Fans, pundits and drivers alike have been bemoaning the new points-scoring system being introduced in 2010 because, among many things, it will render historical points-scoring comparisons useless, with race wins now attracting 25 points compared to the 10 points of 2009 and before. In truth however, using points scored as an accurate tool of comparison between drivers of different eras has been broken for quite some time.
To begin with, the points system has changed numerous times over the lifetime of the world championship. In 1950, just 8 points were rewarded to drivers for a race win, while only the top 5 finishers scored points. With race wins in 2009 attracting 10 points, comparing points scores in 1950 with those of 2009 would mean every five wins in 1950 would be 'worth' just four wins in 2009 standards. Surely though, victories at circuits such as the old and fearsome Nurburgring, Spa-Francorchamps and Silverstone should be worth the same, if not more, than wins in the present day at venues such as Valencia, Budapest and Bahrain? While the points system has moved only incrementally from year-to-year, with the last big change coming in 2003 when the top 8 finishers scored points, it nevertheless skews any potential comparisons with previous eras.
The number of victories or podium finishes are also regularly used as a measure of one's talent, but even here the comparisons have their flaws. In 1950, just seven Grands Prix were included in the world championship, although many more were held that did not count towards the title. Nowadays, the calendar is pushing towards three times that number, with 19 races due to be held in 2010, pending the completion of the new track in South Korea. Again one must ask if it is fair that drivers such as Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton have the opportunity of collecting dozens of race winning trophies, when their predecessors could have achieved only a handful.
While the challenge of winning a single race in any specific era is not up for debate, drivers of yesteryear should not be penalised for failing to win races that did not exist. As an example, Italy's Alberto Ascari won the 1952 champions with Ferrari in dominant style, winning 6 of that year's eight races. But looking at Schumacher's comparably (although arguable less so) dominant year for the Scuderia in 2004, the German notched up 13 wins. Disregarding car performance or rivals' strength, was Ascari's feat only half as good as Schumacher's, or are they somewhat more comparable than that?
The same philosophy can be applied to the points system. When comparing drivers of the 1950s and 1960s to those of today, current drivers have the distinct advantage of having competed in more world championship races, giving them an insurmountable advantage. Attempting to compare Juan Manuel Fangio's achievements with those of Schumacher or Alonso are therefore trivial.
While we do not claim to be able to solve the question of who the world's greatest driver is or was, Manipe F1 has decided to make the effort of comparing drivers with respect to points scored slightly easier and more concrete. In an effort to avoid the usual problems discussed above, we have decided to use the 2010 points-scoring system of 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 for all years of the championship. Then, to put the drivers of the 1950s and 1960s on a level footing with the current flock, we have weighted each race so that points are scored at each event as if there were 20 races that season. Therefore, for a season with 10 races (ie. 1965), a race win would earn the driver 50 points instead of 25.
For simplicity, races which awarded half-points on the day due to insufficient distance being reached are awarded full points, while races shared between drivers have the points shared equally among the drivers, regardless of the regulations of the day. No points have been awarded for fastest lap, as was the case in the 1950s.
While the leading driver in our standardised points system is unsurprising, it is interesting to see five-time world champion Juan Manuel Fangio come in at third in the list. A conventional comparison of drivers' points would have placed Fangio just 23rd in the list, behind the likes of Ralf Schumacher, Gerhard Berger and Juan Pablo Montoya. Jack Brabham also jumps up the rankings to 10th from 26th under the conventional comparison, as does Jim Clark from 24th to 14th. Alberto Ascari elevates from 52nd to 30th.
Here are the top 30 drivers in the standardised points system table. Tell us what you think of the system in the comments below.
Top 30 standardised points-scorers: