A data-driven study from Formula 1 claims that Ayrton Senna is the fastest driver of the last 40 years, ahead of Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton.
Formula 1 has released the findings of a study of drivers over the past 40 years, with the intent of seeking out the fastest drivers ever.
The research was compiled by Amazon Web Services, an F1 sponsor who also supply the ‘Tyre life’ and ‘Overtaking possibility’ graphics for live coverage.
They used machine learning to analyse data from 1983 onwards to compare drivers, coming up with the conclusion that Ayrton Senna is the absolute benchmark for F1 driver speed.
Senna scored 65 pole positions during his life, and was regarded as a qualifying specialist. The data showed him to be a tenth clear of Michael Schumacher, who beat Senna’s pole record to claim 68 during his career.
Lewis Hamilton was judged to be in P3, having just taken his 92nd pole position in Spain last weekend – he was just under 0.3 away from Senna’s pace.
Max Verstappen was in P4, with Fernando Alonso in P5. Nico Rosberg was in P6.
The bottom half of the top ten is slightly more controversial, as it lists Charles Leclerc in P7, ahead of Heikki Kovalainen, Jarno Trulli and Sebastian Vettel in P10.
F1’s director of data systems Rob Smedley said the data model used was similar that adopted by teams to compare driver performances when choosing who to hire.
“Within the team environment this type of modelling is used to make key decisions on driver choices,” said Smedley. “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.”