Toyota Racing Series 2020 recap

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

Fraga wins 362 : 356

They were always within 20 points of each other:

The impact of 3rd race at Hampton Downs looms over the rest

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.

F3 scoring: Lawson wins 226:216

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

This graph is not as much dominated by a single race.

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.

PlaceTRSF3TRS revF3 rev
135252015
231181812
327151610
42412148
52210126
6208104
718692
816481
“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.

FragavsLawson
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.)

Toyota Racing Series scoring: 2018 vs 2020

Back to 2018

Recall how Richard Verschoor and Robert Shwartzman did in 2018 season of Toyota Racing Series:

VerschoorShwartzman
Wins61
Podiums129
Finished ahead of the other114
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.

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.