Fastest Formula 1 drivers since 1983 study shows Hulkenberg is quicker than many current F1 drivers

For almost a year, Amazon Machine Learning Solutions Lab has been working with Formula 1 to build an algorithm to find out the fastest driver since 1983.

The algorithm uses machine learning and compares the qualifying performances of various drivers with that of their teammates.

The list has been created in such a way that even the backmarkers have as much chance of making it through as compared to those fighting for pole positions.

The algorithm also took into consideration crashes, car failures, weather conditions, and even the age of the driver to build a fair but competitive ranking.


How the list works

The machine learning software studied the timesheets from every qualifying session since 1983. This helped them to create data related to drivers’ performances with respect to their teammates (and their teammate’s teammates).

There were, however, a few rules that were taken into consideration.

Teammates had to have completed at least five qualifying sessions with each other. Another aspect that was considered was the age of the drivers.

Another factor that was considered was if the driver is coming back to the sport after three or more seasons of break.

The algorithm gave more points to drivers who dominated their teammates or performed well against strong teammates.

Let us take a look at the list –


Ayrton Senna takes the win

The Brazilian Ayrton Senna takes the win. Despite his truncated career, he managed to claim 65 pole positions.

Even though Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton have fared better when it comes to records, the two drivers will not deny that Senna could have done a lot more if he had not lost his life at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

Ayrton Senna

With Hamilton’s current pace and wins, it is not difficult to expect him as the leading current driver in third place.

Eight of Hamilton’s fellow drivers find themselves on the list as well.

Max Verstappen is just marginally slower than Hamilton and in fourth place.

Additionally, Charles Leclerc, Sebastian Vettel, Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas, Carlos Sainz, Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo are also present in the top 20.

Kovalainen stands out on the list

Finnish driver Heikki Kovalainen is a surprise name in the list at number eight at 0.378s behind Senna.

Even though Kovalainen never could strike a chord with F1, his partnering Lewis Hamilton and Jarno Trulli (at ninth) places him well up on the list.

Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton. Source:

While it is fun to compile lists such as the ‘Fastest Driver’, the data modeling is not very different from the ones used by Formula 1 teams to pick their drivers.

Nico Hulkenberg quicker than a lot of current drivers

It may prove to be a sign of vindication for fans who believe that Hulkenberg deserves a chance to make a comeback to Formula 1. According to this data, the German is quicker than the likes of Valtteri Bottas, Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris. He is also quicker than former world champion Jenson Button.

Pretty sure all Hulkenberg fans would get up in unison and say, “I told you so!” There is going to be a seat available at Mercedes next year, given the imminent departure of Bottas. Toto, are you listening?

This list helps us get an idea of how various drivers compare when it comes to nothing but raw speed.

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

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