Was Nico Rosberg's 2014 Pole-to-Win Conversion Rate Historically Bad?

Matthew Walthert@@MatthewWalthertFeatured ColumnistDecember 17, 2014

Was Nico Rosberg's 2014 Pole-to-Win Conversion Rate Historically Bad?

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    Nico Rosberg celebrates his pole position at the 2014 Canadian Grand Prix.
    Nico Rosberg celebrates his pole position at the 2014 Canadian Grand Prix.David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    During the 2014 Formula One season, Nico Rosberg qualified on pole position 11 times. However, he was only able to convert three of those poles into wins. Those disappointing race performances, in comparison with his qualifying prowess, helped cost Rosberg the drivers' championship.

    But was Rosberg's pole-to-win conversion rate of just over 25 percent a historically bad mark? Have other drivers qualified on pole as often, only to continually miss out on the race win, as Rosberg did?

    To find out, we took the top 10 drivers in terms of number of poles in a single season and ranked them according to their pole-to-win conversion rate.

    Rosberg's 11 poles are tied for the sixth most in a season, but where does his conversion rate rank?

    Note: Sebastian Vettel scored 10 poles in 2010, tied with two other drivers for ninth most in a season. Since he had the most races of the three, however, he is not included in the top 10.

T-9. Nico Rosberg (2014) and Mika Hakkinen (1999)

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    Mika Hakkinen at the 1999 Austrian Grand Prix.
    Mika Hakkinen at the 1999 Austrian Grand Prix.JOCKEL FINCK/Associated Press

    Well, it did not take long to answer those questions. Yes, Rosberg's 27 percent pole-to-win conversion rate is tied for the worst mark among the drivers with the most poles in a season.

    In 1999, Mika Hakkinen also won just three races of the 11 he started on pole. Unlike Rosberg, though, Hakkinen held on to win the drivers' title by two points from Eddie Irvine (although it should be recalled that Michael Schumacher missed six races after breaking his leg at Silverstone).

    Lewis Hamilton, Rosberg's teammate and championship rival in 2014, actually won five races when Rosberg started from pole, compared to Rosberg's three. And Rosberg was also on pole in all three of Daniel Ricciardo's victories.

T-7. Alain Prost (1993) and Ayrton Senna (1989)

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    Alain Prost leads Ayrton Senna at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix.
    Alain Prost leads Ayrton Senna at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix.Tsugufumi Matsumoto/Associated Press

    Two great rivals, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, are next on the list. In 1993, Prost converted six of his 13 poles into race victories, a 46 percent rate, matching Senna's mark from 1989.

    Prost comfortably won the 1993 title from—you guessed it—Senna, with the Brazilian's McLaren suffering from reliability problems.

    Despite Senna's qualifying dominance in 1989, Prost took that year's title as well. In fact, Senna is the only driver on this list besides Rosberg not to win the drivers' championship after qualifying so well.

T-5. Jacques Villeneuve (1997) and Ayrton Senna (1990)

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    Jacques Villeneuve in 1997.
    Jacques Villeneuve in 1997.Michael Cooper/Getty Images

    Senna is one of the greatest qualifiers in F1 history, so it is not surprising that he appears on this list more than once. Here, he is tied with Jacques Villeneuve, both drivers scoring five wins from 10 poles in 1990 and 1997, respectively.

    In 1990, Senna built an 18-point lead over Prost with three races remaining. Although Senna qualified on pole for each of those final three races, he did not finish any of them. Still, Prost could not catch him, ultimately finishing seven points back.

    Villeneuve also had a close call in the battle for the 1997 championship. For most of the year, it was win or bust for the Canadian, as he had five victories and five retirements in the first 11 races.

    Coming into the final race, Schumacher led Villeneuve by one point. Villeneuve qualified on pole, but the German retired (and was later disqualified from the championship) after smashing into Villeneuve's car.

4. Ayrton Senna (1988)

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    Ayrton Senna at the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix.
    Ayrton Senna at the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix.Getty Images/Getty Images

    Senna's third (and final) appearance in this ranking is for his 1988 season, where he started on pole 13 times, winning seven of those races for a 54 percent conversion rate.

    McLaren dominated the season, with Prost taking two of the three poles Senna missed. The two McLaren drivers also combined to win 15 of 16 races, with Senna edging Prost by three points for the title (Prost actually outscored his teammate, but only the drivers' best 11 finishes counted in the standings that year).

3. Michael Schumacher (2001)

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    Michael Schumacher at the 2001 Belgian Grand Prix.
    Michael Schumacher at the 2001 Belgian Grand Prix.SRDJAN PETROVIC/Associated Press

    In 2001, Schumacher qualified on pole 11 times, winning six of those races (a 55 percent conversion rate). He won three other grands prix and finished second five times, clinching the title with four races remaining.

    Schumacher's nearest challenger, McLaren's David Coulthard, was 58 points adrift by the end of the season.

2. Sebastian Vettel (2011)

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    Sebastian Vettel at the 2011 Indian Grand Prix.
    Sebastian Vettel at the 2011 Indian Grand Prix.Luca Bruno/Associated Press

    Sebastian Vettel's dominant 2011 season saw him qualify on pole 15 times in 19 races. He converted nine of those poles into wins, a 60 percent rate. Like Schumacher in 2001, Vettel secured the title with four races left.

    Vettel missed the podium in just two races all season, and he qualified lower than second only once. He started third at his home race at the Nurburgring.

1. Nigel Mansell (1992)

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    Nigel Mansell at the 1992 Spanish Grand Prix.
    Nigel Mansell at the 1992 Spanish Grand Prix.DOMINIQUE MOLLARD/Associated Press

    Nigel Mansell tops our ranking with the most dominant qualifying (and one of the most dominant racing) performances in F1 history. The Brit qualified first in 14 of 16 races in 1992 and won from pole nine times for a 64 percent conversion rate.

    Not surprisingly, all of Mansell's wins that year came from pole position. In the end, he won the championship by 52 points over his teammate, Riccardo Patrese, scoring nine wins to the Italian's one.

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