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Senna named fastest F1 driver (since 1983)

NEWS STORY
18/08/2020

As part of the sport's 70th anniversary year, F1 has been working with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to compare driver speeds throughout the ages and define an ultimate ranking of the fastest drivers ever.

Fastest Driver, the latest F1 Insight powered by AWS, is a unique tool that uses machine learning technology to provide an objective, data-driven ranking of all drivers from 1983 through present day, by removing the F1 car differential from the equation.

Ranked by qualifying speed - the fastest that all drivers traverse the course during a Grand Prix weekend - three-time World Champion Ayrton Senna came out on top, with the Brazilian closely followed by seven-time World Champion, Michael Schumacher with a time differential of +0.114 seconds to Senna, and current World Champion Lewis Hamilton rounding out the top three, achieving a relative time of +0.275 seconds.

By comparing teammates in qualifying sessions, the machine learning-based tool focuses on a driver's performance output, building a network of teammates across the time-range, all interlinked, and therefore comparable.

By comparing laptimes between teammates only, the Fastest Driver algorithm effectively normalises for car and the team performance. Overall, this builds up a picture of how drivers from different generations compare, by analysing the purest indication of raw speed - the qualifying lap.

As a part of F1 Insights, it also provides a unique understanding into a similar exercise F1 teams undergo to define their target drivers for upcoming seasons, but is here applied over a 37-year period of F1 history, despite the differences in rules and machinery.

By using AWS's machine learning technology, data scientists from F1 and the Amazon Machine Learning (ML) Solutions Lab have for the first time created a cross-era, objective, complex, data-driven ranking of driver speed - the Fastest Driver insight.

The output from the Fastest Driver insight is a dataset with rankings based on speed (or qualifying times) in descending order of outputs including: Driver, Rank (integer), and Gap to best (seconds, to 0.001s).

The full top 10 driver rankings includes current F1 stars Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, and Sebastian Vettel, world champions Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg. Further drivers will be announced in the coming weeks as the season continues and more data is analysed.

"Within the team environment this type of modelling is used to make key decisions on driver choices," said Rob Smedley, Director of Data Systems, F1. "As drivers are more often than not the most expensive asset of the team it is important that the selection process is as robust as possible.

"A process such as this therefore would be deployed by the F1 team's strategists in order to present the most objective and evidence-based selection possible.

"Fastest Driver enables us to build up a picture of how the drivers compare, by analysing the purest indication of raw speed, the qualifying lap - and it's important to note this pure speed is the only element of the vast driver armoury we are analysing here, to showcase the quickest drivers ever, which is very exciting."

"This has been such an exciting project to work on," added Dean Locke, Director of Broadcast & Media F1, "stripping back the man from the machine and looking at a wealth of data of each driver throughout history. With the help of AWS we have been able to address something that has been asked for many years and rank drivers by the one raw attribute of pure speed in one flying lap, across the ages, regardless of how good their car is or isn't."

Pos Driver Diff
1 Ayrton Senna 0.000s
2 Michael Schumacher 0.114s
3 Lewis Hamilton 0.275s
4 Max Verstappen 0.280s
5 Fernando Alonso 0.309s
6 Nico Rosberg 0.374s
7 Charles Leclerc 0.376s
8 Heikki Kovalainen 0.378s
9 Jarno Trulli 0.409s
10 Sebastian Vettel 0.435s
11 Rubens Barrichello 0.445s
12 Nico Hulkenberg 0.456s
13 Valtteri Bottas 0.457s
14 Carlos Sainz 0.457s
15 Lando Norris 0.459s
16 Daniel Ricciardo 0.461s
17 Jenson Button 0.462s
18 Robert Kubica 0.463s
19 Giancarlo Fisichella 0.469s
20 Alain Prost 0.514s

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Red Baron, 27/08/2020 23:59

"Very surprised to not see Mika Häkkinen's name on this list - he wasn't called The Flying Finn for nothing."

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2. Posted by @R1Racing71, 19/08/2020 16:42

"Not too many drivers there that haven’t raced in the last 10 years - Is that just not a little questionable ?
While I don’t dispute the top 2, I find it hard to believe that the 80’s and 90’s drivers were not as fast over a single lap."

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3. Posted by Editor, 19/08/2020 7:06

"@ rosscogeo

Nowhere is it claimed that Trulli and Kovalainen are "better" than Vettel or Prost, merely, using their data, quicker over a single qualifying lap.

"

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4. Posted by Roli, 19/08/2020 5:31

"is it April the 1st?"

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5. Posted by Egalitarian, 19/08/2020 4:26

"So if a young driver does two weekends where qualifying is in the wet, but drying, and that driver picks the intermediates for two magical laps more than half a second clear of the rest of the field... but they then fall off their pushbike the following week, thus ending their career - they would be faster than everyone including the amazing Jarno Trulli (does anyone remember the Trulli train?). It sounds just as ridiculous, huh?"

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6. Posted by kenji, 19/08/2020 0:39

"Not too sure about a few of these even being in the top 20!!!"

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7. Posted by Superbird70, 18/08/2020 22:26

"Not bad. Top 20 drivers within half a second of each other on a flying lap. Would make for an interesting race in 'party mode'. "

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8. Posted by jcr, 18/08/2020 16:04

"One up the B** for Hamilton !!!"

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9. Posted by RomeoPapaKilo, 18/08/2020 15:05

"Probably used the same algorithm as used in deciding the A-Level results! 😉"

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10. Posted by rosscogeo, 18/08/2020 15:04

"I think a big pinch of salt is needed, trulli and kovalainen better than vettel and prost at 20th?"

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