 144 in the 1970s, 156 in the 1980s, 162 in the 1990s and 174 in the 2000s. Thus far there have been 136 in the 2010s.
This means that the record for drivers taking part in GPs will probably go on rising. 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 to over 270 starts as well, but it is hard to imagine either still being in action to beat Rubens’s record.
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, 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 the end of 1990 (41 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 2010, after “just” 30 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 in mid-2018, after 27 and a half years of trekking all over the world.
Ferrari, incidentally, is reckoned to have started 929 Grands Prix of the 956, beginning at the second World Championship race at Monaco in 1950, eight days after Silverstone. This means the team has missed only 27 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 start/win ratio, 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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