Hamilton vs Alonso vs Vettel: the F1 statistics

by Mark Hughes on 24th January 2018

Can numbers decide the battle of Formula 1 superiority between Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel?

Here is a summary of the numbers used in our recent mini-series looking at the team-mate comparison of the three pre-eminent Formula 1 drivers of the last decade: Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

What do they show? They suggest that Alonso has the best set of stats against team-mates, measured either by qualifying or race performances, with Vettel next and then Hamilton. Alonso’s average qualifying advantage over his team-mates stands at 0.277 per cent, with Vettel at 0.197 per cent and Hamilton 0.191 per cent. In the races, Alonso beat his team-mates in 82.6 per cent of comparable races. Vettel did so in 77.2 per cent of his races and Hamilton in 65.1 per cent of his.  

However, they are merely the numbers. There is context too – though that’s impossible to judge definitively. Both Alonso and Vettel have had at least some seasons as uncontested team number ones but Hamilton’s team-mates at McLaren and Mercedes have always been free to compete against him. For the purposes of this comparison, any races in which team orders were used have been either awarded to the guy pulling aside, or not counted (according to circumstance). But there will invariably still be other advantages of team status that the numbers will not show (choice of chassis, engines, testing etc). 

Then there is the calibre of team-mates to judge – again, a totally subjective call. But for what it’s worth, here’s that subjective call: for eight of Hamilton’s 11 seasons he has raced alongside team-mates who are unquestionably world-class drivers, in the form of Alonso, Button and Rosberg. Of the 15 Alonso seasons considered here, he has run a season with Hamilton, two with Button, so 20 per cent of his seasons alongside true aces (as opposed to Hamilton’s 72 per cent), the other years with rather softer opposition. Six of the nine Vettel seasons (67 per cent) here have been run as team-mates to feisty aces in the form of Webber and Ricciardo.  

 

 

If we confine the comparison only to those seasons, the numbers look different again – and, in that comparison, Alonso’s stats are the weakest of the three, Vettel’s the strongest. In his three seasons against Hamilton and Button combined, he qualified 0.07 per cent faster and beat them in 56.8 per cent of the races. Hamilton, in his eight seasons alongside Alonso, Button and Rosberg qualified 0.13 per cent faster and beat them in 61.8 per cent of the races. Vettel in his six seasons alongside either Webber or Ricciardo qualified a combined average of 0.161 per cent faster (including being 0.298 per cent slower than Ricciardo in their single season together) and beat them in 82.8 per cent of the races. Obviously, if we include Alonso’s seasons alongside Massa, the numbers would change again in his favour. But did Massa really provide the same benchmark as Hamilton, Rosberg, Button, Ricciardo or even Webber? And at what level do we consider Räikkönen during his years alongside Alonso and Vettel at Ferrari? That’s where the subjective calls come in. 

There are interesting anomalies and intrigues too. All three drivers have been beaten over a season in qualifying at least once – though Vettel by the most significant margin. Alonso and Hamilton were of course matched against each other in Hamilton’s rookie season and the difference was very slightly in Alonso’s favour. But while Hamilton qualified between 0.237-0.35 per cent faster than Jenson Button as a team-mate, Alonso managed only between 0-0.139 per cent over Button. Both Vettel and Hamilton have been beaten over a season in races too (by Ricciardo and Alonso respectively) but Alonso never has, using these measures. Note, we have ignored points comparison as the arbitrary weighting of the points gives a less pure measure than a straight binary won/lost comparison.  

Both Alonso and Vettel have seasons alongside Kimi Räikkönen– and this comparison favours Alonso over Vettel in both race and qualifying. But as the accompanying pieces illustrated, car traits and how they dovetail with driving style can have a huge effect on team-mate comparison.

So definitively, the numbers prove nothing. But through their patterns, they give a suggestion of a picture. The straight numbers paint Alonso as the strongest, albeit with an arguably weaker line-up of team-mates than the other two. 


Alonso team-mate qualifying comparison

Driver (Year) % difference in qualifying performance
Trulli (2003) -0.047%
Button (2015) 0.000%
Trulli (2004) +0.004%
Hamilton (2007) +0.016%
Massa (2013) +0.084%
Button (2016) +0.139%
Massa (2012) +0.177%
Vandoorne (2017) +0.195%
Fisichella (2006) +0.224%
Grosjean (2009) +0.386%
Massa (2011) +0.427%
Massa (2010) +0.460%
Räikkönen (2014) +0.549%
Fisichella (2005) +0.550%
Piquet (2008) +0.598%
Piquet (2009) +0.663%

Vettel team-mate qualifying comparison

Driver (year) % difference in qualifying performance
Ricciardo (2014) -0.298%
Räikkönen (2016) +0.033%
Webber (2010) +0.104%
Webber (2012) +0.115%
Webber (2009) +0.244%
Räikkönen (2017) +0.326%
Webber (2013) +0.355%
Räikkönen (2015) +0.444%
Webber (2011) +0.466%

Hamilton team-mate qualifying comparison

Driver (Year) % difference in qualifying performance
Rosberg (2014) -0.027%
Alonso (2007) -0.016%
Rosberg (2013) +0.036%
Rosberg (2015) 0.144%
Rosberg (2016) +0.169%
Button (2011) +0.237%
Button (2010) +0.288%
Bottas (2017) +0.290%
Kovalainen (2009) +0.302%
Kovalainen (2008) +0.332%
Button (2012) +0.350%

Races

Alonso team-mate racing comparison

Head-to-head % races won by Alonso
Alonso 6-5 Hamilton 54.5% (1 season)
Alonso 15-11 Button 57.7% (2 seasons)
Alonso 10-3 Trulli 76.9% (2 seasons)
Alonso 56-8 Massa 87.5% (4 seasons)
Alonso 20-2 Piquet 90.9% (2 seasons)
Alonso 10-1 Vandoorne 90.9% (1 season)
Alonso 22-2 Fisichella 91.7% (2 seasons)
Alonso 14-1 Räikkönen 93.3% (1 season)
Alonso 4-0 Grosjean 100% (part-season)

Vettel team-mate racing comparison

Head-to-head % races won by Vettel
Vettel 3-8 Ricciardo 27.3% (1 season)
Vettel 56-14 Webber 80% (5 seasons)
Vettel 36-6 Räikkönen 87.7% (3 seasons)

Hamilton team-mate racing comparison

Head-to-head % races won by Hamilton
Hamilton 5-6 Alonso 45.5% (1 season)
Hamilton 27-17 Button 61.4% (3 seasons)
Hamilton 15-8 Kovalainen 65.2% (2 seasons)
Hamilton 36-19 Rosberg 65.5% (4 seasons)
Hamilton 16-3 Bottas 84.2% (1 season)
  • All stats based only on where direct comparison possible, taking out different specs, qualifying sessions decided by track placement on varying track, mechanical failures etc.
  • Qualifying percentages relative to fastest qualifier.
  • Percentage lap time averages have been shown for qualifying comparison rather than lap time averages so as to remove the skew of the comparable data being over different length tracks (i.e. a 0.2sec difference means much more on a short lap than a long one).   

Figures in bold indicate when featured driver has been beaten over a season.

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