Fun with stats – Hamilton v’s Button

A lot of people (me, Jackie Stewart, Eddie Jordan and all of my more informed racing friends) though Lewis Hamilton was going to crush Jenson Button this year.

So far that’s not happened and I started looking through the results of the first four races and was rather surprised. I accept its early days, we are not even a quarter of the way through the championship and the weather has certainly played a part in mixing things up a bit. None the less it’s rather interesting to have a quick glance down the results.


Race – Hamilton 3rd, Button 7th

Qualifying – Hamilton 4th, Button 8th

Practice – Button 5th, Hamilton 6th


Race – Button 1st, Hamilton 6th

Qualifying – Button 4th, Hamilton 11th

Practice – Button 4th, Hamilton 7th


Race – Hamilton 6th, Button 8th

Qualifying – Button 17th, Hamilton 20th

Practice – Hamilton 1st, Button 3rd


Race – Button 1st, Hamilton 2nd (fastest lap)

Qualifying – Button 5th, Hamilton 6th

Practice – Button 1st, Hamilton 3rd

Coming into the year it was though by many that Button was a good race driver, but ultimately Lewis Hamilton was quicker over a single lap, and that’s not been the case.

This is going to be pretty simplistic as I don’t have the energy to really break the numbers down and pull out my stats text books (there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics) to prove my point, but here we go.

First is the faster over a single lap argument that has been all over a couple of blogs by Hamilton supporters to prove he’s the best.

Combining qualifying and practice Button was faster than Hamilton 75% of the time (6 out if 8).

Personally I feel practice is a little irrelevant. With the limited testing this year it’s a chance to try a few things out and get some laps on the car, but it is head-to-head data and we can’t ignore it totally.

Looking at qualifying only we see the following “average grid position” from each driver.

Button – 8.5 (ignoring Malaysia – 5.6)

Hamilton – 10.25 (ignoring Malaysia – 7)

Button has on average out qualified Hamilton by almost two (1.75) grid places over the four races. Take out the deeply weather affected Malaysian GP grid and it’s a little better for Hamilton, he’s “only” beaten by an average of 1.4 grid positions.

Being subjective for a moment, Buttons two wins have come in part because he reacted to the conditions better and produced a great race strategy. This has become more important with the heavier fuel loads and making tires last. Reacting to the conditions earlier today in Shanghai led to an early swap to slicks and then a decisive change to intermediates saved him a couple of stops over Hamilton. Those two stops were the difference between the top and second step on the podium.

No question Hamilton’s drive through the field was terrific, especially the battle with Vettel as they climbed though the field together. However Buttons win would have been far more dominating had he not been forced to relinquish a substantial lead to the safety car.

I still think that Hamilton is potentially quicker than Button over a single lap, but qualifying and practice have not supported that assumption. I’d like to revisit the numbers in a few races and see what’s going on then.

Today the one important stat is the race for the drivers’ championship, and there Button leads Hamilton 60 to 49 with lots more racing to go.

7 Responses to Fun with stats – Hamilton v’s Button

  1. Very nice piece, I agree about Lewis probably being faster, but it’s just not quite worked for him yet.