The euphoria of Sauber and Williams in qualifying second, third and fourth at Spa quickly evaporated in the early laps of the race and none of them scored any points.
It highlighted that the name of the game in Formula 1 has always been making sure to deliver the goods on a Sunday and there are quite a few examples of teams not making the most of the car they have, particularly Williams and Sauber.
Clearly the exceptions are Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso, whose run of 23 consecutive points finishes came to an abrupt end at Spa. Both have been masters of maximising race day results from some middling qualifying results so far this season.
Supporting his repeated assertions that the Ferrari isn’t the fastest outright car, Alonso only has the joint third qualifying average (6.25) but has picked up nearly 14 points per race on average since the start of the season – the equivalent of between third and fourth place every time. Massa in the same car is averaging P11 on the grid and averaging 3 points per race, which is between 8th and 9th places.
That’s not to say that securing pole position, or a place on the front row, is not as important as it ever has been – 10 of this year’s 12 races have been won from the front row of the grid after all – but the advent of Pirelli tyres and DRS last year has opened things out and meant that a disappointing qualifying session, or less competitive single-lap package, can now often be overcome in race conditions, which wasn’t possible in the Bridgestone era.
So which driver has been producing the biggest step-change in the race from their qualifying result on average so far this season?
Well, of the title-contending drivers, Kimi Raikkonen leads the way here with the Lotus driver qualifying eighth on average but ending Sundays with an average of 11 points at the end of each race – the equivalent of at least a fifth-placed finish, therefore giving him an average three-place race improvement. It’s that stealthy approach which, despite still waiting for a return to the winners’ circle, means the Finn sits just 33 points adrift of Alonso in the battle for the championship.
Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber and Jenson Button are all also picking up at least one position from their grid position in race conditions by the chequered flag on average, whereas Lewis Hamilton has an equal qualifying and race average of fifth place.
In the midfield, Sauber’s Sergio Perez qualifies only 13th on average but his tally of 47 points equates to an average race finish of eighth place, although Williams’ Bruno Senna posts the biggest Saturday to Sunday turnaround of all with an average improvement of six places up the order on race day to two points and ninth. But it could be argued that with the superb car Sauber has this year, both drivers should have qualified and raced higher up the order.
It’s also interesting to compare the average points scores of the leading drivers from last year to this to show how the field has become more competitive as a whole in 2012.
While 2011’s runaway title winner Vettel scored an average of just under 21 points per race – the equivalent of more than a second-place finish – Button, Webber and Alonso still all claimed nearly the points equivalent of a third place finish at every event.
With Vettel’s average ‘take home’ dropping by nine points this time round, the only title contender to maintain the same ratio from last season is points leader Alonso himself, the Spaniard’s exact average per race score climbing marginally from 13.53 to 13.67.
Indeed, underlining the sense that the top three squads have fallen back towards the pack, in addition to obvious big improvements at Lotus, both Sauber drivers are also scoring more than double the amount of points accrued over the course of last year at every event, with Sergio Perez’s tally rising from less than a point to four and Kamui Kobayashi’s from one and a half to three. Even Force India’s Paul di Resta, whose team are enjoying a less successful season in constructors’ championship terms compared to 2011, is scoring one more point at every grand prix on average this time round.
We’ve taken a look at the average qualifying results and points takehomes per race – and the nearest finishing positions they equate to – for the field and here are the results:
Button: Average qualifying – 7th; Average race result – 8 points / 6th place
Hamilton: Average qualifying – 5th; Average race result – 10 points / 5th place
Raikkonen: Average qualifying – 8th; Average race result – 11 points / 5th to 4th place
Grosjean: Average qualifying – 7th; Average race result – 6 points / 7th place
Alonso: Average qualifying – 6th; Average race result – 14 points / 4th to 3rd place
Massa: Average qualifying – 11th; Average race result – 3 points / 9th to 8th place
Schumacher: Average qualifying – 8th; Average race result – 3 points / 9th to 8th place
Rosberg: Average qualifying – 9th; Average race result– 6 points / 7th place
Kobayashi: Average qualifying – 11th; Average race result – 3 points / 9th to 8th place
Perez: Average qualifying – 13th; Average race result – 4 points / 8th place
Maldonado: Average qualifying – 9th; Average race result – 2 points / 9th place
Senna: Average qualifying – 15th; Average race result – 2 points / 9th place
Ricciardo: Average qualifying – 14th; Average race finish – 13th place
Vergne: Average qualifying – 17th; Average race finish – 13th place
Kovalainen: Average qualifying– 18th; Average race finish – 17th
Petrov: Average qualifying – 20th; Average race finish – 16th
Glock: Average qualifying – 21st; Average race finish – 18th
Pic: Average qualifying – 22nd; Average race finish – 18th
De la Rosa: Average qualifying – 22nd; Average race finish – 20th
Karthikeyan: Average qualifying – 24th; Average race finish – 20th
*Note: All results listed have been rounded to the nearest whole number while the average finishing position for the drivers who have scored less than a point per race so far (Toro Rosso downwards) have their average race finishes listed as the comparison.