Overall, the events went well, considering the circumstances: the pandemic, stormy weather on the track, technical issues with the broadcast. I appreciated the rare opportunity to understand the work of a broadcast director, given by the glitch that for half of the first race put through director’s voice instead of the commentators. The audience reached 1000 viewers during FRAC Race 2; the audience of USF4 topped at around 250.

FAN uses Vimeo to stream races. A few times I got stuck in a video stream that was not the current one: the solution was to refresh the page and click Live Streaming again, which moved me from an old stream (previous race or “this event has not started yet”) to the live picture.

It would be nice to have an archive of past FAN races. Hopefully this is something FAN is planning to add, along with a YouTube channel.

Both series feature strong grids in 2020, thanks in part to reduced competition (no Indy Lights in 2020, etc). There were 17 drivers in the FRAC event, including some familiar names: Lundqvist, Car, Pedersen,…. With 33 competitors in USF4, many of them new to single-seaters, it is no wonder that the first event had several delays due to accidents.

Jay Howard Driver Development (JHDD) entered with 6 drivers in USF4 and consistently took a few of the top spots. Previously, two of their F4 drivers were 1-2 in a testing session, which set up a joint interview with Christian Bogle (6’4” / 205 lbs) and Nolan Siegel (5’4” / 100 lbs). Apparently the former has been cutting weight while the latter eats a cupcake before each race, so the contrast in appearance might be getting smaller with time.

So far, JHDD appears to put more emphasis on driver promotion than most USF4/FRAC teams. Not nearly as much as Prema does in European series, but that’s a high bar to meet…

By the way, this video was shot before Roman Stanek was replaced by Jamie Chadwick in Prema’s FREC lineup. Roman appears in group shots while Jamie’s solo shots are obviously late additions.

I do not enjoy seeing essentially fake entries used to boost grid size so it would meet the FIA requirement for Super License points (looking at you, “Ret DNS DNS” drivers at the bottom of the championship standings). So I am not going to say much about this generally uninspiring series of events. Instead, here is the championship table sorted by the average number of points earned per race.

Driver

Races

Points per race

Joey Alders

15

17.7

Sebastián Fernández

6

16.0

Jack Doohan

15

15.3

Mikhael Belov

3

13.0

Nikita Mazepin

15

12.4

Devlin DeFrancesco

9

11.2

Daniel Cao

3

10.3

Jamie Chadwick

15

9.3

Pietro Fittipaldi

15

7.9

Yu Kanamaru

15

6.9

James Yu

15

4.7

Jake Hughes

6

4.0

Tatiana Calderón

9

3.4

Tommy Smith

15

3.2

Miki Koyama

3

2.0

Alessio Deledda

15

1.4

Khaled Al Qubaisi

3

0.7

Thomas Luedi

15

0.2

The unexpected success of Alders got its share of headlines, but I would also remark on Belov’s 4th place by average points, considering that he came directly from F4. At the moment it is unclear where either of them is headed next: hopefully, Formula Renault Eurocup.

The late addition of Jehan Daruvala to the team reshuffled the standings, so here is an update. Because Daruvala’s statistics are current as of today, for the sake of consistency I updated Lawson and Tsunoda who took part in Toyota Racing Series 2020. Generally, Lawson’s statistics got slightly better and Tsunoda’s slightly worse.

Lawson, Hauger, and Tsunoda end up in the top half of the roster more often than others. Obviously, they did not participate in the same series: some statistics of Daruvala and Vips are lower because of the stronger competition they faced recently.

It was a close one. Igor Fraga vs Liam Lawson, points after each race:

They were always within 20 points of each other:

That one Hampton Downs race, where Lawson briefly lost power and got hit from behind, had disproportionate impact on the championship, more than any race victory by either driver.

Fraga and Lawson are headed to FIA F3 next. I recalculated the TRS results using FIA F3 scoring, which also awards reduced points for reversed grid races. Result: Lawson wins 226:216.

By F3 scoring, Lawson led almost throughout the championship, only trailing once, by 1 point, after his Hampton Downs retirement.

Neither competitor ever finished below 8th place. Comparing the scoring systems, one can conclude that TRS essentially gives about 10 points just for finishing, or equivalently imposes a 10 point penalty for a non-finish.

