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Analysis: Qualifying still key in 2012 Formula 1 season

Analysis: Qualifying still key in 2012Qualifying is no less important a determining factor in who wins races in Formula 1 in 2012 than it has been in previous seasons.

There have been suggestions that the combination of high-degradation Pirelli rubber and the relative ease of overtaking have reduced the impact of Saturday afternoons, but the statistics suggest this not to be the case.

An analysis of the past 10 years of Formula 1, a total of 172 grands prix from the start of the 2003 season to the Hungarian Grand Prix earlier this month, reveals that this year, 55 per cent of races have been won from pole.

By comparison, the mean for the past decade for wins from pole stands at 52 per cent, three per cent lower than this season.

In 2012, 82 per cent of races have been won from the front row, which is seven per cent higher than the average.

The mean average qualifying position for race winners is 2.7, relatively high compared to the previous 10 years, but this is distorted by Fernando Alonso's exceptional wins from 11th at Valencia and eight at Sepang.

Despite the belief that qualifying is not as important as it was in the pre-DRS, Bridgestone era, the 2010 season produced the lowest percentage of race winners from pole position.

While it is clearly easier to pass this year than it was before the introduction of the DRS and Pirelli rubber, the need to manage tyres makes it difficult to charge in races.

Also, time lost by a quick car in traffic in the first stint of the race is difficult to make up given how tight the competitive spread between the top nine teams is.

During this period there have been a number of changes to the regs that have effected the way cars qualify. Most significant is the ban on refueling ahead of the 2010 season.

Percentage wins from pole by season (*)

 1. 2007: 65%
 2. 2004: 61%
 3. 2003: 56%
 4. 2006: 56%
 5. 2012: 55%
 6. 2009: 53%
 7. 2011: 47%
 8. 2005: 47%
 9. 2008: 44%
10. 2010: 42%

Percentage of races won from the front row by season (*)

2007: 88%
2011: 84%
2004: 84%
2012: 82%
2008: 78%
2010: 74%
2006: 72%
2009: 71%
2005: 63%
2003: 56%

Average starting position of race winners by season (*)

 1. 2003: 3.2
 2. 2005: 3.2
 3. 2012: 2.8
 4. 2006: 2.7
 5. 2008: 2.6
 6. 2009: 2.2
 7. 2004: 2.2
 8. 2010: 2.0
 9. 2011: 1.9
10. 2007: 1.5

* Figures rounded up to nearest whole number. In the case of a tie, the figures are ordered by reference to unrounded number.

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