Just how good is the current Grand Prix grid?

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Over a four tenths of the current 22 drivers have won a Grand Prix, with five of them in the top twenty all time winners list (all of them having at least one world championship).  The table of wins and championships looks like this (note pre Korea 2013):

Driver                            Wins             Championships
Vettel                            33                   3
Alonso                          32                   2
Hamilton                       22                   1
Raikkonen                    20                   1
Button                          15                   1
Massa                          11                   0
Webber                        9                     0
Rosberg                       3                     0
Maldonado                   1                     0

Now OK if we took the stats from last season (while Michael Schumacher was still racing) there would be a lot more wins and championships in the field.  However I still think that this current field represents a very competitive selection of drivers.  For all the talk of pay drivers, the quality of the front end of the grid is very high.   These drivers have between them won 146 of the 894 GPs held to date.  That is more than one in six.  Some of this skewing of the win rate is due to the ever increasing number of races held each year, but it is also indicative of the longevity of the current drivers’ careers.

Next season though we will lose Webber from the list above, and may lose Massa as well.  So who will step in to replace these on the winners list?  This will certainly be car (or engine) dependant, but while the likes of Hulkenberg, di Resta, and Sutil have shown the speed that may result in a win given the right car, it is most likely only Ricciardo that will be in the right car that will give him an opportunity.

Comparing the above to a similar list from the end of the 2004 season:

Driver                            Wins             Championships
M. Schumacher             83                   7
Coulthard                       13                   0
Villenueve                      11                   1
Barrichello                     9                      0
R. Schumacher             6                      0
Montoya                        4                      0
Raikkonen                     2                      0
Trulli                              1                      0
Alonso                           1                      0
Fisichella                       1                      0
Panis                             1                      0

We can see that while there were a (slightly) higher number of drivers who had won a Grand Prix, the wins and championships are concentrated within a much smaller group.

For all the talk of Vettel dominating recent seasons, it is apparent that he hasn’t had it as easy as the last person to win four championships on the trot.  Is this because Vettel isn’t as good a Schumacher, or is it because the quality of the field is that much higher now?  Some of it I feel is because while there is no doubt that the Red Bull has been a very good car over the past four or five seasons, it has rarely been as dominant as the Ferrari was in the early years of this century.    While Alonso, Raikkonen and Button may only have a few years left to add to their championship tally, Hamilton and Rosberg are young enough to continue to keep Vettel under pressure for as long as he stays in the sport.

So, who do you see as the next driver to join the winners list, and with the current field of World Champions hanging around for 2014 at least, will anyone new be able to challenge them for the title?

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