Place

TRS

F3

TRS rev

F3 rev

1

35

25

20

15

2

31

18

18

12

3

27

15

16

10

4

24

12

14

8

5

22

10

12

6

6

20

8

10

4

7

18

6

9

2

8

16

4

8

1

“rev” = reversed grid races

Final remark: in the points-free comparison of sorted results, from best to worst, Lawson beats or matches Fraga in all except the last line.

Fraga

vs

Lawson

1

=

1

1

=

1

1

=

1

1

=

1

2

<

1

2

=

2

2

=

2

3

<

2

3

=

3

4

<

3

4

=

4

5

=

5

6

<

5

7

<

6

8

>

Ret

Last line trumped the rest of them

(By the way, I am glad that Fraga won, I was rooting for him. But that is besides the point.)

I try to track the movement of drivers between the following categories: F1, F2, F3, F3R, and F4. Here F3R (“regional F3”) category also includes Formula Renault and Euroformula Open.

F2 to F1

Nicholas Latifi

F3 to F2

Marcus Armstrong

Jehan Daruvala

Felipe Drugovich

Christian Lundgaard

Pedro Piquet

Robert Shwartzman

Yuki Tsunoda

F3R to F2

Guilherme Samaia

Marino Sato

Daniel Ticktum

This is an oversimplification of events, but most of Sato’s and Ticktum’s races in 2019 were on F3R level.

F3R to F3

Enaam Ahmed

Olli Caldwell

Cameron Das

Jack Doohan

Lukas Dunner

Enzo Fittipaldi

Sophia Flörsch

Igor Fraga

Federico Malvestiti

Matteo Nannini

Clement Novalak

Oscar Piastri

David Schumacher

Alexander Smolyar

Frederik Vesti

Calan Williams

Unusually, Jüri Vips moved in the opposite direction: from F3 to FREC. This highlights the absurdity of equating FREC with Super Formula in terms of Super Licence points. Whether Vips stepped up to SF or stepped down to FREC, the potential reward in terms of points is the same. It is pretty clear that FREC competition is much weaker. This is not to suggest that Vips is looking for a weaker series: the travel issues and the Lost in Translation effects are obvious obstacles in SF.

F4 to F3

Dennis Hauger

Théo Pourchaire

Roman Staněk

Skipping F3R is a bold move, and originally, only two drivers were set to attempt it in 2020: the winners of two most competitive F4 championships, Italy and Germany. The last-minute addition of Roman Staněk to this list is a very bold move.

F4 to F3R

William Alatalo

Paul Aron

Mikhael Belov

Ido Cohen

Hadrien David

Sebastian Estner

Alessandro Famularo

Reshad de Gerus

Gillian Henrion

Arthur Leclerc

Zane Maloney

Emidio Pesce

Gianluca Petecof

Oliver Rasmussen

Grégoire Saucy

Josh Skelton

Laszlo Toth

Glenn van Berlo

This list is inevitably incomplete due to the fuzziness of F3R category.

Karting to F3R

David Vidales

I am not going to track the drivers coming to F4 from karts due to sheer numbers, but going directly to F3R is sufficiently rare to be mentioned.

The 2020 roster of Ferrari Driver Academy looks impressive, with 5 of 9 drivers having already reached Formula 2. But with very little room available at the highest step of the ladder, chances are that only a small fraction of them will reach it. Instead of making predictions on this matter, I will simply rank them using a few hugely flawed metrics and pick top 5 each time.

Simplified Super Licence Points

Following the method of a previous post, I count only the Super Licence points earned in F2 and FIA F3 in the past two seasons.

Robert Shwartzman 50

Marcus Armstrong 33

Mick Schumacher 30

Callum Ilott 15

Giuliano Alesi 3

The rest have not yet reached the aforementioned series.

Number of races won

Not counting karting, of course. As the previous indicator, this one favors more experienced drivers; but the amount of experience is also a relevant thing to consider here.

Mick Schumacher 29

Marcus Armstrong 26

Robert Shwartzman 16

Callum Ilott 11

Enzo Fittipaldi 10

Winning percentage

I expected this to favor the less experienced drivers, who spent more of their time in lower level series. But the list looks quite similar to the previous one.

