McLaren’s rise just before the summer break of the 2023 season meant that rookie Oscar Piastri suddenly had the opportunity to score points and even end up on the podium a number of times. His successful debut year has already been compared several times with Lewis Hamilton’s debut season in 2007. Max Verstappen’s debut year is also sometimes mentioned in the context of Piastri. F1Maximaal delves into the statistics to see how the Australian is doing compared to the now multiple world champions.
McLaren was nowhere to be seen at the start of the season. The Bahrain Grand Prix ended dramatically and it seemed that the British racing team would not soon be able to challenge the top teams. After a lot of work on the car in Woking, McLaren made a comeback during the weekend of the British Grand Prix and since then Piastri and Norris have regularly scored points and podiums. The Australian is now ninth in the championship with 87 points.
Hamilton’s debut year sets the bar very high for rookies
The seven-time world champion drove his debut year at McLaren in 2007 and had Fernando Alonso as a teammate. Despite having a very experienced teammate, it all seemed to come fairly easily to him. So far, Hamilton has had his most successful debut year ever, finishing on the podium nine times in a row, taking six pole positions, four wins and 109 points in total. Hamilton finished second in the championship that year, just one point behind Kimi Raïkkönen, who became champion that year. With his four victories in his debut season, he was tied with Jacques Villeneuve, who was the first to set that record.
For Max Verstappen, his debut year was a different story; he drove his first full F1 season in 2015 with Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri, ed.), Red Bull Racing’s sister team. The Toro Rosso car was not able to win races, but Verstappen was able to score points a number of times. He achieved his first World Cup points in Malaysia, when he crossed the finish line in seventh place. The Malaysian Grand Prix was the second race on the calendar. The Dutchman was then the youngest driver ever to score a point in Formula 1. In Hungary and the United States he impressed most with two fourth places. Of the races he completed, he scored no points in only two Grands Prix. In total he had 49 points and finished twelfth in the championship.
How does Piastri’s debut year compare to the debut years of Verstappen and Hamilton? In the table below we look at the number of points, victories, podiums, pole positions (not counting sprint poles and victories, but including points from sprint races), DNFs and percentage of races in which points were scored.
|Driver||Lewis Hamilton*||Max Verstappen||Oscar Piastri**|
|Percentage of races with points||94||52||43|
|Place in rankings||2||12||9|
|Difference with teammate||0||+31||-108|
* In the 2007 season, the drivers received fewer points per position than in 2023
**The 2023 season is still ongoing and all Piastri details are subject to change
The impressive thing about Hamilton’s debut year is that he failed to score points in only one of the races, as he dropped out. From the opening race of the 2007 season, he stood on the podium nine times in a row. In 2007, the old points system was still in force. Then the drivers received fewer points per position than is the case now. First place earned ten points, and then it counted down to one point for P8: 10 – 8 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1. The scoring then changed in 2010 to 25 – 18 – 15 – 12 – 10 – 8 – 6 – 4 – 2 – 1, the system under which Verstappen scored his points. The only thing that changed after that was a point for the fastest lap, which took effect from 2019.
How similar are the debut years really?
If we look at the statistics and take into account the fact that there were fewer races in 2007, there were no points for the fastest race lap, there were no sprint weekends and the points system was very different, the debut years of the three drivers are quite difficult comparable. In 2015, Verstappen did not have the opportunity to score extra points by doing well in a sprint race. Piastri did have that option in 2023.
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It should also be mentioned that the material that the riders had at their disposal also differed greatly. In 2007, Hamilton had received a good car from McLaren with which he was also able to score points in every race and put his opponents to the test. Verstappen did not have a race-winning car in 2015, and in some races also no points-scoring car, but managed to create his own success by making a difference.
Verstappen and Hamilton have both outperformed their teammates, although Hamilton and Alonso were tied on 109 points in the 2007 season. Carlos Sainz, who was Verstappen’s teammate in 2015, only took 18 points, leaving the Dutchman with 31 more. However, Piastri is four places lower in the championship than his teammate Norris, who is in P5 with 195 points.
Piastri as the underdog?
It can be concluded from the table that Piastri is doing relatively well. If he still scores points in the last two race weekends, he can bring his percentage of the races in which he scored points closer to fifty percent. Considering McLaren couldn’t offer him a points-scoring car at the start of the season, that’s quite a feat, because McLaren’s season really started for them in Silverstone. In that respect, Piastri has scored a lot of points in eleven races (up to Las Vegas).
Piastri had never driven on at least six circuits on the calendar and yet he managed to be competitive. In terms of consistency, he seems to be able to keep up with Verstappen in the statistics of his debut year. Just like the Dutchman, he seems to create his own success in difficult races, although he is slower than his teammate. Either way, Piastri’s debut year isn’t over yet. To exceed Hamilton’s points, Piastri must do his best, he still has to collect 22 points, so the Briton did drive with a different points system.