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Thread: Driver ratings

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    Driver ratings

    This link already appeared in a different thread, but I wanted to create a new thread to discuss about general driver rating specifics. Throughout the history of F1.

    There is some guy, who has gone absolutely in-depth in this matter.
    http://grandprixratings.blogspot.co.uk/

    Obviously for all F1 fans it is a fascinating matter to rate drivers. But there is no science to properly separate man and machine plus take into account all other variables, so ratings and their accuracy are largely based on experience and gut feeling. You won't get an absolute truth, but you aim to get as close to 'genuine reflective performance' of drivers as you can.

    Most of the time you'd hear that drivers like Fangio, Clark, Prost, Senna and Schumacher are mentioned among the very elite of all times. Depending on everyone's personal criteria, the names can vary somewhat. And of course beyond them there are hundreds of drivers, who - depending on how deep into the matter you want to go - will be rated 'somewhere' too.

    So what is it? Partly it is the results. But not only. There is a lot in the impression you leave on track. Gilles Villeneuve was driving an absolutely rubbish Ferrari in 1980, but that didn't stop people considering him an incredible talent. Even though he didn't score any results to speak of that year. So you'll (subconsciously?) try to separate man and machine. This is where 'gut feeling' rating comes in.

    But how exactly? Even though G. Villeneuve was very spectacular, ultimate rating is not dependent on driving style either. Prost and Senna had very different styles, but both were very successful, and left a huge impression. There is something deeper in it, which creates an impression in people and creates a 'gut feeling rating'. But still everyone has their own judgement, and they all vary to an extent.

    For starters perhaps I am not asking you to rate all drivers of all times. But perhaps you can leave your criterias how to identify driver talent/performance, and give historic examples of drivers to prove your point. From the legend level right down to the Deletraz' and Ides of this world.
    Last edited by jens; 22nd July 2015 at 13:09.

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    Interesting that Lauda and Prost would mention “You cannot go at it as you did when young” , “ after ten years you no longer go flat-out” (quotes paraphrased from magazine articles). Makes sense when it’s considered that drivers getting married and starting families would alter the degree of determination associated with the sport’s objectives. Or perhaps a fade in enthusiasm for other personal reasons, living out of a suitcase, bad management, or drivers killed and/or crippled…

    It would appear that most online-forum opinions of ‘great drivers’ is co-related to what one was influenced by the course of their following the sport. Seems like drivers from the modern-era of F1 (rear-engine generation) are mentioned more frequently than say someone like Nuvolari or Varzi.

    In my case, before I mention any drivers, I would have to give credit to the book Great Racing Cars and Drivers (1972), written by Charles Fox. For that time, it covered just about everything. From the might of the Mercedes during the early periods of the 20th century , the roadsters at Indy, on up to Ford’s impact at Le Mans, and Jackie Stewart’s comeback year after Rindt’s premature departure.

    My choices are not based on anything near what Roger Smith’s assessment process is, but more related to what I mentioned above - sentiment. So without piling on a long list of sorts, my preferences are:


    1. Jim Clark : I was too young to observe anything remotely on footage back then, but from what I read (later in time, after he passed), it was apparent he was the yardstick of how drivers were measured. True, as Surtees once mentioned, Clark did, more often than not, have the best equipment at his disposal. Still it took him to get the job done – and in a convincing manner. Dan Gurney may have been the only driver that Clark reckoned would give him trouble, but with performances (in no particular order) put in by G. Hill (notably at Lotus), Stewart, Hulme, Amon, Brabham, Surtees and such, I think Clark had a competitive grid to put him to task on just about any day. Clark was too, in my opinion, the epitome of a professional driver; he was quietly confident and never found it necessary to resort to a hazardous style of driving. Perhaps more unusual, he was remarkably efficient with tyre and brake conservation. If the world genius is to be applied to one driver, then I would have to stamp that label on Clark.

    2. Niki Lauda: Not far from my perspective of “genius label”, is course Lauda. The guy not only made a tremendous comeback after suffering from a devastating accident, but what may be even more incredible is that on his way to his first 2 WDCs, he managed to survive 4 years of Ferrari bureaucratic nonsense, which apparently was customary for quite some time, given the casualty rate from driver dissatisfaction. And as if that’s not enough, he hangs it up at Montreal in 79’, only to comeback a little over two years later (82’) to another stable, and yet win another championship another two years after that (1984)! He also gets my vote for cutting off the cancer (his relatives) that was in opposition of his ambition of being a professional driver. Hmmm, that reminds me, I gotta send Lauda’s storyline to that badassoftheweek guy, so it’s put out there to the common folk to discover.


    3. Rindt/Peterson/Villeneuve: Uh no, this isn’t Dead Hero Syndrome category. These guys just had a bad habit of out-performing the rides they got stuck with. Of course the results reflected that factor on more occasions, than just making a bad split-second decision or being collectively involved in an accident. Really not much can be said of them that could be discovered on YouTube. Which I still to this day find myself shaking my head at what I’m observing. And it all has happened so long ago… different times… different drivers… different rides… different courses…

    Yeah, well ‘onwards and upwards’ they say. Anyhow…

    …6….7….. 8……. Etc.