Mick Schumacher 16.4%

Marcus Armstrong 15.8%

Robert Shwartzman 9.7%

Enzo Fittipaldi 9.1%

(tie) Arthur Leclerc and Gianluca Petecof 7.5%

Number of podiums

These are the same 5 drivers as in the list based on the number of wins, but they are not in the same order.

Marcus Armstrong 76

Robert Shwartzman 63

Mick Schumacher 51

Enzo Fittipaldi 36

Callum Ilott 32

Podium percentage

Marcus Armstrong 46.1%

Arthur Leclerc 40%

Robert Shwartzman 38.2%

Enzo Fittipaldi 32.7%

Mick Schumacher 28.8%

Summary

Dino Beganovic, who is yet to make his single-seater debut, could not possibly appear in any of the above lists. Giuliano Alesi only appears as #5 on the Super Licence list. Overall, the top 3 are clearly Armstrong, Schumacher, and Shwartzman but at this point I cannot put them in any order other than alphabetical. If this is not a satisfactory conclusion, you can look at the Future Racing Stars ranking from Driver Database, which was also my source for most of the above statistics.

Who had a better season? Looks pretty clear to me.

Yet, Shwartzman became the champion with 916 points versus 911 for Verschoor. Because for the TRS scoring system it did not matter much who won a race, or in what order the drivers finished it, as long as they finished at all. The second place was worth 67/75 = 89.3% of the first place; for example, 9 second places were valued more than 8 wins. Even finishing last, in the 13th place (there were never more than 13 cars on the grid) was worth 26 points, a third of a race win. Verschoor had one retirement, and that was it.

Forward to 2020

The scoring system is different now. It no longer attempts to distribute points among (non-existent) 30 cars on the grid. Just among the 20. And finishing 2nd is no longer worth 89.3% of winning a race. It’s just 88.9%. And 9 second places are now worth exactly the same as 8 wins.

So, not much changed in essence, except for the value of finishing last (now 1 point compared to 26 in 2018). But finishing last was not the issue in 2018: neither Verschoor nor Shwartzman were ever classified below 6th.

The amounts being different between three races held each weekend, I use averages: the first place gets (35+20+35)/3 = 30 points on average, while the second place gets (31+18+31)/3 = 26.7 points and the third (21+16+21)/3 = 23.3.

After the first round in 2020, Liam Lawson has 82 points while his expected rival Ciao Collet has 18 (car damage + a cruel and unusual penalty). Which in the TRS reality means that Collet might as well pack and go on vacation. Even if he wins all of remaining 12 races, and Lawson gets an equal mix of 2nd and 3rd places, the championship will be decided by:

Collet: 18 + 12*30 = 378

Lawson: 82 + 6*26.7 + 6*23.3 = 382

Sure, Lawson might retire too. But what fun is a championship that hinges on retirements rather than victories?

What if

If 2020 scoring (for “normal” races) was applied to 2018 results, Verschoor would have won by 1 point: 418 : 417. I do not take it to mean that the problem was fixed, though. The table at the beginning of this post is telling me the championship was not that close. With the current F1/F2/F3 scoring, Verschoor would have won 261 : 233, clinching the title with a race to spare.

Disclaimer

This is not meant to be an anti-Shwartzman post. He did not invent the scoring system. Handed an early advantage due to Verschoor’s retirement in Round 1, he did what he had to do to maintain the championship lead and minimize the risk of losing it.

FIA Super Licence points are too complicated for most people to follow in detail, especially when quite a few otherwise eligible series fail to reach the required grid size.

This does not stop series organizers and commentators from talking up the point amounts at any opportunity (aside: if during a race, a commentator cannot find a more interesting subject than Super License points, perhaps the series isn’t good enough to be awarding them). The points earned at F4 and regional F3 levels do matter for getting Grade A licence, but in most cases they will either expire or become redundant before the driver is ready to enter Formula 1.

So I prefer to simplify the picture by counting only Super License points earned in the last two years in F2 and (FIA) F3. (Since the latter did not exist in 2018, I counted both of its precedessors, European F3 and GP3).

