If you discount Sebastian Vettel’s retirements this year, he has been more effective at scoring points than any of the other top title contenders this year. It’s the retirements that make the difference. As has often been noted, the current points system rewards consistency, and even a single retirement is apt to have a serious impact on a driver’s title challenge.
Perhaps the best example of this is Vettel. If you compare him to the other three drivers leading the points race (see table and chart), you can see that he trails both Button and Barrichello in average points per race, while he leads Webber by a significant margin.
It is important to remember, however, that Vettel has had five retirements this year, which is more than the DNF’s of the other three drivers combined. If you exclude the retirements from the average calculation, an interesting thing happens. While the figures for Button, Barrichello and Webber change only marginally (in no case more than about half a point), Vettel’s average jumps by more than two full points, making him the most successful points earner of the four.
Naturally, in the real world, or at least, in the real world as far as Formula 1 is concerned, averages don’t count for as much as totals. At the end of the season, it’s the fellow who has the greatest total who walks away with the prize. On the other hand, if you were Christian Horner trying to make a relative comparison between your star drivers, Vettel and Webber, it might be instructive to note that, on average, excluding retirements, Vettel scored 6.90 points per race, compared to Webber’s 3.96.
Graphic illustrations by Craig Scott.