    Fangio, Jones, Caracciola , Ickx, Rosburg (Sr.), Hunt, Ascari, Moss, Amon, Siffert, Nuvolari, Vukovich, Rodriguez, AJ Foyt, Senna, Schumacher, Prost….? Damned if would know where to put all these guys.

    My rankings are just merely simplified reflections of what got me in the sport, and until recent times, maintained my interest.
    There’s just too many good storys, or drivers if you will, for me to comprehend, let alone try to rate on some recommended system.
    Last edited by AAReagles; 25th July 2015 at 00:51.
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    I think there needs to be a better definition. Do you mean best drivers or best F1 drivers? That can easily be two different categories. F1 is difficult to really rate because so very much depends on having the car of the year.

    I'm American so obviously I've had more chance to see drivers who were more "rounded" in their experience. My list of the best drivers would include Gurney, Andretti and Foyt because of their showings in F1, Indy cars, sports cars and stock cars. Clark belongs in this group too as he was very impressive in the couple stock car rides he had as well as at Indy.

    A few were so successful in just one discipline that they would be hard to ignore. Proust, Lauda and Senna fall into this group from F1. Mears and Al Unser(Sr) from Indy cars. Petty and Earnhart from stock cars. You'll note I haven't mentioned anyone from before the mid 60s or so as my interest in motorsport wasn't there til then and I don't want to throw names out I'm not all that familiar with - though Fangio must be mentioned on ANY list.

    All of the above completely leaves out rally drivers who some would argue, with good reason, may be the best drivers of all.
    Last edited by Starter; 25th July 2015 at 04:23.
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    I won't even try to do an all time list. I honestly wouldn't know where to start. I mean, would Fangio, if there could be some objective way to compare, have something extra compared to the 2015 field (he was real old when he was winning titles), or would it be like someone said in 2002, that "at [his] best, he would be about as good as Pedro de la Rosa non (2002) - since in every other endeavour, records are continually broken and improved upon, and drivers prepare so much more these days.

    When I try to judge drivers, I admit team-mate comparisons form a very big part of it. I know they can't be perfect (Barrichello/Irvine 1995, then both compared to Schumacher wouldn't add up), or the Frentzen-Hill-Villeneuve triangle. But those two examples obviously had factors like drivers well off form, that was clear to see.

    And how do you know two drivers aren't flattering a car or being flattered by a car? Well there can be a general feeling in the paddock, and people whoa re experienced and discerning. Frentzen in 1999 and Ricciardo in 2014 made few mistakes, raced very well and were very consistent. I doubt they would be these things if they weren't performing at a high level.

    But really, I will just agree it's subjective at the end of the day, and we can just do the best we can.
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    The mention of Dan Gurney in this thread is IMO significant, and I think he is a pretty good example to talk about here. In absolute results he is not a WDC, got only a handful of race wins, and at first glance is not the first driver you would remember from the past.

    But if you go a bit deeper, you'll see that he was very highly rated (Clark mentioned him as the driver he feared the most) and team-mate battles also give a positive impression. He beat Brabham, while they were driving together in Jack's own team, but Brabham wasn't a title challenging car at that time yet. Gurney also achieved Porsche's one and only GP win. Later Dan drove for his own team/car (Eagle) and also won a race. So he never really had brilliant cars, but he always performed admirably in whatever he got.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Starter View Post
    I think there needs to be a better definition. Do you mean best drivers or best F1 drivers? That can easily be two different categories. F1 is difficult to really rate because so very much depends on having the car of the year.
    I think it is good to talk about one category at once, in this case F1, but you can also discuss another category on its own. Comparing different disciplines (which are like completely different sports with different performances, just look at ex-F1 drivers in DTM) is impossible. Like it is already hard enough to rate different eras of F1.

    I do think driver can be rated only within the system in which they performed, i.e the series (F1) and the era. What unites Fangio and Schumacher is that they were considered as benchmark drivers for a while in their own era. Question what Fangio could have done in 00s or Schumacher in 50s is a bit academic.

    Quote Originally Posted by rjbetty View Post
    I won't even try to do an all time list. I honestly wouldn't know where to start. I mean, would Fangio, if there could be some objective way to compare, have something extra compared to the 2015 field (he was real old when he was winning titles), or would it be like someone said in 2002, that "at [his] best, he would be about as good as Pedro de la Rosa non (2002) - since in every other endeavour, records are continually broken and improved upon, and drivers prepare so much more these days.

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    Of course, immediately I want to add - rating drivers "within their system" brings other complications. "The Schumacher case". What do I mean? It is often mentioned that he had a "weak era". If in, say, 2001 his closest championship rivals were Coulthard, Barrichello and his brother, this claim has an actual point. But really - this claim applies to cross-era comparison. So how to compare different eras? All this while we have enough trouble rating drivers already within their own era.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jens View Post
    Of course, immediately I want to add - rating drivers "within their system" brings other complications. "The Schumacher case". What do I mean? It is often mentioned that he had a "weak era". If in, say, 2001 his closest championship rivals were Coulthard, Barrichello and his brother, this claim has an actual point. But really - this claim applies to cross-era comparison. So how to compare different eras? All this while we have enough trouble rating drivers already within their own era.
    There is obviously no way to compare different eras. You can only rate drivers against their direct competition. Therefor, I would argue that you can't say that this driver or that driver is the "best" of all time. So maybe a "ten best" list in alphabetical order or maybe by year?