Driver

Points

F2 ’19

F2 ’18

F3 ’19

F3 ’18

Nyck de Vries

70

40

30

Robert Shwartzman

50

30

20

Luca Ghiotto

46

40

6

Nicholas Latifi

44

40

4

Alexander Albon

40

40

George Russell

40

40

Lando Norris

40

40

Sérgio Sette Câmara

40

30

10

Marcus Armstrong

33

25

8

Mick Schumacher

30

30

Anthoine Hubert

28

3

25

Dan Ticktum

25

25

Jehan Daruvala

21

20

1

Artem Markelov

20

20

Jack Aitken

20

20

Jüri Vips

20

10

10

Nikita Mazepin

20

20

Callum Ilott

15

15

Leonardo Pulcini

13

3

10

Pedro Piquet

13

8

5

Guanyu Zhou

11

8

3

Nobuharu Matsushita

10

10

Louis Delétraz

9

6

3

Antonio Fuoco

8

8

David Beckmann

7

7

Christian Lundgaard

6

6

Jake Hughes

6

4

2

Ralf Aron

6

6

Richard Verschoor

5

5

Álex Palou

4

4

Jordan King

4

4

Giuliano Alesi

3

3

Enaam Ahmed

2

2

Yuki Tsunoda

2

2

Max Fewtrell

1

1

Ryan Tveter

1

1

The exclusion of other series like IndyCar or Super Formula has mostly to do with the fact that most of the drivers in those series are not on a trajectory that would lead them to F1 (sorry, Nick Cassidy). I might reconsider this next year depending on how much success Vips has in SF.

Reality check

Where are the drivers who already earned 40 or more points required for Super Licence? Albon, Norris, Latifi, and Russell indeed reached F1. Shwartzman moved up to F2 so far. The others appear to have left the F1 ladder: de Vries went to Formula E, Ghiotto to GT, Sette Câmara is rumored to join IndyCar.

Following the method of this post presents the evolution of the graph of 1-2 finishes throughout 2019 season. The graphs are shown as they were after the race mentioned in the subheading. At times, when the main F1 graph remained unchanged, I threw in similar graphs for some F1 feeder series.

Australia

Obviously, there is only one edge after the first race of the season, a Mercedes 1-2. This turned out to be the beginning of a series of five 1-2 for Mercedes, so the graph did not change again until Monaco.

Monaco

At Monaco, Mercedes drivers took “only” the first and third place, as Vettel appeared in top 2.

Austria

It began with the youngest ever front row of the F1 grid: Leclerc and Verstappen. And ended with the youngest ever 1-2 finish (represented by an edge here) in Formula One: Verstappen and Leclerc. For the moment, the graph is disconnected.

Two predictions: (1) the components will get connected; (2) the graph will stay with 5 vertices, tying the record for the fewest number of vertices (there were 5 in 2000 and 2011). Which is a way of saying, I don’t expect either Gasly or anyone outside of top 3 teams to finish in top two for the rest of the season.

Germany

The rain-induced chaos in Hockenheim could have added a third component to the graph, but instead it linked the two existing ones. The graph is now a path on 5 vertices, which is not a likely structure in this context.

Hungary

Sure, the configuration did not last. The graph is longer a tree, and nor longer bipartite.

A prediction added during the summer break: the season’s graph will contain a Hamiltonian cycle.

Belgium

Getting closer to constructing a Hamiltonian cycle: only one degree-1 vertex remains. The graph is similar to 1992 season, except the appendage was one edge longer then.

In 1992, the central position was occupied by Mansell, who scored 93% more points than the runner-up to the title. This is where we find Hamilton at present, though with “only” 32% more points than the 2nd place. (The percentages are called for, because the scoring system changed in between.)

Italy

A Hamiltonian cycle is now complete. The only way to lose it is by adding another vertex to the graph, which I do not expect to happen.

The graph resembles the 2001 season where Hamilton’s position was occupied by Schumacher. The only difference is that in 2001, there was an extra edge incident to Schumacher.

Singapore

We have a 4-clique, and are two edges short of the complete graph on 5 vertices.

However, I predict the complete graph will not happen. Achieving it would require two races in which neither Hamilton nor Leclerc finishes in top two. Such a thing happened just once in the first 15 races, in the chaos of rainy Hockenheim. Not likely to happen twice in the remaining 6.

Russia

The Formula 1 graph did not change, which is not surprising, considering how unlikely the two missing edges are to appear (see above). But since FIA Formula 3 championship ended in Sochi, here is its complete graph.

