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Stat Wrap: 2016 in numbers

The stat-busting 2016 season started in Australia
By Sean Kelly, C4F1 statistician

It's that time of year when we look back on the Formula 1 season just gone and reflect upon all the racing and stories - and those all-important statistics

The 2016 season will always belong to Nico Rosberg, both for the way he claimed a world title that was in doubt right until the chequered flag of the final race and for his decision to walk away from the sport only five days later. He joins Mike Hawthorn (1958), Sir Jackie Stewart (1973), Nigel Mansell (temporarily in 1992) and Alain Prost (1993) as drivers to go out while on top.

It was a season dominated by Mercedes in a manner never previously seen in F1 history, something that was discussed in my column after the final race in Abu Dhabi. Mercedes' dominance loomed over F1 this season, and may have obscured the fact that 2016 was packed with many non-Mercedes occurrences that are likely to be referenced in the years to come.

For instance, take the oddity surrounding the debut of the Haas team at the Australian Grand Prix.  Thanks to a fortunately-timed red flag, Romain Grosjean was not only able to finish sixth – making Haas the first start-up team to claim a point in their maiden race since Mika Salo matched that result for Toyota in the 2002 race – but Haas also achieved the bizarre distinction of scoring points in a Grand Prix before they ever made a pit stop, as teammate Esteban Gutierrez had retired in the very incident that caused the red flag in the first place!

The following race in Bahrain saw Grosjean stun the F1 world by improving on that result in fifth place, which by sheer coincidence made the American-owned Haas the first team to score in their first two races of existence since American George Follmer piloted his American-owned Shadow to consecutive points at the start of the 1973 season.

That same Bahrain race saw Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen finish second, and this was a real comeback campaign by the Finn, who finished on the podium more times this season (4) than he managed in the previous two years combined (3).

Despite this, it was a podium that brought up an unwanted record, as it was his EIGHTH podium finish in Sakhir without ever actually winning the race!  That tied the all-time record in this category, matching Fernando Alonso’s career numbers at Interlagos.

Read all of the 2016 Stat Wrap columns in our news section

Raikkonen still has a much better day/night record than teammate Sebastian Vettel, who suffered a mechanical failure on the formation lap.  This would set the tone for a second winless season in the last three years for the Scuderia, and at the following race in Shanghai Vettel found himself in a rather public disagreement with Daniil Kvyat, when he considered the Red Bull driver at fault for causing Vettel to veer into Raikkonen at the first corner.

Despite that first-corner carambolage, China would be only the sixth Grand Prix in the F1 world championship’s 938-race history to be completed without a single classified retirement, and even with the complexity of the modern turbo-hybrid engines, 2016 was a season of unprecedented reliability, as the Japanese GP was also retirement-free and two other races (Hungary and Mexico) saw just a single failure to finish.

Russia ruled itself out of that category pretty early when Kvyat and Vettel tangled again in the opening corners, and one of the biggest beneficiaries would turn out to be Renault’s Kevin Magnussen, who capitalised on the opportunity to score what turned out to be the team’s best result of the 2016 season in seventh place.

Even with that highlight, the entity that has been described as "The Enstone Team" during its multiple name changes down the years could only manage ninth in the constructors’ championship, its worst campaign since its final year as Toleman in 1985 – but even then, they managed to take a pole position, courtesy of Teo Fabi at the Nurburgring.

Sochi would be Kvyat’s last appearance for Red Bull before his demotion in favour of Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen, and you’re likely to see "18 years and 227 days" in the pages of many a reference book/website for many years to come, as this was the Dutchman’s age when he became, in ascending order of importance, the youngest man to lead a race, the youngest man to finish on the podium AND the youngest man to win a race at the Spanish Grand Prix.

To get there he had to fend off a challenge from Raikkonen, a man who scored points in the 2001 Austrian GP ahead of Max's own father Jos Verstappen!  It also made him the first Dutchman to win an F1 race, and the first man to switch teams in mid-season and immediately claim a win since Juan-Manuel Fangio went from Maserati to a winning debut with Mercedes at the 1954 French GP.

The hullaballoo surrounding this victory overshadowed incumbent Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, who would ultimately be the top non-Mercedes driver in the championship for the second time in three years, but Ricciardo stole back the limelight in Monaco by claiming pole position.

It would prove the only pole not taken by a Mercedes in 2016, and meant Ricciardo joined a storied list of drivers taking their first career poles in Monte Carlo, including Fangio (1950), Jimmy Clark (1962), Jackie Stewart (1969), Emerson Fittipaldi (1994) and Michael Schumacher (1994).

Thanks in no small part to a major Red Bull pit error, Ricciardo had to be content with second in the race behind Lewis Hamilton, with Sergio Perez joining them to become the first Mexican driver ever to finish on the podium in Monaco.

Perez spearheaded a Force India campaign that saw them break into the top four in the championship for the first time in their constructor history, and when he added another third place at the first F1 race in Azerbaijan he became the first Force India driver ever to take multiple podium finishes in the same season – as well as tying Pedro Rodriguez’ national record of seven career podiums, a number that had stood uncontested since the 1971 Dutch Grand Prix.

Montreal fell between Monaco and Baku, and was notable for Williams’ only podium finish of the year courtesy of Valtteri Bottas. Force India’s championship success was at the expense of Sir Frank’s eponymous team, after the oddity of becoming the first team ever to score consecutive top-three finishes in the constructors’ championship in 2014 and 2015 without actually winning a race.

Monaco, Montreal and Baku are all temporary circuits, and fell on consecutive rounds of the championship – nothing out of the ordinary there – but bizarrely enough, the surprise podium finishes for Perez and Bottas meant that at all three races, the podium finishers – in ORDER – started first, third and seventh on the grid!

Austria was most memorable for yet another collision between the Mercedes drivers, although this time it occurred on the final lap. Hamilton's victory saw, for only the second time in the last 11 years, a driver win a race in a last lap pass, following on from Jenson Button passing Vettel on the final lap of the 2011 Canadian GP.

This was the headline, but it was also a great weekend for Manor, who saw Pascal Wehrlein claim the team’s first-ever point since the late Jules Bianchi’s ninth place at the 2014 Monaco GP, when they were known as Marussia.  While there would be no more points for the perennial backmarker team, Wehrlein reached Q2 (the second phase of qualifying) on five occasions this year, a high watermark in the team’s seven seasons of existence.

Hamilton’s win at the Red Bull Ring was the start of a run that saw him become the first-ever driver to win four Grands Prix in a calendar month, when he added the British, Hungarian and German Grands Prix all before the end of July.  It was a run that saw him erase a 43-point deficit to Nico Rosberg and open up a 19-point gap of his own in the championship lead.

With that sort of momentum heading into the summer break, surely the title would be his…

Stay tuned to the C4F1 website for part two of Sean's stat review of 2016 as well as the season review show on Channel 4, Sunday 18th December at 12:30pm.