    I do think driver can be rated only within the system in which they performed, i.e the series (F1) and the era. What unites Fangio and Schumacher is that they were considered as benchmark drivers for a while in their own era. Question what Fangio could have done in 00s or Schumacher in 50s is a bit academic.
    That's why I picked the first drivers that I did. That group was very successful in every category in which they competed.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Starter View Post
    I think there needs to be a better definition. Do you mean best drivers or best F1 drivers? That can easily be two different categories. F1 is difficult to really rate because so very much depends on having the car of the year.
    I'm American so obviously I've had more chance to see drivers who were more "rounded" in their experience. My list of the best drivers would include Gurney…...



    Quote Originally Posted by jens View Post
    The mention of Dan Gurney in this thread is IMO significant, and I think he is a pretty good example to talk about here. In absolute results he is not a WDC, got only a handful of race wins, and at first glance is not the first driver you would remember from the past.

    But if you go a bit deeper, you'll see that he was very highly rated (Clark mentioned him as the driver he feared the most) and team-mate battles also give a positive impression. He beat Brabham, while they were driving together in Jack's own team, but Brabham wasn't a title challenging car at that time yet. Gurney also achieved Porsche's one and only GP win. Later Dan drove for his own team/car (Eagle) and also won a race. So he never really had brilliant cars, but he always performed admirably in whatever he got.



    Yeah I stayed away from mentioning much of him for not wanting to 'appear' biased.

    All kidding aside with what I posted on another thread, about Patrese and Héctor Rebaque, I would have to agree with what other members have stated on here numerous times before; that for anyone to even make it to the level of F1, let alone maintain the course, is an attribute to their skills.


    One stat I'm always intrigued by, is the GP races led during a driver's career.

    http://www.statsf1.com/en/statistiqu...entete/gp.aspx

    Patrese surprised me with 29 races led, because 1) I didn't think he had to proper equipment to get it done, and 2) when he was on capable teams later in his career, he was for the most part regulated to #2 driver. Anyways, that was a pleasant surprise, even though I have to remind myself that he was in 256(??) races.

    G. Villeneuve was a surprise too, having led 18 GPs, of which some of that was the obvious fact that he was one of the best lights-turn-green starters. And of course the other consideration was that he did have a year-and-a half with the Ferrari 126(series) turbo that was notably better with the turbo-lag, than what the Renaults were still having issues with.

    There were some oddities though for others:

    Jean Alesi led 19 races, yet only won once. For a while I thought Chris Amon had terrible luck with the "win" category, but surprisingly to me at least, he 'only' led 7 races. Though it should be noted that there were fewer races ran in Amon's time, usually 10 or so. While Alesi was - I'm guessing - performing in 16-17 events per season.

    Which is another reason I never cared for F1 to carry more than 15 races a year, as there's a sense of diluting the results of other drivers' achievements from the past, with regards to wins and points accumulated.
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    Quote Originally Posted by AAReagles View Post



    Yeah I stayed away from mentioning much of him for not wanting to 'appear' biased.

    All kidding aside with what I posted on another thread, about Patrese and Héctor Rebaque, I would have to agree with what other members have stated on here numerous times before; that for anyone to even make it to the level of F1, let alone maintain the course, is an attribute to their skills.


    One stat I'm always intrigued by, is the GP races led during a driver's career.

    http://www.statsf1.com/en/statistiqu...entete/gp.aspx

    Patrese surprised me with 29 races led, because 1) I didn't think he had to proper equipment to get it done, and 2) when he was on capable teams later in his career, he was for the most part regulated to #2 driver. Anyways, that was a pleasant surprise, even though I have to remind myself that he was in 256(??) races.

    G. Villeneuve was a surprise too, having led 18 GPs, of which some of that was the obvious fact that he was one of the best lights-turn-green starters. And of course the other consideration was that he did have a year-and-a half with the Ferrari 126(series) turbo that was notably better with the turbo-lag, than what the Renaults were still having issues with.

    There were some oddities though for others:

    Jean Alesi led 19 races, yet only won once. For a while I thought Chris Amon had terrible luck with the "win" category, but surprisingly to me at least, he 'only' led 7 races. Though it should be noted that there were fewer races ran in Amon's time, usually 10 or so. While Alesi was - I'm guessing - performing in 16-17 events per season.

    Which is another reason I never cared for F1 to carry more than 15 races a year, as there's a sense of diluting the results of other drivers' achievements from the past, with regards to wins and points accumulated.
    Yes, that is a big problem in rating F1 drivers. The large difference between races run in a given year. Today's drivers have much more opportunity to show how good (or bad) they are.
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