The champion, Shwartzman, has the highest vertex degree with 5. Given the level of success of Prema team, one could expect their drivers to form a 3-clique, but this is not the case: Armstrong and Daruvala are not connected (Daruvala’s successful races were mostly toward the beginning of the season, Armstrong’s toward the end). Two Hitech drivers, Vips and Pulcini, each share a couple edges with Prema drivers. All in all, this was a closely fought championship that sometimes made Formula 1 races look like parade laps in comparison.

Japan

Unlikely as it was, another edge was created, bringing the graph within one edge of the first non-planar season in F1.

Could we get an even more unlikely Verstappen-Bottas finish in the remaining four races? Red Bull did not look strong enough in recent races for that to happen.

Interlude: Formula 4

The level of Formula 4 championships is highly variable: some struggle to survive with a handful of cars on the grid, some have developed into spectacular competitions. The following summary of F4 history is highly recommended.

The two most noteworthy ones are the “twin” F4 championships held in Germany and Italy which have disjoint calendars and share many of the drivers. Here is a summary of German (ADAC) F4 in 2019:

At times, US Racing team threatened to take positions 1-2-3-4 in the standings. They did get 1, 3, 4, 6 but it was a close fight, with Pourchaire taking the title by 7 points (258 : 251) over Hauger. Hauger and his neighbors in the graph (US Racing quartet and Petecof of Prema team) occupied the top 6 positions. The radius of the graph is 3, with its (unique) center being Pourchaire.

The Italian F4 championship sometimes had over 35 cars on the grid, but its 1-2 graph is smaller, of radius 2. The unique center is Hauger, who won by a landslide (Hauger 369 : 233 Petecof). The only Italian driver on the graph of this Italian championship is Ferrari who once took second place when Hauger and Petecof collided.

Arguably, Hauger is the 2019 driver of the year at F4 level: he won 6 races in ADAC F4 and 12 in Italian F4. Pourchaire won 4 races in ADAC F4 and did not participate in Italian F4.

Another fascinating contest was the season-long battle of two 15-year old F4 rookies: Aron and Stanek. Stanek took ADAC F4 rookie title, Aron did likewise in Italy. One can call it a tie, with a rematch likely next year unless they move to different categories. Mercedes-backed Aron gets more media attention so far.

Mexico

No new edge, just another repeat of Hamilton-Vettel pairing: it is the 55th time they took the top two spots in Formula 1, an all-time record. They are adjacent on every graph since 2010 except for 2013, where Hamilton’s only race win came with Vettel finishing 3rd. They were also 1-3 in Japan 2009, so one has to go back to 2008, when Vettel drove for Toro Rosso, to find a season where they did not share the podium.

Meanwhile, Formula Renault Eurocup 2019 season ended, so here is its summary graph.

As usual, the highest vertex degree (Piastri, 6) indicates the champion. The 4-clique in the center of the large component took the top 4 places. The small component De Wilde – Lorandi comes from the season opener, where JD Motorsport team claimed the top two. Neither driver was in top two again, as the rest of the season was almost entirely a contest between R-ace GP and MP Motorsport. Not obvious from the graph: despite only appearing in top 2 once, as a second place in Spa, Collet took a handful of 3rd and 4th places on his way to the 5th place in overall standings and the top rookie title. The gap between 5th and 6th places was 207:102, more than a factor of 2, and the championship often felt like there were only 5 cars in the running, all from R-ace GP or MP Motorsport.

United States

It was so close to Bottas-Verstappen finish, which would have completed the graph to , making it the first non-planar F1 graph in history. Could be that some Law of Planarity interfered, causing the yellow flags that denied Verstappen that final chance at overtaking Hamilton. No change to the graph, then.

Another feeder series fills up the spot, then: Formula Regional European Championship (FREC). An unimpressive affair from start to finish, to be frank. Yes, it was the first year the championship took place, and it’s supposed to play an important role as a stepping stone from F4 to FIA F3. (Few drivers can realistically jump into international F3 competition directly from F4, with Hauger and Pourchaire likely to be the only two to pull off this move in 2020.) Still, it is a travesty to award 25 Super License points – same as in Japanese Super Formula – for beating this small field of mostly under-tested cars and some under-prepared drivers. As Floersch put it,

Prema had three cars since November, so they’d been testing since November with three guys who actually can also drive. We had the cars one week before Paul Ricard and had one driver.

