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Formula for success: Multilevel modelling of Formula One Driver and Constructor performance, 1950–2014

  • Andrew Bell ORCID logo EMAIL logo , James Smith , Clive E. Sabel and Kelvyn Jones ORCID logo


This paper uses random-coefficient models and (a) finds rankings of who are the best formula 1 (F1) drivers of all time, conditional on team performance; (b) quantifies how much teams and drivers matter; and (c) quantifies how team and driver effects vary over time and under different racing conditions. The points scored by drivers in a race (standardised across seasons and Normalised) is used as the response variable in a cross-classified multilevel model that partitions variance into team, team-year and driver levels. These effects are then allowed to vary by year, track type and weather conditions using complex variance functions. Juan Manuel Fangio is found to be the greatest driver of all time. Team effects are shown to be more important than driver effects (and increasingly so over time), although their importance may be reduced in wet weather and on street tracks. A sensitivity analysis was undertaken with various forms of the dependent variable; this did not lead to substantively different conclusions. We argue that the approach can be applied more widely across the social sciences, to examine individual and team performance under changing conditions.


Thanks to the anonymous reviewers and journal editors, Rick Stafford, and the Bristol University Spatial Modelling Research Group, for their helpful comments and advice.


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Supplemental Material:

The online version of this article (DOI: 10.1515/jqas-2015-0050) offers supplementary material, available to authorized users. Further materials are also available at

Published Online: 2016-4-11
Published in Print: 2016-6-1

©2016 by De Gruyter

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