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Les Grandes Epreuves

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There are a number of high profile events that are fundamental pieces of the F1 calendar that have been around since before the World Championship was born. These are the “Grandes Epreuves”, the biggest of the big ones in the pre-war period. The 9 races that achieved Grandes Epreuves status at this time are the French, Italian, Belgian, Spanish, British, German, Monaco and Swiss Grands Prix, plus the Indy 500 (and thus essentially the US Grand Prix). These have been the subject of discussion recently, as some of these famous names could potentially lose out in years to come because they can’t afford Bernie’s fees. Only 6 now remain, with Switzerland having disappeared long ago (bar the 1982 “resurrection” at Dijon in France) and USA and France having gone in the last couple of years.

As mentioned in my earlier article on my F1 Tour proposal, all F1 races are part of the F1 World Championship. But back in the early days, there were plenty of F1 Grands Prix going on, perhaps more than today, but most weren’t included in the European/World Championship because they weren’t important enough. So what if we had a similar situation today, where only the Grandes Epreuves counted towards the championship? To see if the results of the GEs are an accurate sample of F1 races in that year, I’ve had a look at the GE winners from the past 30 years.

Surprisingly, although the general trend is the same, there are a few differences. Take 1995, for example – every GE was won by Benetton, either by Schumacher or Herbert. The only other time this occurs is not 1988 (due to Italy) but 1989, with McLaren cleaning up.  There are some years where the wins are spread about quite thinly, especially in the early 1980s. On the other hand, there are others where the wins are restricted to 2 or 3 drivers, such as 1988-1990. Overall, predictably Schumacher wins umpteen million more races than everyone else, with the usual faces also winning a lot, whilst Ferrari, McLaren and Williams are the teams with the most wins.

Taking it a stage further, I’ve also had a look at what the points standings would be for this and last year just based on those races. Funnily enough, last year saw Hamilton beat Massa by a single point – can’t get much more accurate than that. However, it’s not all spot on – e.g. Heidfeld ends up with just 3 points less than Kubica, Piquet Jr gets a place in the top 10, and there are no points at all for Rosberg and Glock. In the constructors, Ferrari are again on top but only by 3 points from McLaren, whilst Toyota pick up just 9 of their 41 points and end up behind Japanese rivals Honda. With this year, after 4 GEs it’s Webber on top by a point from Button, with Barrichello 3rd and Vettel 4th, all 4 within 5 points of the Australian. Massa is also in there 9 behind him. But again, Toyota have scored hardly anything – the start of a pattern?

I’m going to delve in a little deeper when I’ve got the chance to do so, but I’ve reached one conclusion already – taking just the traditional races and ignoring the rest isn’t necessarily respresentative of the whole of the season. This leads me to believe that maybe the early World Championships, made up of just a handful of rounds, might not be representative of those years – perhaps worth having a look at some of the major non-championship events of the 1950s and 1960s in future. I’ll now be looking to see if there is a recurring trend down the years of some teams and drivers doing better or worse in the traditional races by looking at the points of a few more years – given that many of these are held on unique circuits such as Spa, Silverstone and Monza and that these races are considered more important than others, this is a definite possibility. And are the Grandes Epreuves the races that can decide the championship, as was the case last year?

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Written by James Bennett

July 22, 2009 at 00:03

Posted in F1

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