Super Licence points, simplified

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).

DriverPointsF2 ’19F2 ’18F3 ’19F3 ’18
Nyck de Vries704030
Robert Shwartzman503020
Luca Ghiotto46406
Nicholas Latifi44404
Alexander Albon4040
George Russell4040
Lando Norris4040
Sérgio Sette Câmara403010
Marcus Armstrong33258
Mick Schumacher3030
Anthoine Hubert28325
Dan Ticktum2525
Jehan Daruvala21201
Artem Markelov2020
Jack Aitken2020
Jüri Vips201010
Nikita Mazepin2020
Callum Ilott1515
Leonardo Pulcini13310
Pedro Piquet1385
Guanyu Zhou1183
Nobuharu Matsushita1010
Louis Delétraz963
Antonio Fuoco88
David Beckmann77
Christian Lundgaard66
Jake Hughes642
Ralf Aron66
Richard Verschoor55
Álex Palou44
Jordan King44
Giuliano Alesi33
Enaam Ahmed22
Yuki Tsunoda22
Max Fewtrell11
Ryan Tveter11

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.

Year 2019 in Formula 1 and feeder series

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

year2019australia

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 year2019

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

Austria

year2019aus

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.

year2019ger

Hungary

Sure, the {P_5} configuration did not last. The graph is longer a tree, and nor longer bipartite.

year2019hungary

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.

year2019spa

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.

year2019monza

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.

year2019singapore

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.

f3-2019
FIA Formula 3

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.

year2019japan

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:

adacf4
ADAC F4

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.

italianf4
Italian F4

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.

renault
Formula Renault Eurocup

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 {K_5}, 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.

frec2019
FREC

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.

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.

f2

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.

Point distribution in reversed grid races

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.