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Statistics on McLaren's Season: Is It the Team's Worst in F1?

Scott MitchellContributor IOctober 9, 2013

Statistics on McLaren's Season: Is It the Team's Worst in F1?

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    One of the most disappointing aspects of the 2013 Formula One season has to be the struggles of McLaren.

    Actually, correct that. The disappointing aspect of 2013 is McLaren.

    It is no secret that Sebastian Vettel’s control over the title race has rubbed several people up the wrong way, but as I argued Monday, at least we are seeing good battles for the other places on the podium.

    The biggest shame, therefore, is that neither McLaren driver is ever in these battles.

    Jenson Button is used to the fluctuating fortunes of F1 teams by now, but for Sergio Perez this has been an added test he did not expect in his first season at a top team.

    Zero podiums for each driver but a handful of decent races hidden in the midst of too many Grands Prix spent scraping into the nether regions of the points.

    Is this McLaren’s worst F1 season in history?

McLaren's 2013 in Numbers

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    McLaren's 2013 has been underwhelming at best
    McLaren's 2013 has been underwhelming at bestClive Mason/Getty Images

    Before we delve into the archives, here is a breakdown of McLaren's 2013 season, starting with the obvious:

    • Zero wins
    • Zero podiums
    • Average finish: 9th
    • Average qualifying: 10th
    • Best finish: 5th (x1)
    • Best qualifying: 6th (x1)
    • Worst finish: 13th (x1)
    • Worst qualifying: 15th (x1)
    • Points: 81 (5th)
    • Top-five finishes: 1
    • Top-10 finishes: 17

    The obvious trend here is that McLaren has just been a solid midfield team this year. While there have not been any remarkable peaks, the troughs have been both unspectacular and uncommon. It has just been an underwhelming year.

Uncompetitive Beginnings

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    McLaren has had disappointing campaigns other than 2013
    McLaren has had disappointing campaigns other than 2013Clive Mason/Getty Images

    The 2013 season, in terms of raw performance, is probably McLaren's worst season since 1995.

    That year, the team scores just two podiums all year and suffered a host of retirements. Its qualifying performance averaged at ninth and it enjoyed sporadic points finishes. But when the cars made the finish, they averaged in sixth place (a lot better than 2013's average of ninth).

    2004 was also very poor, particularly as Kimi Raikkonen had pushed for the world title the previous year. There were a number of top-10 finishes throughout first half of the year, but McLaren was not troubling the top three and only scored points in three of the first seven races.

    In a mirror of that, the team (world champions with Lewis Hamilton in 2008) had an lackluster start to 2009. Incidents and and poor car performance blighted the team's first half of the campaign, but once again it ended the season with a quicker car, and two race wins.

    Recent history has indicated an ability to bounce back from difficult starts, but that was not the case in 2013 because the team has switched its focus to the hugely crucial 2014 change in regulations.

    Reasons or otherwise, 2013 is far worse than anything in the last 20 years.

Winless Campaigns

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    2006-spec McLaren wasn't a winner, but was competitive
    2006-spec McLaren wasn't a winner, but was competitiveMark Thompson/Getty Images

    Despite McLaren's illustrious heritage, there are a number of winless seasons that litter its time in Formula One.

    However, it is also worth nothing that the majority of these campaigns have been more successful in general than the current campaign

    A McLaren failed to cross the line first (barring the team's formative years) in 1970, 1971, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1994, 1995, 1996 and as recently as 2006.

    There were also unspectacular campaigns in 1981, 1983, 2002 and 2004.

    But, sticking with those seasons that failed to conceive a victory:

    1970 (5 podiums, 5th)

    1971 (1 podium, 6th

    1978 (1 podium, 8th)

    1979 (1 podium, 7th)

    1980 (0 podiums, 9th)

    1994 (8 podiums, 4th)

    1995 (2 podiums, 4th)

    1996 (6 podiums, 4th)

    2006 (9 podiums, 3rd)

Worst Seasons: The Candidates

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    Mid-'90s were unremarkable
    Mid-'90s were unremarkable

     Building on that list, here are the key statistics from those nine standout seasons:

    Season

    Average Grid

    Average Finish

    Engine

    Constructors' finish

    2013

    10th

    9th

    Mercedes

    5th

    1996

    7th

    5th

    Mercedes

    4th

    1995

    9th

    6th

    Mercedes

    4th

    1994

    9th

    4th

    Peugeot

    4th

    1980

    15th

    7th

    Cosworth

    9th

    1979

    16th

    8th

    Cosworth

    7th

    1978

    14th

    8th

    Cosworth

    8th

    1971

    14th

    7th

    Cosworth

    6th

    1970

    12th

    5th

    Cosworth

    5th

Worst Seasons

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    The season of, and after, Bruce McLaren's death was tough
    The season of, and after, Bruce McLaren's death was tough

    From the table on the previous slide, we can make a near-as-direct comparison to previous seasons.

    1971 was an awful season where the team suffered really poor reliability and finished just five races in the points all year. In 1978, there were just three points finishes and a repeat of the awful reliability. The team even failed to qualify in some races as well, so in that instance is much worse than 2013.

    1979 started with a podium for John Watson, but the remainder of the season was littered with collisions and engine failures as well non-qualifications. A McLaren qualified in the top 10 in just three races!

    The worst of three awful back-to-back seasons was 1980. Not only did the team have awful pace, but there were again no podiums, unreliability and an awful lack of pace.

    However, to make it a fairer comparison, there's also this factor to consider. If we applied to the pre-2003 point system (10-6-4-3-2-1), McLaren would have just four points to show from 2013...

    Now, of course other teams would lose a lot of points, but we'll keep this bit separate from constructors' standings.

    Four points, its worst total in history. Suddenly, 2013 looks a lot worse.

McLaren's Worst Season Is...

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    The 1980 season will remain McLaren's most uncompetitive
    The 1980 season will remain McLaren's most uncompetitive

    So what is the worst season? 1970, 1971, 1978, 1979 and 1980 are the rivals to 2013 for the unwanted honour.

    While the mid-'90s were unspectacular and were quite similar in performance to the current campaign, the team still finished fourth in the constructors'. Given the difference in points system to 2013, that's better going.

    Because of McLaren's paltry return from 2013, the 1970, 1971, 1978 and 1979 seasons are excused because they heralded at least one podium finish, front row starts, that sort of thing. On some level, McLaren had better performance in those seasons.

    However, 1980 was a terrible season. 2007 exclusion aside, it remains the team's worst finish in the constructors' standings since its formative years in the late 1960s.

    This year might go down as a very poor season and for good reason. But it's edged to the title of "worst season ever." Hold your applause.

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