At least it was pretty close to a wheel graph. At its center, Vesti won the championship by a wide margin. I included the Fraga-Guzman edge based on my recollection of Guzman finishing second in the second race at Monza – the official standings table gives Guzman no points for any Monza race, as if there was a post-race DQ that nobody mentioned to the press (but given the level of organization, I would not be surprised if it was a clerical error).

Brazil

Funny how predictions work sometimes. After the Austrian Grand Prix, when Gasly was still with Red Bull, I wrote

I don’t expect either Gasly or anyone outside of top 3 teams to finish in top two for the rest of the season.

But Gasly dropped out of a top-3 team and then finished second in Brazil.

Well, my prediction did not cover the Toro Rosso version of Gasly, who now looks like a different driver inhabiting the same body, Jekyll/Hyde style.

This race also broke the Hamiltonian cycle, and the only chance for it to be recovered is for Gasly to finish in top two again in Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi

At the end of the season, the Formula 1 graph stayed as it was after Brazil, shown just above. But as Formula 2 season also ended there, here is its graph.

The highest degree vertex belongs to the champion de Vries. Surprisingly, the vice champion Latifi only has degree 3, less than Ghiotto, Aitken, and Matsushita who finished in places 3, 5, 6. Hubert and Correa are joined by an edge due to Hubert’s win in the sprint race in France. Two months later, their collision in Belgium ended Hubert’s life and possibly ended Correa’s racing career. Hubert took the 10th place in the championship posthumously.

In motor racing, as in other similar competitions, it makes sense for the amount of points given to be a decreasing function of position at the finish line: for example, the current Formula 1 scoring system awards

25

18

15

12

10

8

6

4

2

1

points to positions 1-10. Same system is used in FIA Formula 2 and Formula 3 races held on Saturdays. However, their Sunday race has partially reversed grid: those who finished 1-2-…-8 on Saturday start 8-7-…-1 on Sunday, while 9-10-… start where they finished. Can this reversal make it profitable to give up a position on Saturday?

The Sunday payouts are smaller: only top 8 earn points, in the amounts

15

12

10

8

6

4

2

1

– that is, same as the Saturday sequence without the first two terms. If the Sunday race has no position changes (which is not out of question, considering F2 venues include Monaco and Budapest) the totals amounts earned by those in positions 1-10 on Saturday would be:

26

20

19

18

18

18

18

19

2

1

By this logic, finishing 8th on Saturday would be slightly better than finishing 7th. And of course, there is a huge difference between being 8th and 9th on Saturday. Let us see what happens in reality, when overtakes do occur.

2019 Formula 2 season

For each position 1-10 on Saturday, the table states the points earned on Saturday, average points earned on Sunday, and average Saturday-Sunday total. Bonus points for pole position and fastest lap are not included, in order to focus on the effect of the finish position alone.

Sat Pos

Sat Pts

Sun Pts

Total

1

25

5.6

30.6

2

18

5.6

23.6

3

15

5.5

20.5

4

12

5.7

17.7

5

10

8.1

18.1

6

8

5.7

13.7

7

6

6.9

12.9

8

4

8.2

12.2

9

2

1.5

3.5

10

1

1.4

2.4

Finishing 5th on Saturday is on average more profitable than finishing 4th. The gambit here is that losing 2 points on Saturday, one gets on the second row of the starting grid on Sunday (while the 4th place on Saturday becomes 5th, hence the 3rd row, on Sunday). The second row start gives an opportunity to quickly overtake the potentially slower drivers on the front row (after all, they finished 7-8 on Saturday) and take the lead. And indeed, three of the Sunday races of the 2019 F2 season were won by the driver who finished 5th on Saturday. It was a different driver each time (de Vries in Barcelona, Sette Câmara in Spielberg, and Aitken in Silverstone), so it does not look like anyone is intentionally executing this gambit.

Finishing 8th on Saturday maximizes the expected Sunday payout; in particular, 4 of the Sunday races were won by the driver who finished 8th on Saturday: Hubert did it twice in Monte Carlo and Le Castellet, then Schumacher in Budapest, and Aitken in Sochi. But when Saturday points are included, finishing 8th becomes less profitable than higher positions, although it is nearly the same as 6th or 7th.